Dan Walters


By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Sunday, May. 29, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Now that the tabloid feeding frenzy has abated somewhat, it’s time for a cooler look at the furor over former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fathering a child by one of his household workers.

A few pundits have tried to make the connection between his marital betrayal and his failings as governor, but one has nothing to do with the other.

Illicit sex involving political figures is nothing new and, as we know now, was rampant even among the nation’s founders. More recently, we have seen scandals involving Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Strom Thurmond, Mark Sanford and John Edwards, to name but a few members of the club.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a scandalous affair with a television newswoman. The current lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, dallied with the wife of an aide while mayor of San Francisco.

Some of those touched by scandal were effective political officeholders and some were duds. Schwarzenegger’s record as governor, positive and negative, stands on its own and has nothing to do with the child he fathered before entering politics.

On the positive side, he engaged on issues that other politicians had ignored, such as the state’s deteriorating infrastructure, water supply, flood safety and reforming the truly scandalous way in which legislative and congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years. And he made some progress.

That said, he made many errors of political judgment, mostly out of naiveté, squandered his early opportunity to balance the budget and left a whopping deficit to successor Jerry Brown.

Schwarzenegger certainly should be held responsible for his mistakes – especially his ill-begotten decision to partially pardon the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, who took part in a vicious and fatal knife attack.

Mostly, Schwarzenegger failed not because of his own lapses, but because California’s political structure generates failure regardless of who occupies the office. Brown, who has spent all of his adult life in politics, is not faring any better than Schwarzenegger on the budget.

Anthony Kennedy, a Sacramentan who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court, made California’s crisis of governance part of last week’s decree that the state must end overcrowding in the state prison system.

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