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Thursday, August 07, 2003

Ahh-nuld goes for Total Recall!

Matt Labash's very funny, informative, and prophetic piece in the Weekly Standard last October, "Muscular Republicanism," is the source of most of what I know about Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Labash was right on the money in predicting that "Ahh-nuld" would parlay his fame from such movies as Kindergarten Cop, through a no-lose high-profile state-wide political initiative to support after-school programs (the just-enacted Proposition 49), into a serious role as a predator stalking California governor Gray Davis.

Now the speculation has become true and The Terminator has officially announced for the race to replace Davis in the upcoming recall election.  I'm glad Schwarzenegger is now officially the running man for a number of reasons.

  • First, a purely selfish one:  Just as all the gag writers and editorial cartoonists in the world are celebrating a new mother-lode of material, I feel blessed to have such a rich source of inspiration for this, my virginal act of political weblogging.  Arnold, baby, you've just become my "first" — I'll remember you for it through the end of days.

  • Second, from what I know of what he's likely to "stand for," I think I'm likely to approve of and agree with his politics.  Yes, of course, I fear that to some extent Arnold's probably a RINO — Republican-in-name-only — but hey, he's running in the brightest of the "blue" states, and he'll need to pick up at least a few votes from both the People's Republic of Berkeley and the Bay-Area Insanity Collaborative.  Remember, we're talking about the state known to its 49 peers as "La-La Land."  This is the state where ex-governor, now-Oakland mayor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown is approvingly described by the state's largest newspaper as a "master of political reinvention," a "strong mayor," an "aggressive, hands-on, budget-slic[er]," and a "focus[ed] leader" — and he's thought to have upgraded his lifestyle by moving into a "converted Sears Roebuck outlet on Telegraph Avenue." 

  • Third, any scenario in which Dubya carries CA in '04 — and yes, we are talking remote x 10E1032 scenarios, I grant you — has to start with a willing suspension of disbelief, some heavy-duty special effects, and some kind of Republican in the Sacramento Governor's Mansion.  More cynically (if realistically), the chaos factor that "Gov. Arnold" would inject into the fight for California's 55 presidential electors in '04 might oblige Howard Dean, or whoever else turns out to be the Democratic nominee, to spend tens of millions in campaign funds in re-securing what conventional wisdom deemed one of the Democrats' dead-bang-certain states.  Couple that with possible "Rudy Giuliani-for-Senate" upticket coattails and some 9/11 recollections to create a strong battle for New York's 31 electors — well, then you've got the DNC spending where it really doesn't want to, at the expense of places where it needs to.  This strategy comes directly from Tsun Tsu's The Art of Campaign Finance.

Beyond that, I think Conan-the-Republican actually has a decent chance.  Californians seem pretty convinced that Davis has given them a raw deal, and voters are already convinced that Davis is the villain of this story.  There seems to have been a rare celestial alignment of power-shortages and budget deficits — along with the bizarre self-cannibalizing tendencies of the political system dictated by the California state constitution — to make this race into a real rundown

Arnold doesn't need to spend a cent on name recognition.  But all candidates advertise whether they need to or not, and Arnold has a substantial enough personal fortune to make his pockets jingle all the way to the bank.  If inclined, he probably can break all state fund-raising records and Michael Huffington's US-Senate race spending record without even fully flexing his left bicep.  Or maybe he'll stay hungry, run a lean and mean campaign, and thereby prove that he actually is the right guy to take an eraser to those big deficits after all!

Moreover, as Dubya, Rove & Co. can confirm, it's a great blessing when your enemies start off underestimating you because they think the voters will think you're stupid — and even better when your enemies think you really are stupid!  Stupid Arnold ain't. 

Early indications are that most potential Republican competors (including the main recall instigator and previous Republican front-runner, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa) are either stepping aside to make way for, Bumper Sticker or else stepping up to back, the Last Action Hero.  Meanwhile a few middle-profile Democrats (including the current Lt. Gov. and current Ins. Comm'r) are giving way to their panic and/or their natural cravings for power to jump into the race — thereby bidding fair to divide and dilute the natural Democratic Party majority. 

