Man Without Qualities

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Davis Descending XXIII: Schwarzenegger Uber Ueberroth

For someone who emphasizes the importance of politicians' getting along and not alienating each other, Peter Ueberroth has an interesting relationship with George W. Bush, judging from his attempt to put down Mr. Bush's role in managing the Texas Rangers:

Bush has often cited his efforts to put together the [Rangers] deal as one of the greatest accomplishments of his career. Ueberroth sees it differently.

"There is no question that Rainwater and Rose were the primary investment group and I asked them to consider taking George in," Ueberroth said in an interview. "He was an asset because his father's career was going up and reaching the top. We just brought the young man over somewhat out of respect for his father." Several major investors disputed Ueberroth's recollection. "It was a merger of the two groups," said Gerald Haddock, Rainwater's attorney and later the Rangers general counsel. "It is a fact that Eddie Chiles wanted to give the deal to George W. . . . Without George, this group could not have done the deal."

That's interesting - and rather pointlessly hostile on Mr. Ueberroth's part.

Mr. Ueberroth is far from my first choice for governor, although he would be better than Mr. Davis. Mr. Ueberroth takes the "let's make a deal" approach to politics that many successful big businessmen do. That means he accepts the existing lineup as a given and focuses on bringing home the "deal" (the budget, the legislation, the appointment, whatever). That's nice for a "deal doer", but it's the usual way Rockefeller Republicans like Mr. Ueberroth screw up everything they touch in the long run, and it ignores the fact that every existing lineup just reflects somebody else's past ideological efforts.

Peter Ueberroth seems to actually be worse than most Rockefeller Republicans, since he doesn't even appear to see those past ideological efforts, never mind understand them. An overused criticism still has truth in it here: I'm not sure that he "believes" in many principles.

In this sense, Peter Ueberroth is a poor man's Richard Riordan. Running a state like California in it's current condition well requires more than doing local "deals" the way, say, putting the 1984 Olympics together did - running this state well requires a global vision. Mr. Ueberroth tries to make a virtue out of being visionless, and his public 1984 Olympic success is a personal burden to him in that respect. Mr. Riordan sometimes grits his teeth and accepts that the system is hard on visions. In the short term both approaches probably would lead to a substantial tax rise in California - which is the last thing this state needs or can tolerate. Sometimes, one side in an argument is just wrong - and that's the Democrats when it comes to California's current budget mess. Such things are not certain: It is at least possible that Richard Riordan might understand that and might be willing to stand up for not raising taxes. It is almost impossible to imagine Mr. Ueberroth standing up that way - or for many principles that need defending in California, other than the principle of keeping the decibel level in Sacramento down to a dull roar. In the longer run Richard Riordan would probably do much better - but he's not an option.

I'm not sure why more people don't really model themselves on Ronald Reagan here. Lots of people say they do - but they don't. Maybe he's too hard to understand - especially if, like most politicians (including most putative Reagan admirers), one is so burdened by prejudice, bias and contempt that one can't understand basic facts like Mr. Reagan being an uncategorizable genius.

We don't know that much about Arnold Schwarzenegger deeper political motivations. But the "economic conservative/social liberal" position he's staking out - or being stuck with - is unlikely to be the whole story. That position would have allowed him to become a brand of "centrist" Democrat, in, say, the putative Al Gore mold.

A man who becomes and remains a Republican - and supports many Republicans - for years even as he navigates uber-Democratic Hollywood and remains married to a member of the nation's highest-profile Democratic family, is not just a shallow opportunist and almost certainly has serious principles that simply were and are not consistent with being a Democrat. We haven't seen much of those, yet.

Of course, someone writing under the name of a cantankerous Austrian might have a soft spot for such people.

UPDATE: A new TIME/CNN Poll via Drudge makes clear why Pandemonium has broken loose on the Democratic side:

California voters would remove Governor Gray Davis from office and replace him with Arnold Schwarzenegger by a 19 percentage-point margin if the election were held today.

Mr. Schwarzenegger leads Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamanate, his closest competitor, by a 25%-to-15% margin.

State Sen. Tom McClintock (9%)

Former candidate for governor Bill Simon (7%)

Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, columnist Arianna Huffington, and former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth (tied with 4% each)

The poll's margin of error is +/- 4.3%. So the entire apparent support of Larry Flynt, Arianna Huffington and Peter Ueberroth could be just statistical noise.


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