POINTS WEST

Advice to Governor: Just Start Governing

"It's almost like he had a political breakdown," said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick. The equivalent, Carrick said, would be for Sen. Ted Kennedy to call a press conference tomorrow and say he was wrong on the war and now he wants to send in more troops, crush the Iraqis, and then invade Syria.

Even some Republican strategists are rolling their eyes. Arnie Steinberg said the governor's recent focus on infrastructure might seem more heartfelt if he had bothered to mention it back when he was talking about the passions that prompted him to run for office.

Not that a call for a public-private partnership infrastructure plan is a bad thing, Steinberg said.

But the $222-billion deal is a "very speculative calculation" in which the math doesn't seem to add up. (Not to mention that it's glaringly light on transit and heavy on more cars and smog.)

"I guess the real question was whether there were any grown-ups in the room with the institutional memory to realize that when Pat Brown attempted this sort of thing, the tax burden was less, Proposition 13 didn't exist and the state debt load was a lot less," Steinberg said.

Speaking of grown-ups, Stu Spencer, the former Reagan campaign manager and the grandfather of California GOP strategists, said he got several calls from Shriver last year asking his thoughts on a smart political course for Schwarzenegger.

"Just tell the son of a bitch to start governing," Spencer recalls telling her.

I don't know how much Schwarzenegger pays the numbskulls on his advisory staff, but he could have fired them all and just gone with those few words of wisdom.

Schwarzenegger's political inexperience really showed, Spencer said, when he attacked teachers and other groups last year rather than do the hard work of shepherding smart legislation and negotiating needed reforms.

"In my mind, he was confrontational all the time," said Spencer, whose advice still stands:

Start governing.

I suppose we'll find out soon enough if Schwarzenegger has finally gotten the message, but I'm still too dizzy after Thursday night's speech to hazard a guess.

My concern is that having already played Reagan, Wilson and Pat Brown, for his next act, he's going to become Gray Davis.

Recall, anyone?


Reach the columnist at steve.lopez@latimes.com and read previous columns at latimes.com/lopez.

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