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Author Defends Notion of a USC Schwarzenegger Institute

In this day and age when everyone is a 140-character comedian, the announcement of a USC think tank endowed and led by Arnold Schwarzenegger is almost too obvious a target. Sure enough, the peanut gallery is cracking wise.

But Zócalo Square editor Joe Mathews begs to differ. He knows Schwarzenegger better than most and blogs at NBC Southern California that the news should not be cause for snickering:

As governor, he was terrific at doing what a think tank does – bringing together the best thinkers from across the spectrum together, and synthesizing new policy. His proposals in various policy areas were praised as bipartisan and thoughtful.

What the governor wasn’t as good at was turning those proposals into action, particularly on fiscal matters, sometimes because of his own political weaknesses, sometimes because the state’s broken governing system got in the way. But those failures will be useful to this new enterprise, as Schwarzenegger can apply what he learned from defeats (and maybe teach people how not to repeat them).

Mathews’ 2006 book The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy was all about Schwarzenegger’s first term and effective use of ballot measures. Within short order, the former governor will get to add to his long list of accomplishments the title of professor at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute of State and Global Policy.

[Jacket cover courtesy PublicAffairs]

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