My Interview With Whiskey and Bacon

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Last week, I violated one important rule of good reporting: never assume. I had assumed that California’s breakout media stars of January, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s miniature pony Whiskey and potbellied pig Bacon, would be unavailable to offer their own comments on his state of the state speech.

I thought wrong. I got a call over the weekend from a previously unheard-of public relations firm, Orwell-George Communications, saying that the animals would like to talk.

I met the pig and the pony — along with their CHP detail, publicist and agent — in the private room behind a fashionable café in Brentwood. Here is an edited transcript.

Q: Were you surprised to have so much of the State of the State address devoted to you?

WHISKEY: Floored, and I don’t use that word lightly, since I’m only three feet tall. First off, it struck me as a big risk for a politician to talk about pigs – no offense, Bacon. And that goes double when the politician in question is named Arnold. People put that name and pig together, and they’re thinking less about your political agenda and more about that pig on “Green Acres.”

BACON: Like my pony friend here, I was surprised. And it wasn’t a good kind of surprised. We were so out of the loop that we missed the live broadcast. It was 10 a.m., and we never miss an episode of “Big Cat Diary” on Animal Planet.

WHISKEY: Yeah, the Boss didn’t give us any kind of memo or prepared remarks, which was unusual. We usually weigh in on the climate change stuff, since we’re seen inside the Horseshoe as close to nature.


BACON:
But remember, Whisk, this state of the state was a Landon Parvin special. Personally I think that guy is threatened by my intelligence.

Q: What did you think of the substance of what was said about you?

WHISKEY: Two things bothered me. First, I thought the Boss minimized my own role in breaking into the dog’s food. There was a bit too much about my good friend Bacon’s snout doing the magic.

Second, neither of us much appreciated the Boss comparing us to the legislature. His worst line came when he said, “And I want to make sure now that before some reporters write that I compared the legislators with pigs and ponies, that that is not the message.” Ha ha ha. Those lawmakers should be so lucky as to be in the same sentence as us.

BACON: You’re right, Pony. Comparing us to lawmakers is a total freaking insult. Those guys are at, what, 14 percent approval in the polls? Some people don’t like pigs, sure, but as a species our ratings have never been anywhere near that low. And with these all-night sessions the Assembly and Senate like to have, this generation of legislators smells even worse than us most of the time.

Q: Any fallout from that on the home front?

WHISKEY: Let’s just say there’s been some tension with the Boss at home the last few days.

BACON: We’re not talking to him.

Q: Understood. But what about the speech’s policy and political messages?

WHISKEY: I know the whole constitutional amendment to spend more on higher education than prisons got plenty of good reviews, but it felt forced to me. The Boss has been talking for years about taking spending formulas out of the budget process, so now he wants to introduce another formula. Forget it. I’m for a constitutional convention.

BACON: Yeah, and we need real reform now. Our life spans are a lot shorter – Whiskey’s not getting past 35, and we pigs are lucky to make 18 – so we’d like to see some changes soon, before we die.

WHISKEY: Bacon, remember the Boss is south of 30 in the polls. Maybe we should say something nice?

BACON: Good idea. You know, one thing I liked in the speech was all the stuff about getting more out of Washington. I know that sounded like a bailout to some people, but I for one think there’s nothing wrong with pushing our Congressional representatives – who, I must admit, are mostly a bunch of lazy swine – to bring home the bacon. Pun intended.

Q: But is federal aid a good basis for balancing the budget? Does that really fix the structural deficit?

BACON: You know, if I thought the deficit could be fixed. I would have taken the finance director job when the Boss offered it to me last fall. But that job is nothing but sticking your nose in mud and slop – it’s going to be about cuts, cuts, cuts, and I hate cutting the fat out of anything.

I told the Boss I’d rather work on the water bond campaign. That thing is so full of pork it’s beautiful. And I’m hearing my consultant fees will be pretty sweet.

Q: Last question, guys. What’s with the entourage?

BACON: Well, we’re banned from using the word “lame duck” at home, but the Boss’s profile gets a little less high at the end of this year, so we figured we’d better bring a team on and try to capitalize on this publicity while we can.

PONY: Without getting too specific, I can share with you that we’re looking at some reality TV opportunities. We’re also hoping to do paid speeches on the corporate lecture circuit, about teamwork, working together and how to get your big nose into other people’s stuff. We’ve already got a few feelers from some bailed-out banks.


BACON:
I admire those bankers. They are the real pigs.

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