The “canoe theory” seems alive and well in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointments. Sources say he’s balancing his new lesbian Democrat chief of staff with an attack dog campaign manager who is now counselor to warm and toasty Vice President Dick Cheney.
Steve Schmidt, a 35-year old East Coast operative who ran spin operations in the 2004 George W. Bush campaign’s war room, is said to be the pick to run the day-to-day operations of the Arnold re-election campaign. Schmidt has a reputation for priding himself on toughness. According to the Newsweek post-election account, he stalked through the Bush campaign war room chanting: “Kill, kill, kill.”
Since those halcyon days, he’s been busy with Cheney, for whom he is counselor and spokesman. There’s been a lot to counsel and spin about. Cheney, as you may have heard, is the hardest of the hardliners in the Bush administration, in the forefront of efforts to defend the Terror War’s pro-torture policies and keep a lid on private White House dealings with the energy industry and on his former company Halliburton’s role in the rebuilding of Iraq.
We don’t see much of him in California. Think of Cheney as the anti-McCain (whom he fought over the former Vietnam War POW senator’s successful anti-torture push); not the Republican to have out front in this sky blue state.
At the moment, Schmidt is seconded to head up PR for the White House drive to confirm Samuel Alito as Supreme Court justice.
He spent part of last year in Baghdad, spinning up the press operation for the Iraqi government.
Although a New Jersey boy who attended the University of Delaware, Schmidt does have some California experience. He did press for former state Treasurer Matt Fong in his losing 1998 bid to unseat Senator Barbara Boxer. In the Republican primary, he likened rival candidate Darrell Issa, the car alarm tycoon, to Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.
Schmidt might want to make a special phone call of apology about that one.
Issa, now a congressman from the San Diego area, is merely the man who made the 2003 California recall happen. Without Issa’s money and leadership, the recall would not have qualified and Schwarzenegger would not be the governor today.
Schmidt’s appointment as Arnold campaign manager, should it ultimately materialize, might not come until February. Schwarznegger has a very complicated mix of personalities to sort through in his operation as he continues to sift through the shards of what was once one of the great political juggernauts.