The Schwarzenegger Legacy: What Legacy?

Posted on 23 May 2011

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By Peter Schrag

The response was predictable. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s friends were shocked, bewildered and disgusted.

 “He betrayed the people who supported him from day one,” said Sacramento’s Ted Costa, who helped launch the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. If you went by the papers and the television talking heads, the revelation about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s out-of-wedlock son would stain, if not destroy, the governor’s “legacy.”

What legacy?

When he was elected in 2003, California faced a multi-billion dollar budget deficit. When he left office eight years later, the state faced a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.

When he began, he declared his intention to “tear up the credit card.” In the years since, he’s put more on the credit card than any of his predecessors. In the meantime, trying to pretend that the state had got its fiscal house in order, he exhausted every fiscal gimmick and dodge that was still left to him. He compounded the state’s fiscal problems – he and the legislature together -- by running us out of gimmicks.  He tried to sell the lottery and the state’s office buildings. He would have sold the sunshine and the beaches had they been marketable.

On his first day in office, he cut the state’s vehicle license fee at a cost of roughly $6 billion a year. Californians had paid it for most of the prior half century and never noticed until a right-leaning politician made an issue of it, immediately after, he borrowed a record $15 billion to pay off part of the state’s debt.

He pushed still more borrowing for water projects and other infrastructure, much of which should have been funded by user fees and gas taxes. He endorsed passage of the unfunded stem cell bonds that will cost the state another $6 billion before they’re paid off.

He made deals with interest groups – the teacher’s union on school funding, the Latino caucus on drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens – and promptly reneged. He first resisted, then grudgingly agreed to sign AB32, the state’s landmark greenhouse gas emission control law and then promptly took credit for it.

The shock last week was not the news about retired former worker in the Schwarzenegger household and her 14-year-old son in Bakersfield, but the shocked response among people who should have known. Should we have really been surprised? Didn’t we know about the drug use, the narcissism and the pathological exercise of power?

In the months before the recall election, the Los Angeles Times ran a string of stories documenting Schwarzenegger’s serial backstage groping in the decades before.  In return, the paper and its reporters were vilified for bias, distortion and invasions of privacy.

We should have known that while you can take the boy out of Hollywood, you can’t take Hollywood out of the boy.  If the press had pursued the groping stories we might have been spared seven years of show-biz, glitz and mis-government: Faucets running red ink in Sacramento; shoveling dirt into photo-op pot holes in San Jose; the ballyhooed “compacts” on global warming with Tony Blair and the Canadians; the trash talk about political adversaries as “girlie men.”   

In the stories of the past week, some spoke about Schwarzenegger’s “landslide” victory in the 2003 recall. That would be the first time in history that a candidate with 48.6 percent of the votes got credit for a landslide. The trouble is that Schwarzenegger himself believed it.

No, the dubious legacy isn’t all Arnold’s fault. We have a convoluted governmental system that seems almost designed to be dysfunctional and a poisonous political culture that grows more toxic every year. We have a Republican Party, at one time presumably his base, that’s more like a cult than a political party – the Tea Party long before anyone had ever coined the name.

But Schwarzenegger arrived in office with a large reservoir of credibility, and he could have done much more with it. Instead, he quickly converted it to Hollywood humbug. He could have ended the pretense and the denial, as Jerry Brown is trying to do now. He could have asked for a compromise solution like the one Ronald Reagan negotiated in 1967 and Pete Wilson did in the early 1990s. Split the difference between spending cuts and revenue increases.

Instead he played to his Republican base and its theology – the trouble wasn’t enough revenue, he said again and again, it was too much spending. At one time, he echoed Grover Norquist, the high priest of the anti-taxers: Starve the beast of government.

But even his play to the GOP assumed a partnership that couldn’t last. Cultish orthodoxy was never his thing, lines at the box office and public adulation was. The latest revelation didn’t “squander any legacy,” as the conservative radio talker Melanie Morgan ambiguously put. It confirmed it.


Peter Schrag, whose exclusive weekly column appears every Monday in the California Progress Report, is the former editorial page editor and columnist of the Sacramento Bee. He is the author of Paradise Lost: California’s Experience, America’s Future and California: America’s High Stakes Experiment. His new book, Not Fit for Our Society: Nativism, Eugenics, Immigration is now on sale.

You can get a pretty good view of the state of things in California in the unemployment level heat map for California at

Former Governor Schwarzenegger has to be commended for making a very wise, sound decision in restoring funding for battered women shelters. Without a shelter for a battered woman to go to, she could be severely beaten or killed. This is a very important point that ex-Governor Schwarzenegger recognized. Most men are bigger than women. This is a reverse decision for ex-Governor Schwarzenegger and this decision shows that the former Governor has a flexible mind to do what is right. Well done! Former Governor Arnold A. Schwarzenegger! You have saved the lives of many battered women. If a husband has plans to murder his wife, beware, the "Terminator will be Back."

Sounds like Bill Clinton!

Peter - great piece on the "legacy" of the Governator.

Please read my expose on the "Fish Terminator."


Schwarzenegger Screwed Fish, Fishermen and Tribes

by Dan Bacher

As an authentic investigative journalist, one who had the courage and integrity to expose Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's war on fish, fishermen and Tribes, I must say to the corporate media, "I could have told you so," in reference to the "relevation" that Schwarzenegger fathered a "love child."

The Los Angeles Times reported on May 17 that the former California governor admitted to Maria Shriver, his wife, that he'd fathered a child with the woman, who had worked for the family for 20 years. Schwarzenegger's admission to fathering a child with a household staff member resulted in his separation from Shriver.

