Isn’t that special?

It’s never an attractive thing to knock a guy when he’s down, but the extraordinary hubris of Arnold Schwarzenegger makes it almost irresistible. This was the guy, after all, who was going to cut the crap, wrest California politics out of the hands of the “special interests” and govern in the name of people.

It turned out the “special interests” that had him most worried were nurses and teachers, those scourges of the public good, those pillagers of the public treasury, those overpaid pigs at the public trough. If the Governator could only subdue that bunch, then all would be well.

So, to that end, he set in motion a special election—kind of like special class, but for voters—largely to put those teachers in their place. The centerpiece of that special election was going to delay tenure to teachers for an additional two years. That would show them. That would fix things. That would halt the hemorrhaging of money from the state treasury. That would increase test scores and control runaway health-care costs. Sure it would.

Basically, the whole special-election notion was Schwarzenegger’s way of having public referendum displace the work of the state Legislature. The public can be swayed by expensive ad campaigns in the way that paid politicians are swayed by big campaign contributions. Under Schwarzenegger’s plan for reform, however, we essentially get two legislative bodies—the people and the politicians. We have to pay for the work the pols were paid to do, only we pay for it twice. The proposed special election is going to cost the state somewhere in the neighborhood of $55 million.

The other knock on the governor of late has, of course, been for the conflict of interest between his role as governor and his role as a front for bodybuilder magazines. Yes, our governor has been on the payroll of a bunch of muscle mags that are chiefly supported by advertisements for steroid-based products. The gov was in for a 1-percent piece of all that action, which made it a bit questionable when he vetoed a bill that would have restricted such advertising. That 1 percent added up to quite a bit of money—some $5 million over the life of his contract. In a gesture toward probity, Schwarzenegger pledged to give up the money. But it was too little, too late.

Though the specious rationale for a special election has collapsed around him, Gov. Schwarzenegger remains undaunted. “I will continue moving forward exactly as I have been,” Schwarzenegger said at a Capitol event on July 26.

Isn’t that special?