Pete Wilson's collapse


SERVES HIM RIGHT. The collapse of California Gov. Pete Wilson's presidential bid logically follows the self-destruction of whatever reputation he had for intellectual integrity. He is a politician who turned flip-flopping into an Olympic event, an opportunist who would ban hot dogs from baseball if the polls said the fans wanted it that way.

Let's look at the record.:

* As a one-time U.S. senator, he fought a bill tightening immigration laws, arguing that agri-business in his state needed a million "guest workers" to harvest its crops. Yet in his come-from-behind gubernatorial campaign last year, he rode to victory on a Proposition 187 referendum denying illegal immigrants all public services except emergency health care. Then, to rub it in, he opened his abortive presidential effort against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, that symbol of a welcoming America.

* When he ran for governor in 1990, he was the champion of moderation -- environmentally sensitive, socially libertarian, early intervention by "preventive government" to head off social problems. Transmogrified into a presidential candidate five years later, he slammed affirmative action, banning it from the University of California system.

* As governor he pushed through a $7.3 billion state tax increase; as presidential candidate he joined the Republican clamor this year for big federal tax cuts.

* Bill Clinton-fashion, he promised his state's voters last year he would serve a full four-year term and then soon reneged by running for the White House. (California Republicans, still two to one in favor of Sen. Bob Dole, evidently were less impressed by Washington dazzle than those yokels in Arkansas.)

While Governor Wilson remains cautiously pro-choice on abortion and amenable to the gay rights issue that plays so big in the Bay Area, there's no telling what he might have done by next summer's GOP convention. Fortunately, the country doesn't have to find out. It is reassuring that a candidate who pandered so blatantly, who changed his views like a chameleon, could not get the financing he needed even from deep-pockets Californians. Pete Wilson amply deserved the come-down he got.

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