The Terminator gets a life

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LOS ANGELES.

The Terminator, once the great muscle-bound hope of Republicans and the tough-talking scourge of girly men everywhere, is back once more in the embrace of the mainstream media. And of a lot of Democrats, too. There are second acts in California politics after all.

The new Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t had sex-change surgery, exactly, but he’s definitely a newly sculptured man. The identity of the sculptor is a secret — sculptors, like surgeons, keep a discreet profile — but she looks a lot like a Kennedy named Maria.

The Terminator exploited the recall of Gray Davis with the skill of a master politician, pushing aside what in another place would have been called “big mules” and reducing Arianna Huffington to a long-in-the-tooth version of Paris Hilton, an aspiring party girl for Hollywood celebrities who like to dabble in politics along with other enthusiasms. Excitable Republicans even talked of amending the Constitution so that Arnold, a native of Austria, could run for president. Bill Clinton took the speculation seriously enough that he offered to join the amend-the-Constitution movement if Arnold would agree to eliminate the constitutional bar to a third term as well. (So much for marital solidarity with Hillary.)

But nothing recedes like success, particularly in Hollywood, and soon the Terminator’s opinion-poll approval sank to the neighborhood of 30 percent — a neighborhood Harry Reid might envy, but nothing worth amending the Constitution for. The Terminator decided to become a Kennedy. If he couldn’t be president of the United States he would become the president of California, with an economy already bigger than Canada, as Californians will tell you (and tell you and tell you). “The power influence we have is the equivalent of a nation, or even a continent,” he told an audience the other day in British Columbia. He didn’t identify the continent, but it was something bigger than Antarctica, presumably. Analyze that, Uncle Teddy.

Like other celebrities before him, the Terminator regards the media as a keyboard, a lark for someone who can play a tune by ear. He adopted global warming as the hymn for this decade, and signed into law the promise to cut by 25 percent greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. Acting as a president and not as a mere governor, he made agreements with two Canadian provinces to change the Earth’s climate. After that, who knows? Maybe an initiative to stop the accelerating expansion of the solar system, which some astronomers predict will destroy everything, even California, on a mournful morning sometime within the next 14 billion years.

The Terminator even makes the cover of Time this week, though he has to share it with Michael Bloomberg, the other “New Action Hero.” The Hollywood brute and the half-pint billionaire are pushing an agenda the mainstream media approves of, and Time’s cover story is the usual Time gush, a let’s-get-a-hotel-room-together account of having finally found this week’s perfect pol. Time is particularly impressed with the Terminator’s vow to terminate Alzheimer’s disease, now that it has afflicted his father-in-law. And not just Alzheimer’s. “I look forward to curing all these terrible illnesses,” he boasted to Time. “We’re showing how powerful a state can be.”

And if the Terminator is diverted from the task of teaching the sun a thing or two by his other job curing disease, Michael Bloomberg is ready to sweat the smaller stuff. Mr. Bloomberg wants to further restrict the access of mere millionaires and other poor folks to the First Amendment, with harsh new limits on campaign contributions. When Time asked whether someone who spent $150 million to get elected mayor of New York isn’t a bit of a hypocrite, he replied: “I would suggest that before anyone runs for office they should go out a become a billionaire. It makes it a lot easier.”

The Terminator, a more believable man of the people than half-pint billionaires, wouldn’t say such things. But he owns five Hummers, which typically get 10 miles to the oil well, and scorns traveling cross-country on a crowded airliner with everybody else. He prefers his private plane. He has a beta version of an electric sports car that zooms from zero to 60 miles an hour in 4 seconds, and only costs $100,000. Marie Antoinette would love this guy, and so do California and the mainstream media. For now.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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