John Fund in the Wall Street Journal op-ed page argues today that Arnold is becoming another Bush, totally disengaged from reality and lacking consistent moral fiber. His staff has been limiting the topics people are allowed to discuss with him. Exacerbating the problem has been the aggressive, defensive tone he has struck in meetings. The attitude has prevented members of his own party from having frank discussions with their governor.
Thus when Mr. Schwarzenegger arrived to talk with GOP legislators, the discussion was understandably constrained. After someone brought up Ms. Kennedy, the governor shocked and offended his audience by telling the legislators that "The reason you don't like her is that she's a lesbian, and lives openly with another woman." He explained that he had hired Ms. Kennedy to "make the trains run on time" in his office and that she could devote "24 hours a day" to the job because she didn't have kids. Assemblyman Mike Villines of Fresno then asked if the governor really meant to imply he couldn't hire someone with a family for the top job in his office. The governor then backed down slightly.
"The meeting was incomplete," says Assemblyman Ray Haynes, one of the few legislators to comment publicly on it. "Everybody pulled back because nobody knew how Arnold would react to bad news." In other words, the governor came to the meeting in his own self-contained bubble, which remained intact when he left. Mr. Schwarzenegger's office did not return phone calls about the meeting.
Lawrence Leamer, the author of "Fantastic!," a new sympathetic biography of Mr. Schwarzenegger, says he sees evidence his subject's boundless optimism may finally be failing him. "He despises bearers of bad news and views them as wallowing in negative energy," Mr. Leamer says. "He told me, 'I need always positive reinforcement and then face reality.' " But what worked in bodybuilding and Hollywood may not always transfer over to the political arena. Mr. Leamer calls the governor's reaction to the GOP legislators "frightening" because it may show he is no longer learning from people. "Modern politicians aren't troglodytes; they've worked with gays," Mr. Leamer told me. "To imply they were homophobes misreads them and may mean he isn't facing reality."
No wonder we heard hardly any quotes from this meeting, other than it was "great" and big thumbs up. His own party cannot have a reasonable discussion with him. How will they be able to hold their tounges through this election cycle? They certainly won't be able to go to his chief of staff as a conduit to the governor. Any public disputes will further weaken the Californian Republican Party. The governor may soon find himself on his own lonely island. At least he has a couple of movie offers on the table.