Our opinion: Trouble in Camelot

Rumors are that there is a button on Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk that when depressed by the chief causes one or more of the chairs in front of the desk to drop through the floor and then send the contents of the chair in the direction of a revolving door somewhere in the bowels of the Capitol.

We don’t believe these rumors.

However, there is at least circumstantial evidence that a high-level job in the Corbett administration is even more temporary than the administration itself.

Last week, the governor bid farewell to two more lieutenants, his chief of staff and his secretary of legislative affairs, the latter representing the third departure from that position in as many years.

Things just aren’t going Corbett’s way like they did in those heady early days when he basked in the adoration of both houses of the General Assembly controlled by his own party. There is dissention in the ranks. And, that dissention has resulted in the evisceration of his major agenda items in the most recent legislative session.

That this would happen during a period when the legislature was controlled by the enemy would be fairly understandable, even if only one of the two houses were under the spell of the dark side. But, with both houses carrying the GOP banner, it is an indication that something is seriously wrong.

Republicans are claiming it’s a matter of style, that Corbett just does not play well with others. They say he is detached and lacks the public relations and interpersonal skills necessary to cajole his faithful to do his bidding.

We think it goes deeper than that.

Politicians are habitual poll watchers, and the polls have turned ugly. As much as they would like to tow the line, the instinct for self-preservation overrides loyalty.

Our belief is that constituents, the people who provide the data for pollsters, have been complaining about some of the actions the General Assembly took during those early days of the administration, and the broad brush of political perception has spilled paint on legislators as well.

Hence, when the governor comes to them with big plans, like privatizing wine and liquor sales, spending billions more on roads and highways and paying for it with higher gasoline taxes, and revamping the state pension system affecting about 200,000 state employees and teachers, they start asking the kind of questions they are likely to get from their constituents. And, to top it off, some of the proposals, like the gas tax, are hard pills to swallow for Republicans that are supposed to recoil from the idea of higher taxes.

The honeymoon is over.