Paul Jacob

Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined the race for California's hopefully soon-to-be-vacated governor's seat. Great. Arnold's a cool guy.

And Governor Gray Davis is a disgrace who deserves to be recalled. Totally. He tells too many true lies--for instance, about the $38 billion deficit that was piling up on his desk last year even as election day drew near. Davis's management of the power crisis didn't exactly demonstrate electrifying leadership either.

Californians have been getting a raw deal. No wonder Governor Davis squeaked back into office thanks only to the advantages of incumbency and the political weakness of his opponent.

Schwarzenegger is not just another dreary career politician. And not just another mega-muscled mega-millionaire. He came to America, he says, to be in a country where "the government wasn't always breathing down your neck or standing on your shoes." Starting with nothing, Schwarzenegger flexed his freedom to become a super-successful bodybuilder, movie star, and businessman. Whatever disagreements one might have with his politics, such can-do spirit deserves respect.

Davis too has talent. His one great ability, that of all career politicians, is the ability to cling to power. But even if he barely survives the recall, Davis won't have forever to turn California into a wasteland. He's term-limited. In a few years Californians will be rid of him regardless.

Of course, most politicians hate term limits.

You could hardly pile up more proof of this in California. In 1990, led by Willie Brown--at that time the Speaker of the Assembly--the politicians and special interests spent millions to stem the term limit tide. Then, after voters had passed term limits, the politicians spent millions more to overturn term limits in court.

Now the politicians have taken the battle to the ballot box. In 1990, Speaker Willie Brown, fearful of losing his job in the Assembly, spearheaded the effort to skewer term limits. In 2002, fearful of losing his job in the Senate, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton led a $10 million campaign to pass the politician-initiated Proposition 45--which would have tacked 4 years onto the tenure of state legislators. But voters saw through the deceptively worded measure and, in last year's March primary, terminated it.

Now, just 18 months after a stern rebuff, California's career politicians, like "Terminator" sequels or the Energizer bunny, are at it again, getting ready to campaign to save the job not just of Gray Davis but of every Sacramento politician about to be termed out of office. Including, of course, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, currently serving his third term.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.