Want political intrigue? Check the governor’s mansionUsually, we Americans can go weeks, even months, without thinking of our governors. Except of course California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie star. Not so this year.
By: Ann McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
Usually, we Americans can go weeks, even months, without thinking of our governors. Except of course California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie star. Not so this year.
When Al Gore became vice president, more than half of all Americans couldn’t for the life of them remember his name. Now, nine out of 10 Americans (the tenth being comatose, climbing Mount Everest or trapped in a Wal-Mart) know the name of the governor of Illinois (and can pronounce it) and the name of the governor of Alaska, a state many of them might have missed on a quiz identifying the 50 states.
Gov. Rod “Big Hair” Blagojevich reportedly did not speak with his own lieutenant governor for months at a time and rarely darkened the door of his office in Springfield. But every civics class student in America now knows that he could be the poster child for the most heinous crime in government: He allegedly talked about selling a seat in the U.S. Senate to replace Barack Obama.
(It is not a crime to raise $30 million or more to run for the Senate. It is a crime to sell one, even for a few hundred thousand dollars or a cushy job for your spouse or a Cabinet position for yourself.)
The cable TV news shows are in a frenzy over Blagojevich, his mental capacity and his hair. The talking heads have reached a pitch that exceeds even the diatribes over the wrecked economy and the $50 billion heist pulled off against rich people by some guy named Bernie Madoff. Every time Obama attempts to talk about education or energy independence or the need for more technological innovation in America, some reporter asks him a question about Blagojevich, which the president-elect ducks.
We also learned much more about Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano this year. When rumors surfaced that Obama was thinking of naming her director of homeland security, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said in a casual conversation (over an open microphone) that his Democratic colleague would be perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.
The social hours at those governors conferences must be a real hoot. Imagine the first meeting of Napolitano and Rendell after that comment.
After Eliot Spitzer became synonymous with illegal, paid sexual trysts at the Washington D.C. Mayflower Hotel and quickly resigned last March as New York governor, we learned that his partially blind successor David Patterson also had had extramarital affairs. There must be some strange chemical in the governors mansion in Albany.
But the star of Let’s Play Celebrity Guv, of course, was, is and shall remain Sarah Palin. Forty-nine other governors are eating their hearts out wondering how they could kill, dress and eat an exotic animal in their states without having the animal-rights people down on them.
After we read in a report for the Federal Election Commission that Palin’s traveling makeup artist was paid $68,400 and her hair stylist received $42,000 for two months of painting and styling on the campaign trail, in addition to well over $150,000 in clothes (the bills are still coming in), we began to have a new appreciation of the work our governors do. (And a certain sense of relief. If Palin had become vice president, could we taxpayers have afforded her? So far, all Joe Biden is seeking is Puppy Chow.)
Unfortunately, Caroline Kennedy is not seeking a governor’s seat, only the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, so we may never know what quixotic traits and habits this shy mother and constitutional scholar may have.
Newspapers and TV stations are racing to dismantle their Washington D.C. bureaus. They say it’s because newspapers and newscasts aren’t making enough money because of the horrible economy and declining readership and fewer viewers. But it may be because the real action has moved to the governor’s mansion. Right, Arnold?
— Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.