Editorial: Restoring principles to Sacramento

| October 19, 2006

Ask yourself: Of all the politicians running for office in California, how many can you name who represent philosophical consistency? How many operate according to what Margaret Thatcher called "the politics of conviction"? Only one leaps to mind: Tom McClintock, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Other candidates may be praiseworthy, but their ardor flows not from a firm set of principles. Different qualities recommend them for the offices they seek: experience, intuition, a pragmatic grasp of a specific issue. Yesterday we endorsed Jerry Brown for attorney general, not for his consistency, but in large measure because of his restless intellect.

There is, moreover, a kind of philosophical consistency that is so repugnant that California’s voters should want no part of it. We’re speaking, of course, of rank ideologies, those "smelly little orthodoxies" that Orwell warned could horribly disrupt a civil society.

But the Golden State is far from threatened by true-believing ideologues. The greater menace comes from those aspirants to power who see every constitutional principle as so elastic that they stretch it beyond recognition. Some find principles irrelevant altogether.

That is why McClintock, at this moment, is such an appealing figure. The state senator’s principles are so rooted in our history, and so wisely respectful of human liberty, that we can’t but repair to them for guidance. Admit it: Evenif you’re a big-spending liberal of the old school, or fancy yourself a progressive determined to bend the energies of a free economy to your will, you want someone like McClintock around for a contrasting vision.

You cannot say that about John Garamendi, the Democrats’ candidate, who seems to pursue this office as if it were just another musical chair. There is no reason to vote for him unless you wish to reward him with what he sees as a swell job. McClintock sees it as much more — as a bully pulpit.

That really is an unexploited possibility for an imaginative lieutenant governor. The office has no other functions except to break ties in the Senate and serve on the boards of the state’s two university systems. McClintock aims to be the dispenser of fiscal responsibility, and he should be given that opportunity.

Though he lost to the Schwarzenegger juggernaut in the recall election, McClintock emerged as perhaps the state’s most respected politician. That status came easily for a man of self-deprecating humor and an uncommon ability to explain fiscal issues in plain terms.

Always an independent mind, and even though he’s accepted the role as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s "running mate," he breaks ranks with the governor over some of the massive bond issues facing voters. Californians must calculate that a slight economic downturn could cast the state into a multibillion-dollar deficit.

Tom McClintock is the most visible statewide candidate saying that. California’s taxpayers need his principles at work in Sacramento.

Part of The San Francisco Examiner's 2006 election coverage.

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