CHUTES AND LADDERS
Chutes and Ladders was always one of my favorite board games as a kid. Since it required absolutely no skill, it was right in my wheelhouse. Truly, my affection for that game foreshadowed that, as an adult, whenever I went to Vegas, I would also head for the slot machines and never play anything else. Three cheers for blind luck!
In the game of life, however, Chutes and Ladders involves a lot more than luck. Just look at the trajectories of the political careers of our nation’s two leading Chief Executives. I’m talking about “The Decider,” President George W. Bush, and the “Governator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Many liberals like to claim that George W. Bush has failed at everything he’s done, whether it involves attending school or running a business. But it’s difficult to deny that as Governor of Texas, the man was anything but a failure. W hitched his wagon to a man named Bob Bullock, the state’s Lieutenant Governor. With the Republican Bush and the Democrat Bullock working together, they were able to build successful coalitions on many issues. At times, they failed, but not for the reasons you might think. Consider the following comments by liberal writer Molly Ivins, one of Bush’s most persistent critics:
“In 1997 [Bush] fought like a Trojan for what was actually a Democratic plan to make taxes fairer, specifically in an effort to pay for public schools. He lost. Bush couldn't deliver his own party on that one. But anyone who wants to write him off as a disengaged part-timer should know he was so fully involved in that fight, he could have been a floor manager the way he was twisting arms, calling in favors, busting balls, the entire panoply of power plays.”
Recognize that person-stage? I wouldn’t think so. He was around when Bush was going up the ladder, when he truly could style himself a “uniter, not a divider.” Bush prided himself in being the Governor of the entire state of
I’m less comfortable here commenting on Bush as a President, but suffice it to say that his poll numbers aren’t quite the same as his numbers in
On the other coast, you can hardly blame Ahnald from trying the bicep flaring, power-politician approach when he came into office. He had promised to stand up to the establishment politicians – liberals, mostly – who had been running
The flexing act worked for a little while in the
It must have dawned on The Governator that if
Who could have predicted it? Well, actually, just about anyone. Americans tend to like politicians who show their ability and willingness to build bi-partisan support and aren’t so easily pigeon-holed as either “right wingers” or “left wingers.” There are exceptions – another California Governor comes to mind -- but Mr. Reagan was beloved because he held a strong, positive vision for
Men like Reagan – or his liberal counterpart, FDR – don’t come around that often. Others try to replicate their successes by being equally extreme, but generally end up looking like children, rather than adults. We have two years left in the Bush Administration. My recommendation is that if the powers that be want to get anything done – and I mean anything – they might want to find the ghost of the late Bob Bullock and listen to what he has to say. He’d start by arguing that without widespread Democratic support, the only place for the Administration to go is further downward. Given all the problems we face internationally, environmentally, and otherwise, we simply can’t afford that outcome, no matter how much the pundits on Comedy Central might enjoy the ride.