But — what ho! and why am I not surprised? — Davis' crack legal team is flooding the courts before a single ballot has been cast.  Indeed, they're repeatedly citing and relying heavily upon the US Supreme Court's 2000 decision in — excuse me, I'm overcome by a coughing fit — Bush v. Gore.  (Skip to page 24 of 91 in the long .pdf file.)  Plus, Davis lawyers' apparently also want to make sure that if a voter first decides not to "throw the bastard out" on the top part of the ballot, the same voter can still "vote the bastard back in" on the bottom part of the ballot.  So we've moved from "Let Every Vote Count" to "Let Every Vote for Me Count Twice."  Thus does California madness seek to trump Florida madness — except that so far, it seems  not to be going Gray's way.

In their own version of pre-emptive war, the Dems threatened to sic the tabloids on Arnold even before he announced.  As long as Mr. Freeze doesn't lose his cool in response to red heat from the press, though, I doubt many voters will be either surprised or very turned off to learn that in his younger days, Arnold toked on a doobie or three while pumping iron, or that he's pinched a few apparently-willing aspiring actress tushes.  Again, we're talking California, people! 

My suggestions, Junior, are that in dealing with your attackers, you mix some low-key humor with some quiet dignity; be forthright; and, above all, avoid anything that smacks of cover-up or true lies now.  And oh yeah — play it safe by making sure you're always wearing clean undies rather than going commando.  I wouldn't put it past the Davis campaign to hire the UC-Berkeley Calband Clarinets to have you "pantsed" — although if they stop to think about it, the Davis folks probably don't want to initiate those comparisons.

So can Danny DeVito's twin win?  The short answer seems to be:  Yes, it could happen.  In fact, in California and in this race, anything could happen — even without direct involvement by Industrial Light & Magic, or the San Andreas fault, or the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

In any event, we can count on some fine political entertainment and amusement — in and out of the blogosphere, and regardless of either the end result of this race or its collateral damage on others.  As political theatre goes, the idea of an Austrian-born Kennedy-clan-spouse body-builder-turned-actor becoming the Republican governor of California is actually both more plausible and more exhilarating than the flying scissors-kick that ex-wrestler and now ex-governor Jesse Ventura put on the State of Minnesota. 

After all, in the very worst case for Ahh-nuld — say, a blow-out loss to another candidate, or even Davis hanging on by the skin of his teeth somehow — the entire world (not just the California electorate) will all be poised to shout right along with the big guy as he winds up his Teutonic-accented concession speech:  "I'll be BAAAAACH!"

I'm also tickled by James Taranto's tongue-in-cheek suggestion in today's Best of the Web that we amend the Constitution to permit Schwarzenegger to run for President in '08 as Dubya's successor.  It drove the Angry Left nuts when Dubya baited the US military's honey-trap by telling would-be terrorists in Iraq to "bring 'em on" — Dubya's Texas drawl simply ruled when delivering that line.  But The Terminator can deliver not only an ominous accent but a physical presence that bodes major mayhem.  Certainly Dubya, Arnold, and Clint Eastwood-as-Dirty-Harry collectively comprise the "Axis of Righteous Über-Taunters," or at least the "Masters of Super-Menacing Sound-Bites."  I very much want our President to be someone who can, when appropriate, take a blunt, pithy, and aggressive phrase, and then deliver it into the CNN microphones in just the utterly convincing way that will turn it into the shrieking, bed-wetting  #1 cause of recurring nightmares for even non-English speakers like Osama bin Ladin.

(Alas, poor Slick Willy could never quite get Gary Cooper's accent, tone, or manner down, despite his assiduous 30x study of High Noon.  Either you've got it, or you just don't; and if Slick ever did have it, I suspect some combination of Yale Law School and Hillary drummed it out of him.  Compare and contrast ObL's likely visceral reactions to "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky!" versus "Hasta la vista ... baby!")

Finally:  Anything that even somewhat diverts the Establishment Press from yellowcake uranium and daily sniping in Iraq — the Confusion-and-Despair NewsDiet — will be welcome this fall.  For the country, for our military men and women still in harm's way, and even for the Democrats themselves on a purely political basis (as Slick Willy, for one, has apparently figured out), these are genuinely unhealthy and unproductive things to dwell upon.  If Arnold's race can perform a Jedi mind trick on the press and the pundits — "Those are not the stories you're looking for, you can go about your business, move along!  Look, over there, isn't that The Terminator?" — well, then, hooray for Hollywood!

UPDATE (Tues Aug 12):  The URL for the link near the top for Proposition 49 has been, at least provisionally, converted into AS' gubernatorial campaign website (very much "under construction" as of the moment, understandably) and no longer discusses Prop 49.

Posted by Beldar at 11:12 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


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