Friday, April 15, 2005

Butt Kicking in California

Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to kick the California nurses' butts:

The first indication that things were veering off track for "Team Arnold" came with his promise at the end of last year to "kick the butts" of nurses protesting against his proposals to reduce nurse-patient ratios.

"Pay no attention to those voices over there," Schwarzenegger told a conference as it was disrupted by a group of nurses protesting against him. "They are the special interests. Special interests don't like me in Sacramento [California's capital] because I kick their butt."

It didn't go quite as well as it would have in a movie. In fact, the nurses kicked back. And so did the teachers and fire-fighters and police officers. Ahnuld took them on all at the same time; the kind of thing a terminator would do. But politics is not like the movies:

He said he would take on special interests by introducing merit pay for teachers, reforming the pensions of state employees, and redrawing constituencies. But a clause in the pension reform plan would have removed death and disability benefits from the system, leaving the grieving relatives of, for example, firefighters, stranded.

The protests started almost immediately. The California Nurses Association organised demonstrations at his normally discreet fundraising dinners at homes in the Hollywood hills and hotels in San Francisco. A light plane was a frequent uninvited guest at Schwarzenegger events, towing a banner through the skies reading "California is not for sale". Protesters even blocked the red carpet for a film premiere, forcing Schwarzenegger to go into the cinema through a side entrance.

Then another previously unseen phenomenon began to appear, this time on California's television screens: the anti-Arnold commercial. Teachers joined firefighters and nurses joined police officers to denounce Arnold's wicked ways.

And Schwarzenegger's popularity rating fell below the fifty-percent mark. Now he's back-pedaling on all the butt kicking and his wife indicates that she wants him at home. Oh well, a majority of Californians wanted to have the terminator, didn't they? Maybe they actually will have one now.