Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is a senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org
editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News
MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety
of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Davis than Reagan
Tom McClintock’s Blind (Personal) Ambition
[Carol Platt Liebau] 9/22/03
Sunday morning news program, This Week, focused on the upcoming
release of Reagan: A Life in Letters, a collection of President
Reagan’s writings over the years to family, friends, adversaries
and ordinary Americans.
was a tribute to one of the finest, most principled Americans
of all time. It was followed by a
local news update
prominently featuring the recall. The juxtaposition of the
two broadcasts suggests a question: What would Ronald Reagan
think of the recall, and Republicans’ roles in it?
speculation of this sort is always dangerous. It’s
impossible for anyone to know precisely how President Reagan
would have reacted to the recall. But one can predict with some
certainty how he would have felt about the increasingly bitter
intra-party rivalry between Republicans Tom McClintock and Arnold
Schwarzenegger. He wouldn’t have approved. President Reagan
is, after all, the framer of the famous Eleventh Commandment:
Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.
is a mandate that Tom McClintock has completely ignored. Almost
single-handedly, he has done
a remarkable job
into cherished liberal stereotypes of conservatives as thin-lipped
Puritans who glory in deciding who is – and is not – a “real
Republican.” The way he has conducted his campaign has
finally legitimized the criticisms of those who have for years
protested the Republican Party’s supposed lack of “inclusiveness.” Rather
than welcoming centrist and swing voters who support Arnold
into the Republican Party and then explaining why he’s
the better choice, McClintock has instead taken the low road.
In his repeated
invocation of principle, and his self-characterization as the
sole conservative in the race,
Tom McClintock would
perhaps like Californians to see him as a modern-day Ronald
Reagan. But as time has passed, Tom McClintock has come to
resemble not Reagan, but Gray Davis – only with infinitely
better policies, much more decisiveness and marginally better
Like Davis’ 1994 attacks on Dianne Feinstein comparing
her to Leona Helmsley, McClintock has shown willingness – even
eagerness – to criticize his opponent, often unfairly.
How disheartening to hear him denigrate Schwarzenegger’s
intelligence – with elitist remarks that bear an unfortunate
similarity to the jibes to which President Reagan’s and
President G.W. Bush’s adversaries have often stooped (witness
McClintock’s remark in last week’s debate that, unlike
Arnold, he had actually read conservative economist Milton Friedman’s
books). Schwarzenegger may not be perfect – but someone
who arrives in this country in 1968 with little money and less
English, and then rises to achieve wealth and success, may be
many things ... but stupid isn’t one of them.
a penchant for attacking his opponents, McClintock has come
to resemble Davis in his willingness to
to advance his own career from special interests inimical to
ordinary Californians. Indian gaming interests are funding
his campaign – along with Cruz Bustamante’s. Surely
a man of McClintock’s keen intelligence understands what
the tribes are doing – using him to divide the Republican
vote and thereby secure a Bustamante victory. But again – like
Davis with the tribes, the unions, and others – so long
as the money is flowing into his coffers, McClintock just doesn’t
care about the consequences for anyone (or anything) else.
Nor do the
disquieting resemblances between McClintock and Davis end there.
Of course, no one is as uniformly disliked
as Gray Davis. But like Davis, McClintock has the reputation
of being a stubborn loner, and is certainly a man who can come
across both as self-righteous and inexplicably rigid. McClintock
has repeatedly lashed out at Arnold for seeking advice from
Warren Buffett (and Arnold would certainly deserve the criticism
were he to follow any of that advice!). But there is something
refreshing about a leader – unlike Davis, and apparently
unlike McClintock – who is willing to hear a multiplicity
of views, even if he ultimately discards some of them.
McClintock never had the support of the conservatives who believe
that he cannot win the recall
election, but he
did have our respect (and a degree of appreciation for ensuring
that Arnold would, indeed, articulate fiscally conservative
views). This week, though, he lost any claim upon any conservative
or Republican’s good will by demonstrating that he shares
Davis’ most ignoble quality – his selfishness.
According to news reports, this week Tom McClintock told Rep.
Dan Burton (R-In.) that he is willing to see Cruz Bustamante
win this year’s election, as it would boost his own chances
reports are true, then McClintock doesn’t deserve
ever to serve as governor – and all Republicans should
be ready to crawl over broken glass uphill both ways to ensure
that he never becomes a viable candidate again. Like the contemptible
Democrats who were willing to let the poor suffer in order to
advance their own agendas and defeat the recall (as revealed
by their own remarks inadvertently broadcast throughout the Capitol),
by his own admission McClintock is willing to let small business
owners, families, taxpayers and law-abiding citizens across California
suffer for three long years at least – and possibly sustain
irreparable harm — all for the sake of his own ambition.
on the Fox News Channel, McClintock openly remarked, “This
isn’t about the Republican Party.” Well, for some
of us, it is. Even those of us who largely share McClintock’s
conservative social views surely understand that this election
is about rebuilding a Republican Party that can someday implement
its cherished free-market economic principles and promote its
more traditional social views – and in the meantime, at
least serve as a meaningful check on the radical leftists in
the California Legislature. But a Democratic victory in the recall,
which McClintock apparently is able to contemplate with equanimity,
will only embitter and demoralize Republicans so completely that
these objectives will be set back for another generation.
contrast to Tom McClintock today, for Ronald Reagan in 1976,
it was all about the Republican
Party. When it became
clear that he lacked the support to win the party’s presidential
nominee, Reagan threw his support behind nominee Gerald Ford – a
weaker, more liberal and less able leader – in order
to maintain the unity that would allow the party to promote
its ideas more effectively in the future. In short, Reagan
was willing to step aside for Ford for the party’s sake,
even though it meant short-term defeat. How different from
Tom McClintock, who isn’t willing to step aside even
if his withdrawal might ensure a Republican victory – just
as Davis wasn’t willing to step aside, even back when
his resignation would have spared the Democratic Party the
ordeal of the recall.
And so, in
the end, perhaps the greatest tragedy for all of us – and
certainly for the man himself – is that when Tom McClintock
had the choice, he decided to emulate California’s least
admirable Governor, instead of its greatest.
CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and
commentator based in San Marino, CA.