Now They’re Going for McClintock

September 15, 2021 Updated: September 15, 2021

Commentary

I’ve known Rep. Tom McClintock for 34 years, since I first came out to California to write editorials for the Orange County Register. He started out himself as an editorial writer. Then he was elected to the state Assembly back in 1982. After that, a stint in the state Senate until he was term-limited. Then, he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2008.

Democrats are eager to kick him out of office as part of keeping control of the House. The Sacramento Bee profiled a just-announced opponent, Dr. Kermit Jones, who said he wants to end “career politicians.”

“I think what sets me apart is real life experience, having served people in multiple ways, and being able to bring tangible things to people,” he said. “When people want people to advocate for them, sometimes they want people that are actually on the ground as opposed to part of the machinery in the federal government.”

If there’s anyone in Congress who’s not “part of the machinery,” it’s McClintock. Always a maverick, whether in Sacramento or Washington, he has long opposed massive waste by government, especially when advanced by such Republican executives as Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Trump.

I interviewed McClintock during the negotiations for the state budget for 2007-08. Schwarzenegger had insisted he would not sign a budget that for the first time broke the $100 billion threshold for the general fund. The Democrats offered $101 billion. “Unacceptable! Too high!” Schwarzenegger said. “How about $102 billion?” Yeah, $1 billion higher. (Final number: $102.5 billion).

“The hits just keep coming,” McClintock said.

The “career politician” jibe is just another canard. Sure, some politicians have stayed way too long, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

But a few politicians, such as McClintock, are just getting to know the system and should stay to keep attacking it—to finally start chopping at the waste, fraud, and abuse. A back-bencher has no chance of doing that.

The jibe was thrown last year at state Sen. John Moorlach, when I was his press secretary. He had been Orange County treasurer/tax collector, then supervisor, finally heading to the Capitol for six years. His inexperienced opponent charged him with being a “career politician,” and misguided voters agreed.

Gone was the expertise of the only CPA in the Legislature. I guess if the real job is being an arsonist—burning through billions of the taxpayers’ simoleons—a firefighter isn’t welcomed.

According to the Bee, Jones “said he supports stricter term limits and would return to his work practicing medicine and law after a period of time in office, if elected.”

But the Supreme Court has ruled only Congress can set its own term limits, which it never will do. And although I supported the state term limit law, Proposition 140 from 1990, that was a mistake. It was modified with Proposition 28 in 2012, which now sets the limit at 12 years total in either house of the Legislature.

The problem is there are no limits on the permanent bureaucracy that runs the government—the many thousands of functionaries burrowed into the dozens of state agencies. They can serve for 30 years or even more, learning every way to manipulate the system, while taking advantage of the naivete of the term-limited legislators.

It used to be strong legislative leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Lockyer and even—yes—longtime Assembly Leader Willie Brown who could tame not only the Legislature, but the bureaucracy. I doubt the problems with the Employment Development Department would have gone on this long if those gentlemen still were in power.

Instead, both men were forced to play musical political chairs. Brown became mayor of San Francisco, where he mentored Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris. And Lockyer became first state attorney general, then treasurer.

Lockyer is a charming and competent fellow who used to meet with us on the Register editorial board, even though we agreed on little. He had a sense of limits. And he certainly would have been better than any of the majority leaders who have followed.

California voters also made a mistake by never promoting McClintock to state office. He twice lost close races for controller. He planned to closely audit every state department, and many local governments. By now, he would have saved taxpayers many billions.

And he might have been elected governor during the 2003 recall. But he lost to Schwarzenegger, who swiped McClintock’s small-government planks for his campaign—then betrayed every one of them once in office.

It was a lost opportunity. Gov. McClintock would have directly attacked the state unfunded liabilities that now amount to $1 trillion. And he would have revived the Republican Party from its doldrums after the tax-increasing Pete Wilson governorship ended in 1999.

In 14 months we’ll again see what voters have in store for McClintock’s future, and ours.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Seiler
John Seiler
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary to California State Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at johnseiler@substack.com