Of Swallows, Schwarzenegger, and Swift Boats
The faithful of Orange County have traditionally been willing to pretend to believe in miracles, even when they know better. Consider the swallows of San Juan Capistrano. Anyone in San Juan Cap with eyes to see, or a freshly washed car to be shat on, knows the birds return March-ishly each year, and not bang on time on March 19, St. Joseph's Day, as the storyline of the miracle insists. But the miracle of the annual return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano each St. Joseph's Day (presumably the favorite saint of birds, since as a carpenter, he's the only one on the calendar of saints who knows how to build a decent birdhouse) has been heavily promoted by the local chamber of commerce since the 1930's, as a way of burnishing the romantic image of the old mission church, and attracting tourists. Locals deny the evidence of their eyes, scrape the shit off their cars, and embrace the legend. And so conditioned by a local chamber of commerce, perhaps Orange Countians will be willing to believe the miraculous story being spun the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has begun running statewide TV ads which, as the Sacramento Bee reports, "tout Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's record and his proposal to revamp the state's highways, schools and levees." The chamber's spokesman, Eric Wohlschlegel, insisted to the Bee, that "the ads were not cut with Schwarzenegger's re-election in mind". The chamber, it seems, is just so concerned with the rebuilding of California's infrastructure that it's willing to spend big money on commercials "prominently featur[ing] the governor in his "I say build it" State of the State speech", to use the Bee's rather restrained description.
The LA Weekly's Bill Bradley (not the basketball player) is less restrained and more skeptical on his blog, New West Notes:
The first "independent expenditure" television advertising campaign of the 2006 California governor's race has just begun. It is, not surprisingly, on behalf of the now under-funded former action superstar-turned-Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Like the Bee, Bradley also spoke with the chamber's Wohlschlegel:
I asked him three questions. How much is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spending on this advertising buy to help Arnold? Over what period of time? And what is the source of the funding for the pro-Arnold advertising?
The Chamber spokesman flatly refused to answer any of those three questions.
Bradley didn't need to ask why the chamber is running its pro-Arnold advertising. The answer is as obvious as bird shit on a windshield:
The California Chamber of Commerce has been one of the governor's closest allies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the closest allies of President George W. Bush's administration. "Independent expenditure" campaigns were a staple of the Bush 2004 re-election campaign. Governor Schwarzenegger's new chief political strategist, Matthew Dowd, was Bush's chief strategist in 2004. Governor Schwarzenegger's new campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, was head of the rapid response team in the Bush 2004 campaign.
But the best part is in Bradley's update to his blog post:
Update: I've just learned that Mentzer Media Services, the media buyer for various pro-Bush "independent expenditure" campaigns in the 2004 election, including the anti-Kerry "Swift Boat Veterans," bought the time for the Chamber of Commerce's pro-Schwarzenegger drive.
Nice, huh? Arnold always likes to promote himself as New Kind of Republican, but there's nothing new about this opening salvo of the reelection campaign. It's just like with the miracle of the swallows, you have ignore the obvious-- the birds and their shit-- to believe the official storyline. But when it comes to these ads, to paraphrase e.e. cummings' Olaf:
"there is some shit I will not swallow"