"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."
It's a great line from a great movie.
And in politics, it's used to convey the sleight of hand that's so common when it comes to fiery campaign rhetoric that occasionally doesn't fit with the nitty gritty of governing.
That tactic may very well be at the heart of Governor Schwarzenegger's latest Budget Armageddon Road Show, which touched down in Fresno on Friday and in Los Angeles this morning. Schwarzenegger certainly wants to make the point, and rightly so, that the impasse here in Sacramento is threatening dozens of important public works projects around the state. Not to mention the state's fiscal survival.
But both events seemed to force Schwarzenegger to borrow a page from the Wiz, by directing attention toward the impacts of the impasse... and away, somewhat, from the solutions to the impasse.
And yes, we're talking about the T word... taxes.... or, ummm, the more family friendly R word: revenues.
"They passed legislation with a whole bunch of high taxes, to punish you," said the governor on Friday, "as if they didn't do anything wrong, you did something wrong."
He was obviously referring to legislative Democrats and their non-Republican revenue proposal. But compare the above comment with one made today in Los Angeles by the governor:
"I'm interested in revenue increases, that's the bottom line."
Republicans have picked up on the apparent misalignment of the two statements. Balking at reports that Schwarzenegger met only with Democratic leaders on Sunday, Assembly GOP Leader Mike Villines said this in a written statement today: "We believe the Governor should instead keep his promise to the people of California and reject the Democrat tax increases."
The morale of this story: message-focused campaign events are sometimes a tough fit with with the complicated, and sometimes contradictory, world of budget negotiations.
And that leads to this question: if the governor and Democrats can, as some now believe, find a compromise on the issue of economic stimulus and spending cuts... how might the rhetoric change when it comes to the tax increase proposal?
Tis the season to be... squabbling about a solution to California's fiscal crisis.
On this week's Capital Notes Podcast, we look back at a very busy week on the state budget front. From competing proposals to defeated bills, controversial solutions, and the threats of Governor Schwarzenegger to veto the Democratic plan... and lay off state workers.
Capitol Weekly editor Anthony York and I check in for what that week might mean in terms of an eventual deal, and whose interests might be left out when it's all said and done.
And yes, the podcast is actually a few days late; the flurry of events at week's end pushed our weekly chat into Monday.
"I always set goals that are so high, they are almost impossible to achieve. Because then you're always hungry for climbing."
That was, for my money, the most noteworthy insight gleaned from the long profile of Governor Schwarzenegger on Sunday's 60 Minutes. The quip is probably the defining image of the governor, an image seen by both his admirers and his detractors.
The rest of the segment? Well, the online reviews from both the left and right on the political spectrum weren't that great. By the way, it should be noted (since CBS did not) that correspondent Scott Pelley didn't just interview Schwarzenegger... he was also the moderator of the governor's climate summit last month in Los Angeles. There were clips of the guv at the event in last night's segment, but no mention of journalist Pelley's dual role.