Chronicle Frames Schwarzenegger Appointment in False Light

by Randy Shaw on December 2, 2005

The Governor’s appointment of Democrat Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff has been trumpeted in the San Francisco Chronicle as a “potentially dramatic change” reflecting his “penchant for making out-of-the ordinary decisions.” Really? Kennedy admits voting for all of the Governor’s recent ballot initiatives, is strongly backed by former Republican Governor Pete Wilson, and Schwarzenegger stated at his press conference that Kennedy “was putting her Democratic philosophy aside to fulfill my vision.” The willingness of a lesbian who had a commitment ceremony with her partner to “put her views aside” to boost an anti-gay marriage Governor is hardly something to cheer.

In case anyone still questioned whether the Chronicle and other daily media wants Governor Schwarzenegger re-elected next year, the framing of the Susan Kennedy appointment closes the case. A chief of staff who supports right-wing ballot measures opposed by 95% of Democrats is now heralded as reflecting a major political shift by the still conservative Republican Governor.

To be fair, the Chronicle was not alone in spinning Arnold’s new tale of political moderation. The New York Times triumphed Kennedy’s appointment as a “shift to the left” by Arnold, an even more ridiculous assessment than appeared in our local media.

But leave it to the Chronicle to advance bold premises of a new moderate Arnold without accompanying factual support.

For example, in a ridiculous story on how the Governor’s appointment “riles” the right (as if Republicans will oppose the only candidate who can bring victory), the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci claims that “many Democrats agree” that Kennedy will help the Governor win support of political independents.

Who are these “many” Democrats? Marinucci quotes one-Phil Trounstine, who used to work with Kennedy in the Davis Administration.

Meanwhile, who is the biggest booster of Kennedy? Former Republican Governor Pete Wilson.

Now there’s a recommendation Democrats can count on. Wilson noted that Kennedy recently gave a speech to the Chamber of Commerce “that was one of the best speeches any of us have ever heard.”

Had the Chronicle headline read, “Pete Wilson Applauds Schwarzenegger Appointment,” all of the nonsense about the Governor moving to the center could have been dispensed with.

In paragraph eleven in a separate story, Chronicle reporter Mark Martin describes how registered Democrat Kennedy has been “the most fervent free-market pro-business conservative who has served on the Public Utilities Commission in the last 20 years.” No wonder Arnold was attracted to her.

Kennedy is known to be a good friend of the gay and lesbian community, playing an important role in convincing former Governor Davis to sign gay rights legislation. But in her willingness to “take her Democratic philosophy aside” to fulfill Schwarzengger’s vision, Kennedy has effectively embraced the Governor’s anti-gay marriage views.

In fact, Kennedy helps immunize the Governor from criticism over the gay marriage veto. After all, if the Governor were not supportive of gay rights, why would he make a lesbian his chief of staff?

Ignored in coverage of the Kennedy appointment was the Governor’s claim this week that he had added $3 billion to the state’s school budget, and that he was providing California kids with the highest school funding ever. If Schwarzenegger were really moving to the center, he would have apologized for breaking his promise to return $3 billion to the schools, and committed to restoring the money next year.

Schwarzenegger knows he has no chance for re-election unless he abandons his right-wing agenda. But before the Chronicle redefines him as a “moderate” who “never gets stuck in a mode,” the paper should remember that it is the Governor’s policies, not his appointments, that are the true test.

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