- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger may never be the governor of California, but he will be remembered as the man who first demonstrated the peril of running for office in the age of Google.

“Ahhnold” has already lost sheen and glitter — not a lot, but enough to prove he may be human — since the first early hours when Arianna Huffington wrestled him for the control of the microphones on the steps of the registrar’s office, and lost.

The first real, reliable barometer of public opinion, the Field Poll, puts him not first, but second to the lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante. Even some of his fans in the higher IQ brackets are puzzled by his insistence on avoiding saying anything but repeating some of the shorter, simpler lines from his old movie scripts.

This leaves it to critics and skeptics to canvass the Internet for clues and hints to what may be on the mind of the man who says he can reconstitute California in a single bound. He probably offended beyond recall the dumb-blonde vote, a significant fraction of the Southern California constituency, with this bit of political philosophy gleaned from an interview he gave long before he filed for office:

“When you see a blonde with great [breasts] and a great [bottom], you say to yourself, ‘Hey, she must be stupid or must have nothing else to offer,’ which maybe is the case many times. But then again, there is the one that is as smart as her breasts look, great as her face looks … so people are shocked.”

Yes, probably, and probably more such “shocks” (if shocks they actually are) are coming. His T&A; remark was of a piece with the assessment of the gifts and talents of his wife, Maria, on the occasion of first meeting her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver: “Your daughter has a great butt.”

You can get by with remarks like that in California if you’re the Terminator because he was probably right when he also said: “No one that has been around me would believe that a woman would be complaining about me holding her.” (Granny Grundy lives in Iowa, after all, or maybe Kansas.) There’s already a Web site, welovearnold.com, devoted to collecting the pearls from Arnold’s previous life. Such are the advantages, and perhaps the pitfalls, of celebrity.

Celebrities, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might have said, are very different from you and me, particularly in Hollywood. Rob Lowe, star of the TV sitcom “West Wing,” is a Hollywood Democrat who has put his liberal enthusiasms in a blind trust to organize celebrities for Arnold. The man knows how and where real life is lived: “I know that when I am on a set, I want to know who the director is. I don’t want to have to guess. That’s what Arnold will bring to this state. He’s a leader.”

Moving to a movie set in Sacramento is more than we ought to ask a celebrity to endure: “It’s a tremendous sacrifice for Arnold and for the family to give up their way of life.”

Recruiting celebrities to endorse the celebrity candidate is so far the only visible strategy of the Schwarzenegger campaign. You might think the Terminator, who is big enough to do it, would stuff a sock in those celebrity mouths.

He could begin with Warren Buffett, who is so big he lives in two places. He gets by with a $4 million bungalow in Laguna Beach and a love nest in Omaha, and he can’t understand why a supermarket clerk at Ralph’s in Pasadena, a Toyota mechanic in Bakersfield or a grape picker in Sonoma County isn’t just as eager as he is to pay more taxes on his houses. (On the other hand, Arianna, reeling under the burden of a $772 annual federal income tax, does understand.) Mr. Buffett is offended by Proposition 13, which limits tax increases on houses to no more than 2 percent a year. Prop 13 saved thousands of Californians from losing their homes, but Mr. Buffett can’t figure out why Californians are so devoted to it. How could a two-bedroom tract house in Petaluma be that important to anyone?

Gray Davis, the man at the end of the rope in this gallows tale, can’t believe his good fortune. “Lord knows we have some things in California that cost a lot,” he says, “but property taxes are not one of them, and nobody is going to change this.”

In his first week as a candidate, the Terminator has neatly reversed partisan roles. He has assumed the role of defender of the rich, leaving Gray Davis the honor of defending Prop 13 and the humble hearths of “the people” the Terminator was only yesterday proclaiming himself the champion of. A nice week’s work.

So far, the great white hope of California Republicans has identified himself as the champion of abortion, gay rights and gun control. Now the tax man cometh. He’s well on his way to a mere supporting role in his next movie: “My big fat Mexican governor.”

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.


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