August 12, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     My first reaction to Arnold's announced candidacy 
was, I imagine, a lot like yours. What a refreshing 
novelty! What a grand joke on our politicians! What an 
impudent deflation of the silly fiction that governing a 
state like California is a form of skilled labor!

     I hoped Arnold (you know which Arnold I mean) would 
show up for his inauguration in the garb of Conan the 
Barbarian. That would round out the joke perfectly.

     For Arnold has made himself one of our great 
national jokes -- a joke he enjoys as much as the rest of 
us do. You may recall Hans and Franz, the wimpy would-be 
Arnolds of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- one of that show's 
great running skits, back in the days when it still knew 
that odd characters are funnier than smut. Its funniest 
moment was the night Arnold himself showed up 
unexpectedly, causing Hans and Franz to collapse in 
abject awe of their idol.

     Then there was KINDERGARTEN COP, with Arnold 
overmatched by a roomful of rioting five-year-olds. His 
helpless fury at these little ones was a comic effect 
worthy of W.C. Fields or Walter Matthau. And even in his 
most violent films there are great laughs, thanks in part 
to the Austrian accent that has made him the most 
mimicked actor since Jack Nicholson's heyday.

     Arnold arrived in this country with only his 
fabulous muscles. He didn't speak English, his surname 
would overload a marquee, and his father had been a Nazi 
official -- not exactly the inside track to Hollywood 
success. But he was also a roaring furnace of ambition. 
Today he is rich, world-famous, and married to a 
glamorous Kennedy girl. (He once told her mother, "Your 
daughter has a nice butt." Having met the formidable Mrs. 
Shriver myself, this is not the way I would have broken 
the ice.)

     Arnold loves America, and the feeling is mutual. He 
arrived here during the 1968 presidential campaign; 
Hubert Humphrey's liberalism reminded him of the squishy 
democratic socialism he'd hated in his native Austria; 
so, Hollywood and the Kennedys notwithstanding, he's been 
a Republican ever since.

     Now for some people, becoming a Republican is a step 
in the right direction -- just as, I suppose, becoming an 
Episcopalian would be an improvement over remaining a 
cannibal. But one mustn't stop there.

     Fervently as I admire him, Arnold is already making 
me wince. The other day he said he wants to be governor 
of California because the state has been good to him, and 
he'd like to "give something back." You'd think joining 
the public sector was a way of atoning for having made an 
honest living in the private sector.

     Does Arnold think becoming a parasite makes amends 
for having been a producer? The state produces nothing; 
it only takes from those who do produce. Arnold ought to 
realize this, having paid millions in taxes. But he's 
already calling for new state programs for kids. Hubert 
Humphrey would warmly approve.

     I'm always glad to shove a few bucks more into 
Arnold's bulging pockets in free exchange for the 
entertainment he provides. But if I were a Californian, I 
wouldn't want to be taxed to support him or his pet 
projects. Why does he think the Golden State is in such 
financial trouble? Only government -- a system of 
promising something for nothing, while the taxpayer gets 
nothing for plenty -- could have reduced such a paradise 
to its present shabbiness.

     Yet the idea persists, particularly among the 
Kennedys, that being on the government payroll is "public 
service." If anyone should "give something back," it's 
those who work for the state at the expense of others who 
produce wealth.

     Maybe Californians think Arnold can make government 
"work." It would take more than epic musculature to do 
that. It would take a miracle.

     Or rather, government already "works." It does what 
it's supposed to do, as distinct from what it promises to 
do. It coerces. It forces some to pay others' way, and 
calls this "service."

     This may be the way the world works, but we 
shouldn't delude ourselves that the state is anything but 
organized force. You may argue that it's necessary or 
inevitable, but don't confuse it with charity and 
altruism. And don't think it can be turned into something 
it can never be by putting Arnold in charge of it.

     If he imagines he can do that, we may as well start 
the Recall Arnold movement right now.


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