The network television drama "Slattery's People" lasted a couple of seasons in the mid-1960s, but won wide critical acclaim for its writing, its acting and its thematic originality the hero, played by Richard Crenna, was a state legislator who battled for his constituents' interests and against political corruption.
Although its locale was never explicit, it was obviously set in California and reflected a pre-Vietnam war, pre-Watergate positivism about politics that seems quaint today.
Now state legislators are widely seen as semi-corrupt bumblers, with recent polls of California voters implying that the Legislature ranks somewhere south of mortgage loan brokers, not without cause.
California's perpetual and ever-worsening budget crisis has demonstrated the utter inability of the Capitol to function at its most elemental level.
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Historically, the Capitol politicians, staff members and lobbyists had its own code of internal conduct.
And the centerpiece of that unwritten code was trusting each other to adhere to verbal agreements.
If, for instance, a legislator or a staffer agreed to make a certain amendment in a certain bill to satisfy a concern of a lobbyist's client or to secure another lawmaker's support, everyone assumed it would be done as promised.
Professional politicians of an earlier era, regardless of their other ethics, almost always played by that and other rules because without them, business couldn't be done.
There's simply not enough time to reduce everything to a binding written contract with signatures.
Today, however, we have an amateur governor who plays by the rules of Hollywood, where handshakes and verbal agreements mean nothing and no one trusts anyone until an infinitely detailed contract is signed and notarized and often not even then.
And we have a semi-amateur pack of legislators, thanks to term limits and gerrymandered districts, whose first allegiance is to the outside groups that got them their seats.
The trust factor has deteriorated to almost nothing.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a verbal deal with the California Teachers Association on school finance five years ago and later reneged.
Last week, he publicly castigated Democrats, saying they agreed to place in their budget package some changes in personnel and contract procedures, then altered the wording significantly when the bills were written because of union pressure.
"We negotiated, and we negotiated," Schwarzenegger complained, "and I think that the special interest groups were just more powerful again and convinced them to turn the clock backwards and that's exactly what they did."
A while back, a group of professional mediators was invited to discuss the budget stalemate and how it might be resolved.
They uniformly said that establishing an atmosphere of mutual trust is critical.
It's evident that just the opposite prevails in the Capitol, where mistrust reigns supreme.
Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee.