This morning's Los Angeles Times has a story based on a six minute audio tape, “obtained by The Times, of a meeting with some members of his inner circle last spring. At the time, Schwarzenegger was struggling to persuade Republican lawmakers to embrace his plan to place billions of dollars in borrowing on the November ballot.”
My first thought was that Schwarzenegger's people deliberately leaked the tape, to reassure voters who aren't sure that Arnold's election year conversion to a moderate-work-with-the-Democratic-majority is real, and who worry that after being reelected he'll revert to the rampaging Gov-who-would-be-King-through-ballot-initiatives he was last year. Most of the tape reportedly shows Arnold being willing to use a firm hand to drag the Republicans towards the center. He even praises, rather than reprimands, his chief of staff Susan Kennedy (a Democrat much loathed by rightwing Republicans) for pissing off Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy (R).
“You really pissed him off,” Schwarzenegger said. “But you know something? You pissed him off because it hit home. That's why it pissed him off. People always get irritated; always when you hit something that is the truth, that's when people flame out.”
Kennedy also makes fun of Assembly Republican leader George Plescia's appearance, and a hearty laugh is shared by all. “'I love it. There was the Academy Award right there.'”, Schwarzenegger says of Kennedy's Plescia routine.
I can see why Arnold's people would want that “pissed off” passage made public– Arnold Schwarzenegger, a governor committed to the truth, even when it infuriates members of his own party. Very good election year stuff, I thought. The tape's definitely a deliberately leak. But then again, I thought, there's “the black blood” stuff– would he really want that out there?
At one point on the tape, Schwarzenegger and Kennedy take a moment to try and figure out just what Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, the only Republican Latina in the legislature, “is”. Clearly unsatisfied with the obvious answers– (a) an American and (b) a Californian– Kennedy advances the idea that Garcia is a Puerto Rican. (Garcia was born in New York City and her parents were from Puerto Rico.) The governor disagrees.
“She seems to me like Cuban,” Schwarzenegger says.
“She's not Mexican,” Kennedy replies.
“No,” the governor agrees.
“But she said something,” Kennedy says, “and I thought, I thought she was Puerto Rican.”
Then Schwarzenegger offers a theory.
“She maybe is Puerto Rican or the same thing as Cuban. I mean, they are all very hot. They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it.”
How could it possibly help the governor to have that out there? I wondered. Maybe the tape wasn't a deliberate leak. Then it came to me: that part of the tape is meant to help him with Republicans. To let the dwellers in the fever swamps of the Right know that even though he's talking tough about Republicans on the tape, deep down inside, he's really one of them. And if other people object to hearing racial characteristics of “blood” being discussed in a German-sounding accent, that just gives Arnold a chance to become a victim of political correctness— and nothing endears a politician to the Right quite like being a victim of political correctness.
As for McCarthy and Garcia, both tell the Times that they have no problem with anything on the tape, and Plescia “had no comment”. It seems that unlike the governor, they are, if you'll excuse the expression, well bred.