Getting Behind the Governator
OK, I will be the second to admit (Al was first) that I might have been wrong about Arnold Schwartzenegger. He's actually starting to look like a pretty decent governor. My main objections to him at the time of the recall were (a) that he was taking advantage of the recall at all; it seemed more like a coup than an election, (b) that there was apparently some disrespect of women and their rights not to be groped in his past, and (c) that he seemed like just another actor who thought his celebrity status made him qualified to be a politician.
As far as his politics went, he *seemed* like the kind of Republican I might actually consider voting for—i.e., fiscally conservative and socially liberal—though I wasn't sure what he'd really be like once he got into office. As it turns out, he's exceeded my expectations on that front: He's managed to adopt a fairly lassez faire attitude on social issues (for example, by saying that he had no problem with gay marriage—his problem was with the handing out of illegal licenses rather than challenging the law banning gay marriages—and encouraging activists to fight it out in the courts), step up on the environment (I worried, as others did, that a 7-Hummer-owning governor wouldn't exactly be environmentally friendly, but he's apparently down to just 3 Hummers now, and he's supporting legislation that would allow high-efficiency hybrids to use the carpool lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle [more on that below]), and try some wacky new things rather than just govern according to the status quo (for example, selling off junk that the state was currently *paying* to warehouse).
In retrospect, the thing that most stuck in my craw about Schwartzenegger becoming governor—that he never would have been elected if he'd had to run in a "real" election rather than a recall/coup—might be the reason California is being treated to some innovation now. Arnold most likely never would have been supported by the official GOP machine because he's too liberal. Much as I hated the means, the end just might justify them.
What prompted a discussion of Arnold's performance as governor over coffee this morning were two articles in the New York Times: the one about the state garage sale, linked to above, and one titled Detroit Fights California Bid to Open Car Pool Lanes to Fuel-Conscious Import. Detroit's (or, more specifically, Ford Motor Company's and its United Auto Workers') objection to the bill is mainly that it's tantamount to encouraging Americans to buy Japanese because no American-made car would qualify for the carpool lane exemption.
No American-made car would CURRENTLY qualify, they mean. And, of course, no future American-made car would, either, unless there's some incentive for them to do so.
My favorite section of the article:
As things stand now, only the Prius, which is so popular that dealerships report months-long waiting lists, and the far-less prevalent Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid would qualify. The Ford Hybrid Escape, an S.U.V. coming on the market this fall, is expected to average 31 miles per gallon on highways.
In his letter on Aug. 16 to Mr. Schwarzenegger, Mr. Ford wrote that the legislation "puts our workers and stockholders at a competitive disadvantage precisely when Ford is entering the hybrid market with a family-oriented, no compromise S.U.V."
He asked, "How will you be able to tell consumers who purchase this vehicle that they will not be allowed to drive in the car pool lane while other hybrid vehicles can?"
I've got a solution for you, Mr. Ford: If the Ford Hybrid Escape is so "family-oriented", put the whole fucking family in it, and you'll qualify for the carpool lane. Heck, one or two extra family members would do the trick—no need to fill all five seats.