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Friday, April 22, 2005

CA-Gov: Schwarzenegger's Office FUBAR

Posted by Bob Brigham

Peter Nicholas and Robert Salladay have a must-read article that goes to great pains to avoid using the word, 'clusterfuck' when the story seems like it wants to type the word itself.

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing infighting among his senior staff and campaign team, which has contributed to a series of political missteps that threaten the once soaring governor's ambitious agenda, more than a dozen aides and lawmakers said Thursday.

With a lede like that, you know it is going to get ugly:

The problems are considered bad enough that they are expected to be discussed today as the governor's senior aides gather for a strategy meeting.

Schwarzenegger is reeling after successive policy reversals, gaffes and clashes with well-organized opponents have deflated his once-buoyant approval ratings. The latest setback came this week when he told a newspaper publishers association that the United States should "close its borders." He later apologized, explaining that he misspoke because of his imperfect command of English.

But a range of advisors see the remark as a sign of deeper strains. People with ties to the administration use words like "dysfunctional" and "civil war'' to describe the atmosphere within the warren of offices where Schwarzenegger and his top aides work.

I thought "dysfunctional" might be a little strong, until I read this:

Lawmakers say they are confused about who speaks for the administration and who has the authority to close political deals. [...]

One lawmaker, who would not be identified, said Schwarzenegger's top staff made clear that they, and not Finance Director Tom Campbell, should be consulted on budget policy — although a governor's finance director traditionally serves as chief budget negotiator.

Here is the political definition of clusterfuck (and a sign Schwarzenegger's Chief of Staff is failing):

People close to the office describe a hub-and-spoke system with Schwarzenegger at the center and various aides having little idea what others are doing. Though that structure has centralized power at Schwarzenegger's desk, downsides include confusion and a lack of coordination among staff members.

And the fact that Democrats can win is increasing all of these strains:

A consequence of the internal infighting has been an increasingly emboldened opposition, with Democrats in the Legislature spurning talk of compromise and expressing optimism that they can unseat Schwarzenegger in 2006 — a prospect that seemed far-fetched as little as three months ago.

"While the governor was still in the planning stage, still debating within his inner circle which direction he wanted to take … the opposition got organized and mobilized,'' Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican strategist, said, citing the vocal protests mounted by teachers, nurses, police and firefighters. "He got outflanked."

But the last line brings up the new talking point on Schwarzenegger:

Then he retreated.

Schwarzenegger talks big...and then he reteats. He doesn't have the team he would need to win, the civil war is costing him, and it is looking more and more likely that California will eat him up and spit him out before he loses re-election.

Posted at 11:52 AM in 2006 Elections - State, California | Technorati