Today’s Good News from California

The good news from the Golden State is that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poll numbers are down. Not that that has any huge significance in the cosmos or even in the world of California politics four months from now. It’s just nice to see our thumping lumpish bully-boy demagogue — oh, did I say I don’t care for his act? — have a rough time selling the rubes on his patent potions for what ails him and his buddies.

The amazing thing in the latest poll results from the Public Policy Institute of California is that Schwarzenegger somehow manages to lag behind Bush in the overall approval rating among adults surveyed: 38 percent approval for the president, 34 percent for the governor. It’s a stunning achievement, really, for anyone this side of the BTK killer to trail Bush in a popularity contest.

So, since people don’t love Arnold this month, the initiatives he’s forcing on the voters by way of a special election in November are all hurting. Specifically: an initiative to increase the time it takes public-school teachers to get tenure from two years to five; a measure to create a special reapportionment panel so the Legislature can’t gerrymander things anymore; and new budget rules that would give the governor more power.

But, and this is a big but: Arnold still has two months and change to make people love him again. He’s a Hollywood guy. He’ll have lots of money to spend on wooing us and convincing us that he’s our best friend, and we are our own worst enemies.

‘Let’s Stay in Iraq … for a Month’

A remarkable human-in-the-street story in The New York Times on Wednesday about how the American public feels about the war. The story cites another poll that illustrates doubts about what the whole thing is about: This time, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that shows 47 percent of respondents feel the war is going worse than it was a year ago, 32 percent think it’s about the same, and 20 percent think it’s going better than it was then. Those 20 percent must be on antidepressants.

The article is full of quotes from people who mostly sound resigned to the thing just dragging on the way it is now. One guy, identified as a cotton farmer in Texas, opines that opinion polls and public debate about the war are aiding and abetting the enemy. Not a single person comes out and says that they thought the war was a good idea to begin with. Most striking to me was one woman, a U.S. Army civilian employee in Virginia, who is quoted as saying she supports the troops’ presence in Iraq now and backs Bush’s plan. But look at the way she qualifies her support:

” ‘I think we should stay through the elections. I support the president’s plan up to there. But if we’re going to focus on Iraq without support of other nations, I see the violence increasing. I can’t see a democratic Iraq. So what are we doing there?’ ”

This is another way of saying, “I can stand for this for another five weeks.” How many people like this are out there, both conflicted and just about at the end of their rope?