AUDITIONING FOR 'COLUMBO'
OK, so Peter Falk does it better, but this afternoon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave his best portrayal of TV's Lt. Columbo during a brief news conference in the hallway outside his office.
Reporters were hastily summoned -- in fact, given 5 minutes advance notice -- of the event. Schwarzenegger proceeded to give a brief status report on budget negotiations, except that there was nothing new to report: talks are continuing and will continue through the weekend, still no progress on the biggest sticking points. Then, just as Columbo always turned as he started to leave the room and only then asked that one last question that made murder suspects squirm, Schwarzenegger told reporters there was just one more thing he wanted to mention: The administration is rescinding a proposal to eliminate the mandatory six-day period that county animal shelters must keep animals before destroying them. News that the proposal to eliminate the waiting period had been included in the fine print of administration's budget plan was reported Friday morning, and animal lovers were already on the warpath.
Schwarzenegger said the proposal had been an oversight, something that slipped through the cracks as his administration hastily prepared its budget back in December.
He then turned and walked back to his office. The sense among those holding tape recorders and notebooks was that Schwarzenegger's "one more thing" comment was in fact the principal reason they had been assembled in the hallway.
As many politicians before him have discovered, Schwarzenegger quickly realized that the one group of people you don't want to take on is animal lovers.