Monday, March 30, 2009






So now we know what "post-partisanship" really means: It's a way for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to transition into whatever he wants to do next - probably a job in President Obama's cabinet since he's now saying he won't run for any other elective office "until you change the Constitution."

It's true that no one knows precisely what Schwarzenegger wants to do after he's termed out 20 months from now. He's usually coy when asked, but did insist the other day that he's "not running for anything."'

Yes, there are plenty of conservative Republicans in California who wish he'd run for the U.S. Senate next year. They figure his reneging on "no new taxes" pledges has made him so unpopular in the GOP that he wouldn't be able to win the party's senatorial primary election and would have to run as an independent.

If he did that, they figure, he might split the liberal and moderate vote with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, thus allowing a true-blue ultra-conservative like Orange County state Sen. Chuck DeVore to sneak into a very coveted office with something like a 35 percent showing. But Schwarzenegger says he won't become an independent.

Certainly, Boxer is ready if Schwarzenegger should make a sudden move in her direction, like his surprise announcement in 2003 that he'd run for governor. "I'm getting ready for him," she quipped last winter. "I'm lifting weights. I'm already up to 8 pounds."

But Schwarzenegger plainly knows his frequent bombast would be less productive in the collegial Senate than on the campaign trail.

Even if he could get the Republican nomination against Boxer, there's a good chance Schwarzenegger - with a current positive rating of just 38 percent in California polls - could not beat her.

Which might explain some of his recent post-partisan preening. When liberal Democrat Obama made his first post-election trip to California, there was the nominally Republican Schwarzenegger thanking him for "the courageous leadership and the great commitment he has displayed" and for the money Obama's stimulus program will bring to California.

Later that day, Schwarzenegger was the first to jump in and defend Obama when he made a slighting reference to the Special Olympics, founded by the governor's own mother-in-law.

The next day, Schwarzenegger showed up at the White House with more sycophantic talk. Then he went on "Meet the Press" with still more.

It all sounded like a job applicant, rather than a leader of the loyal opposition party.

Because he's an immigrant, Schwarzenegger cannot run for president - often an ambition for California governors from Hiram Johnson to Earl Warren to Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown - "until they change the Constitution," but he definitely could serve in a top cabinet slot.

When it comes to immigrants in high-profile federal jobs, think former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, for just two. The Kissinger experience has even demonstrated that a thick German accent is no disqualifying factor.

For sure, the Schwarzenegger personality appears more suited to a top executive job than the Senate, where he could not exert his will the way he's often tried to do as governor.

Yet, he and wife Maria Shriver show a taste for Washington, D.C. social life. A cabinet job might do as well as a Senate seat for becoming leaders on the capital's party circuit.

And Schwarzenegger might feel he can accomplish a lot as either a cabinet officer - think Interior or Energy or Commerce or Transportation, where he could pursue the green agenda he's fond of pushing - or in some newly-conceived job like climate change czar, with cabinet status.

If Schwarzenegger is really committed to leaving a positive legacy, something he's hinted at frequently of late, this might be his best path. For it takes a decade or more to become influential in the Senate. Example: Boxer, now in the last two years of her third six-year term, only recently attained any significant Senate clout. Not noted for that kind of patience, Schwarzenegger will be 63 (with a history of heart trouble) at the time of the next general election. He knows he might not live long enough to become a Senate grandee like his wife's Uncle Teddy, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

For sure, it looks as if Schwarzenegger needs to land some kind of major federal job if he wants to leave a positive legacy in government. His record of disregarding promises like no new taxes and his pledge never to accept campaign money from special interests will leave his California legacy mixed at best.

Which may explain why Schwarzenegger has looked more like a job applicant than anything else ever since Obama took the oath of office.


Elias is author of the current book The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It, now available in an updated third edition. His email address is

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