Can Arnold Make the Difference?
August 12, 2003
My first reaction to Arnolds 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 shows 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 Nicholsons
Arnold arrived in this country
with only his fabulous muscles. He didnt 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 Humphreys liberalism reminded him of the squishy
democratic socialism hed hated in his native Austria; so,
Hollywood and the Kennedys notwithstanding, hes 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
mustnt 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 hed like
to give something back. Youd think joining the public
sector was a way of atoning for having made an honest living in the
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 hes already calling for new
state programs for kids. Hubert Humphrey would warmly approve.
Im always glad to shove a
few bucks more into Arnolds bulging pockets in free exchange for
the entertainment he provides. But if I were a Californian, I
wouldnt 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, its 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 its 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 shouldnt delude ourselves that the state is anything
but organized force. You may argue that its necessary or inevitable,
but dont confuse it with charity and altruism. And dont
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.