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Gary Horton: Fevered square pegs in round holes

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: June 22, 2010 3:49 p.m.
Updated: June 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

It’s been forever since I’ve written a politically pointed entry. Lately, I’ve preferred human interest to political fireworks, seeing that one can only poke fun at tea partiers and Sarah Palin types so much before sounding like a repetitive tin bell.

Not that there isn’t continual fresh meat to throw on that grill for charring. But lampooning these new national crazies is burnt and overdone. We’ve cooked ’em, baked ’em and shaked ’em — now when do we get to eat the crispy critters?

With the 2010 elections coming, we all get a front-row seat in the political kitchen to see what ends up getting served up.

The recipe is simple. A new, albeit temporary, radical wave crashed into the right side of Republicanism, and this tsunami of stupid has arrived in time to crash the Republican party in the coming election. What had seemed like a slam-dunk

Republican post-Obama resurgence might be found instead “dead on arrival” — tangled and suffocated in the very flags they waved so self-promotingly.

Witness Harry Reid’s miraculous resurrection, wrapped up with a bow from Nevada’s Republican primary. Who could ask for any greater gift from the tea party? Reid’s tea party opponent, Sharron Angle, wants to privatize Social Security and cancel Medicaid.

This, in a state populated by retired folks with upside-down mortgages, dependent on entitlements. Congrats, Reid — we’ll be seeing your droopy mug for another four years simply because the Republican alternative is so stratospherically out of touch with mainstream. And so it will go with many of these coming elections.

We’ve heard it before. In our two-party system, candidates run hard to the fringes to win their primaries, only to twist in the wind on their outlandish primary policy positions during the general election. Tea partiers gave themselves plenty of rope with which to hang themselves right in the middle of the road. We might witness a gruesome roadside hanging in the center divider come this November.

Fortunately for California, even in our impoverishment we remain the nation’s trendsetter. We love our rich celebrities — and the upcoming elections are no exception. Republicans are running not one, but two rich celebrity corporate women for major office. Meg Whitman, of course, bidding against Jerry Brown for governor, and Carly Fiorina attempting a leveraged buyout of Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat.

Republicans are found yet again running business heroes and zeros against experienced Democrat public-policy professionals. Whitman’s fame is founding the world’s largest garage sale. Fiorina’s gold ticket is spending Hewlett-Packard into near oblivion during her CEO stint.

It seems every election, Republicans attempt the same old “Corporate executives make good government managers” trick.

Like Lucy forever fooling Charlie Brown to kick her football, Republicans forever tell us that corporate types make thrifty and efficient government leaders. Yet a quick glance at fleets of corporate jets and golden parachutes remind us of just how thrifty corporate leaders actually aren’t.

The “corporate titan as politician” seems especially dumb when the corporate folks getting chosen boast less-than-stellar business chops. Former President George W. Bush famously crashed Harkin Oil before going on to crash the U.S. budget, creating the highest deficits in history. Fiorina went on a spending spree at HP that all but broke that revered American brand — costing America 30,000 jobs along the way. She was fired before completely trashing the firm. Now she’d like a shot at spending your money.

Republican preference for business leaders its akin to forcing a square peg in a round hole. Business requires specific training and skills employed with an eye to creating profit as the absolutely prime motive and output.

Managing government and society also requires specific skill sets. But the desired output in government is far different than that of business. Good government seeks to promote a healthy, just, prosperous and peaceful society. Knowing how to make a buck has little to do with good government. Wide scope of knowledge, inquisitiveness, long-range planning, vision, collaboration, coordination, consensus building and leadership are required to make public policy work.

Making a buck requires a relatively dinky skill set, by comparison.

But Republicans love to be told the business story, and it sells well with them, time and again. Most often the square business peg proves an ill fit for public policy’s round hole. But Republicans keep shoving that peg in there, usually with awful results. Bush may have only been the most flamboyant of the go-down-in-flames Republican businessmen/politicians.

So in California, we get a classic mix-it-up between seasoned public-policy professionals Brown and Boxer against Republican corporate titan politician wannabes Whitman and Fiorina. These will be big-purse prizefights and the fights should be good ones, given what the promoters are spending.

Outside the Golden State on the bottom of the ticket? It’s fevered tea partiers vs. the rest of us normal folks running at 98.6 degrees — not completely unentertaining if you’ve got an inclination toward human incineration.

The Full Speed to Port bet is that the tea party’s a pooper. As for California? I’m all for the experienced and super-qualified Jerry Brown. But then there’s all Whitman’s mad-money bidding to derail Brown’s deja vu second act.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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