The Distance Between Things

Who knew Newton's laws of motion applied to flying politicians? Consider the case of President Bush, Governor Schwarzenegger, and Newton's third law, which states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” President Bush flies into California to campaign for two Republican politicians, Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy and Rep. John Doolittle of Rocklin (both of whom recently made Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's list of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress), and Governor Schwarzenegger takes to the air to put some distance between himself and the man he helped get elected president in 2000 and 2004. Of course, Governor Schwarzenegger wasn't up for election in 2000 or 2004, so he didn't care if people remembered that he was a Republican. Now things are different.

Officially, Governor Schwarzenegger was out promoting the infrastructure bond issues, not avoiding the president. Though he was willing to point out that he wasn't in any physical proximity to Bush and didn't plan to be. The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci recounts Schwarzenegger's description of his Bush avoidance/Bond promotion trip:

“I'm busy with my thing … I promised the people of California that I would take care of rebuilding California,” [Schwarzenegger] said, adding the infrastructure bond package “is more important than a meeting with the president.”

Unmentioned is the most important thing of all– trying to convince voters you're not really a Republican, despite that pesky little “R” next to your name on the ballot.

Unfortunately for the governor, his not-really-a-Republican efforts fell a little short yesterday. Two of the props for his photo-ops were missing. State Senate President Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, both Democrats and therefore excellent camouflage for the governor, were suppose to be on Schwarzenegger's plane yesterday, but weren't. The Chronicle's Matier and Ross explain why:

Those in the know said problems between the governor and Democrats Don Perata and Fabian Núñez surfaced right about the time Bush decided to campaign for two House Republicans in California, the same day as the bond kickoff.

According to one Democratic operative close to the negotiations between the two sides, it soon became apparent to the Dems that the governor would be using his appearances with Perata and Núñez to prove he isn't the “Bush Republican” that gubernatorial rival Phil Angelides is making him out to be.


And when the governor's re-election campaign — rather than the nonpartisan bond committee — took it upon itself to announce Tuesday's fly-around, all bets were off.

The missing props weren't the only problems on Schwarzenegger's tour yesterday. Marinucci reports:

But [Perata and Nunez] weren't the only ones absent: perhaps the most mystifying thing about the event at Contra Costa Community College — home to 8,000 students from Richmond, San Pablo and West Contra Costa County — was that no students were there to see it.

Though set up in a large quad on campus, on a fall afternoon, Schwarzenegger was surrounded by officials from surrounding cities and agencies, but the students said they were neither informed about the rare visit from the governor nor allowed to get near it.
We talked to crowds of students kept at bay in a steaming corridor across the quad by security guards who were angered about not being allowed to see or hear the governor.


We later watched as the governor, following the talk, walked the halls of the 50-year-old physical science building to pop his head into a classroom where science labs were going on. Students seemed happy to see him, but expressed amazement that they were never told he was making an address just a few feet outside the door.

We asked: college officials said that the excessively tight control to keep the public away from the address was the result of concern for “security.”

But no one seemed to be able to explain how the governor, speaking of the importance of education funding as part of the bond package, missed an opportunity to educate the students as well.

That last line of Marinucci's is cute– almost touching, really– implying as it does a belief that the governor's visit might have been used to interact with voters, rather than just staged for the media's cameras, as it clearly was.

But if the governor's jaunt didn't have quite the effect it was intended to, neither did the president's.

“The president is popular here,'' Carl Fogliani, Rep. Pombo's campaign manager, told the press yesterday at the Stockton fundraiser where Bush stumped for Pombo. Maybe he is, but Bush's steady support for Pombo may not be helping. This morning, Congressional Quarterly downgraded Pombo's chances for reelection, moving his district from the “Republican Favored” category to “Leans Republican”.

Still, neither Bush nor Schwarzenegger had the most unsuccessful photo-op in California yesterday. That distinction belongs to Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), and his Salinas news conference designed to promote confidence in California spinach.

Farr made his remarks in front of an empty bowl that he had hoped to fill with spinach. He had intended to eat some and feed it to reporters, but said his attempts to buy spinach at two local grocery stores were unsuccessful. Both stores had signs that said they were not selling spinach, according to a Farr aide.

Despite the empty bowl, Farr tried to keep things upbeat. I suppose some prefer to see the spinach bowl as empty, but Farr preferred to see the bowl as keeping a Bush/Schwarzeneggerian distance from spinach being happily and healthily consumed.

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