Arnold’s transition team leans to the right
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Hours after his historic election to replace recalled Gov. Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger rolled out a 68-member transition team that looked, he said, like California, a blend of “people that are to the left, people that are to the right and people that are to the center.”
But a closer look, as the team hurriedly prepares the Republican actor for the role of his life, reveals that behind the show of diversity is a group dominated by believers in smaller government, less regulation on business and lower taxes.
Nearly 40 of the team’s most influential members are mainstream conservatives that include many veterans of the administrations of Former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. and George W. Bush.
“You go with the people who got you to the dance,” said University of California, Irvine, political scientist Mark Petracca, explaining the team’s conservative tilt despite appointments like liberal Democratic San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Michael Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign manager Susan Estrich.
“I’m reminded of an old saying: History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. There are some distinct parallels to the Wilson administration,” added Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney.
Analysts say the team’s conservative bloc, rather than its high-profile scattering of Democratic mayors and others from across California’s political spectrum, will dominate the new administration’s most important priorities: solving the budget crisis, trimming state services and making California more friendly to business.
The team’s mission includes crafting a new direction after five years of Democratic domination in the governor’s office and Legislature, and recruiting top officials for a new administration once Schwarzenegger takes office. Schwarzenegger hasn’t announced a date or place for his swearing in; the election results must be certified by Nov. 15.
Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Schwarzenegger’s “predominantly mainstream conservative” transition team will likely offer Schwarzenegger a like-minded Cabinet.
“You want people to head departments who share your values. They’re more likely to implement your policies the way you want to,” he said.
Cain also suggested that Schwarzenegger’s high-profile inclusion of alternate views during the transition follows a similar move made by President Bush in late 2000.
“With Bush, he faked left and went right,” said Cain. “California Democrats are likely to wait and see if this is a repeat of the Bush strategy or whether it’s something different.”
The transition team’s powerful conservative wing includes ex-Gov. Wilson, state Senate Republican leader and Bush confidant Jim Brulte, former Wilson welfare director Eloise Anderson, ex-Bush budget official Bob Grady and former U.S. Rep. Bill Baker. It contains critics of affirmative action, proponents of privatizing government services, and a former adviser to Enron Corp., the energy giant that fell into bankruptcy after revelations of accounting irregularities.
Another Californian on the team, Viet Dinh, recently left the Bush administration, drafted the so-called “Patriot Act,” which gives police agencies more power in going after terrorists, and was an influential attorney behind the impeachment of President Clinton.
Other credentials in the group include ties to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Reagan’s 1960s “kitchen Cabinet” when he was California’s governor, and ex-Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.
Outsiders, acknowledging the dominant bloc’s shared core values, predict a new tone for Sacramento – much like Wilson’s fiscally conservative, but socially moderate 1990s – that will be more supportive of business and less supportive of labor unions, affirmative action, social services and rights of illegal immigrants. But in the Wilson mold, it’s also likely to support abortion rights and gun control.
Pitney said the team’s pro-business makeup follows the “one clear theme of the campaign, to make sure that California was open for business again.”
“I think where we’ll see it is activity on regulation and mandates on business,” Pitney said. “I know a lot of people in construction and real estate say there are overlapping and duplicative regulations. That will be an early target, streamlining the regulatory process.”
Brulte said Schwarzenegger’s team is just as the actor promised during the short recall campaign.
“He said it would be an inclusive group, but he also said he wanted the best and the brightest,” said Brulte. “He also emphasized that he was a fiscal conservative and he’s got those people around him.”
Steve Merksamer, a Sacramento attorney who was chief of staff for former Republican Gov. George Deukmejian and directed Deukmejian’s transition in 1983 after the administration of Democrat Jerry Brown, said the group is broad based and may or may not reflect Schwarzenegger’s views.
“I don’t think you can come to any conclusions about these people except that they are an eclectic group,” Merksamer said.
On the Net:
Visit Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger’s Web site at http:www.joinarnold.com