Gov. Jerry Brown has been giving interviews recently in which he seems bent on confirming a theory, offered tongue-in-cheek in this space, [link] that he really is just an avatar inhabited by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Brown used one of Schwarzenegger's favorite - and least effective - techniques: challenging the manhood of legislators of both parties who won't go along with him. Brown told the LA Times that lawmakers lack courage and "cojones" - that's Spanish slang for balls. That's calling them Girlie-Men by another name.
You might ask what's wrong with that, given that legislators aren't exactly courageous. First, it reminds people that Brown himself isn't exactly courageous. (Remember, this is "Mister I Won't Raise Taxes Without a Vote of the People"). Second, it's counter-productive.
Governors need lawmakers to go along with them. Brown spent considerable time and energy on building personal relationships with legislators. So it sure doesn't help when you give a slate of media interviews in which you suggest that they have no balls. (At least, that doesn't help with the male legislators).
As I've repeated ad nauseum here and everywhere else, it would be much more productive - and I dare say, accurate - for Brown to say: these legislators are prisoners of a budget and governing system that doesn't work. And I'm going to spend every day that I'm governor working to change that system so legislators and I have a better chance to make timely decisions and advance policies that will improve the economy and quality of life of Californians.
This is long, laborious work. And systemic reform won't be completed under this governor, or even the next. Since any reform that improves the legislature will require investing lawmakers with more discretion and power, every gubernatorial blast at lawmakers makes it that much harder to fix the system.
(Joe Mathews is Journalist and Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It. This column was posted first at foxandhoundsdaily.com) -cw
Vol 9 Issue 63
Pub: Aug 9, 2011