"After leaving the governor's office, I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago," Schwarzenegger claimed in a statement. "I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry."

I bet Schwarzenegger is really "sorry" - as "sorry" as he was for his unprecedented campaign against the state's fish, fishermen and Indian Tribes!

Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor in California history, was shamelessly praised as the "Green Governor" by corporate "environmental" NGOS and political hacks for his support of corporate greenwashing efforts. The worst example of this pandering took place on April, 14, 2010, when Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, honored Schwarzenegger for his “environmental advocacy" at the “Riverkeeper’s Annual Fishermen’s Ball” at Pier Sixty on the Hudson River in New York City (

Kennedy bestowed the award upon Schwarzenegger in spite of nationwide outrage by fishermen and environmentalists over honoring such an undeserving politician for his "environmental advocacy." Three courageous environmental activists including Robert Jereski were arrested for protesting at the event.

As corporate "environmentalists" and the media were praising Schwarzenegger for being the "Green Governor," the Austrian-born politician was screwing fish, fishermen, Tribes, the environment and all Californians. In reality, Schwarzenegger is a creature with no ethics or concern for other human beings or the environment.

He left a trail of destruction in his wake, ranging from his corrupt plans to build the peripheral canal and his privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative fiasco, to the destruction of the state's economy, to his collapsed marriage. Covering up the fact that he had a child with a staffer until now is just one example of a mountain of examples of his complete and total lack of integrity and ethics.

Schwarzenegger's real environmental legacy is much different from how Schwarzenegger and his collaborators portray it. What was his actual environmental record?

• Schwarzenegger allowed the Department of Water Resources to pump record levels of water out of the Delta from 2003 to 2007, resulting in the Central Valley salmon and California Delta pelagic species collapses.The largest annual water export levels in history occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre feet), 2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF) and 2006 (6.3 MAF). Exports averaged 4.6 MAF annually between 1990 and 1999 and increasing to an average of 6 MAF between 2000 and 2007, a rise of almost 30 percent, according to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

• He constantly attacked two federal biological opinions, released in 2009, protecting Delta smelt, Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales.

• His administration did nothing while tens of thousands of striped bass, Sacramento blackfish, Sacramento splittail and other species perished during a levee repair project at Prospect Island in the California Delta in November 2007.

• He vetoed numerous environmental bills, including vetoing a badly needed bill sponsored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) in 2008 that would provide for emergency fish rescue plans on the Delta.

• He consistently slashed funding for game wardens in the field while California has the lowest ratio of wardens to residents of any state in the nation.

• He constantly directed the Central Valley Regional Water Control Board to continue to grant waivers to agricultural polluters, in spite of the dire condition of Delta fisheries.

• Since 2004, he fast-tracked a controversial, privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative filled with conflicts of interest, institutional racism and corruption. Rather than creating marine protected areas that truly protect the ocean, this initiative kicks sustainable fishermen and gatherers off the water while refusing to deal with pollution, coastal development, military testing, wave energy projects and other human uses of the ocean that imperil marine life and ecosystems.

• As Schwarzenegger fast-tracked the privately-funded MLPA fiasco, he twice vetoed two crab pot limit bills needed to preserve California crab fisheries.

• Schwarzenegger introduced a bill that would allow the lame-duck Governor to choose 25 development projects each year that would be exempt from the state's strict standards under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (

• The Governor's Office of Pesticide Regulation on December 1, 2010 inexplicably approved methyl iodide to replace the soil fumigant methyl bromide, even though methyl iodide is even more toxic to animals, fish and people than methyl bromide (

However, the "crown jewel" of Schwarzenegger's water policies was his campaign to build a peripheral canal/canal and new dams through his Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan processes. This construction of a canal/tunnel, estimated to cost anywhere from $23 to $53.8 billion, is likely to lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and other species.

In his zeal to build the canal, Schwarzenegger attempted to sabotage the campaign by the Klamath, Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes, fishermen and environmentalists to remove four Klamath River dams by including $250 million for dam removal in an unpopular water bond that creates the infrastructure for a peripheral canal and new dams. Because it would have faced certain defeat at the polls last November, Schwarzenegger and the Legislative leadership postponed the water bond until November 2012.

In addition, the Schwarzenegger administration granted agribusiness permits to divert water from the Scott and Shasta rivers, resulting in the de-watering of these Klamath River tributaries at tremendous risk to endangered coho salmon. Schwarzenegger's "scorched earth" policy towards the Scott and Shasta forced Earthjustice to file a lawsuit against the Department of Fish and Game on behalf of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Klamath Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, the Quartz Valley Indian Tribe, Northcoast Environmental Center and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC).

While his record regarding fishery and water issues is the worst of any Governor in California history, Schwarzenegger's portrayal by the corporate media and corporate environmental NGOs as a relentless advocate for "clean energy" is also very deceptive. Former Senator Sheila Kuel eloquently exposed the myth of the "Jolly Green Giant" in her article, "A Lame Duck Governor Fabricates A Hoped-For Legacy," in the California Progress Report on July 29 (

Where was the corporate media that is now so eager to talk about Schwarzenegger's "love child" scandal when Schwarzenegger's was waging his "scorched earth campaign" against fish and the environment?

The good news is that Schwarzenegger is gone from the Governor's office. The bad news is the terrible legacy that he left - the collapse of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River spring and winter run chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail and other fish populations, his many horrible appointments to state boards and commissions, and his consistent failure to enforce the state's clean water, fish restoration and other environmental laws.

While some are suggesting that Schwarzenegger, the former "Governator," has become the "Sperminator," he will always be the "Fish Terminator" and "Governor Greenwash" to me!