Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 Can Arnold Make the Difference? 

August 12, 2003

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.

[Breaker quote: Schwarzenegger -- I'm not going to say it again.]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.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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