No one has ever called former Gov. Pete Wilson, an ex-Marine, a shrinking violet. So it was no suprise yesterday that when he stepped up to the microphone to urge Northern California voters not to support Sen. Tom McClintock for Congress, he didn't pull any punches.
McClintock and Wilson were bitter adversaries during Wilson's eight years in the governor's office, as McClintock ceaselessly assailed Wilson for having agreed to a temporary tax increase as a means to help close a gaping state budget deficit in 1992.
McClintock, Wilson said, didn't have "the guts" to support the level of spending cuts that would have been necessary to balance the budget, but at the same time chose to be "a back-bench bomb thrower" in voting against and loudly criticizing the tax increases that were necessary to solve the problem.
Wilson and former Gov. George Deukmejian are both supporting McClintock's opponent, former Congressman Doug Ose, in the Republican primary in the 4th Congressional District.
In a brief interview after the press conference, Wilson acknowledged that McClintock's reputation for making problems for a Republican governor preceded his governorship. "He had a reputation of being two-faced," Wilson said.
Wilson also noted that McClintock voted against the car-tax reduction passed by the Legislature in 1998. "If he was so anti-tax, why did he vote against the car-tax cut?" Wilson asked.
"As governor, I could never count on Tom McClintock," Wilson said. "He was always the first to criticize, but the last to help the team. His record doesn't match the rhetoric."
If the former governor's rhetoric seemed harsh, it perhaps still fell short of the level used by McClintock in a 1993 op-ed article he penned for the Los Angeles Times. McClintock wrote at the time that his pet cat had a better chance of winning the governor's race in 1994 than Wilson.