New to Politics, Schwarzenegger Is Sticking With Script
What a busy, busy week we’ve had, cramming for Oct. 7, so let’s review and reflect on what we’ve learned so far, and what we haven’t, shall we?
Time for what typographers call bullet points, although I hesitate to use the word ‘bullet’ when one of the men I’m writing about has racked up an on-screen bullet-riddled dead-body count higher than the number of candidates he’ll be running against.
* Arnold Schwarzenegger will evidently be running for governor as a mime: You’ll be seeing him plenty, but probably not hearing much from him. I hope his scriptwriters get residuals on all the applause lines he’s been repeating from his old films, none of which has anything to do with governance.
* The political press is not like the Hollywood press, which lets agents set terms for actors’ interviews -- “We have to get on the cover, you can only have 20 minutes and you can’t ask him about you-know-what or the interview’s over.” So Schwarzenegger may stick with the star-struck and the go-for-laughs guys, and avoid the sharp pens of the political writers. This may be the first campaign covered entirely by Variety. One astonishing thing I learned since last week: “Access Hollywood” and like shows are classified by the Federal Communications Commission as news shows -- which is like the Reagan administration declaring ketchup to be a vegetable. Because it’s “news,” the fairness rule doesn’t apply, and Schwarzenegger can show up every night without Word One from any of the other candidates. Same goes for cable -- all Arnold, all the time is not a problem. Maybe there’s a Gary Coleman festival in our future, too.
* With George Bush’s eloquent quasi-endorsement of Schwarzenegger -- “I think he’d be a good governor” -- political junkies are wondering whether the White House will strap duct tape over the mouths of California’s Republican Right until Oct. 8, in hopes of getting a Republican -- even a pro-choice, pro-gun-control version of a Republican [that’s Schwarzenegger] -- into the governor’s seat. Statements like that from Schwarzenegger’s investment manager -- “Arnold likes paying taxes” because it means “I must be making a lot of money” -- will not endear the boss to conservatives like Tom McClintock, or to Bill Simon, campaigning on the “I told you so” platform.
* Richard Riordan was savaged by the same Republicans for being married to an active Democrat, Nancy Daly Riordan. Will Frau Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, sprung from uber-Democratic Kennedy loins, get the same treatment?
* Immigrant Arnold voted, we learned, for Proposition 187 to cut off services to illegal immigrants, a measure which poisoned the GOP well as far as most California Latinos are concerned. “Hasta la vista, baby” isn’t going to mollify them. As Orange County Republican Gaddi Vasquez said of 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis’ remarks in the tongue of the conquistadors, “He may speak Spanish, but he doesn’t speak our language.”
* In this green-minded state, Schwarzenegger was the first civilian to own the macho vulgarian’s toy, the Hummer, which insults the landscape at about 10 miles per gallon. Schwarzenegger owned five at once; he gave away one to a charity. He’s also plowed more than $1 million each into three investment groups that owned a piece of Playa Vista, the development that raised its ugly head along the Ballona Wetlands.
* The Save-Our-Kids candidate owns stock in tobacco giant Phillip Morris, though he recently lost money on it.
* Schwarzenegger did not bother to vote in six of the last eight elections involving the state he wants to govern, but he donated a couple of thousand bucks to his brother-in-law, Democrat Mark Shriver, who ran for Congress last year in Maryland and lost. This nonvoting record may not be a problem for some fans. Of those out screaming for “ARNOLD!” how many have voted in anything but the People’s Choice Awards? How many plan months ahead to camp out for the release of “Terminator 3" but may not remember until Oct. 7 that it’s election day? For those invoking the Jesse Ventura model as the Schwarzenegger parallel, I’ve got news: 16% of the voters who turned out in Minnesota when Ventura was elected registered to vote that same day, mostly right at the polling place. You can’t do that in California. Last year, 59% of Californians, many of them Republicans, voted down a proposal for voting-day registration here.
What I still haven’t figured out is, are people calling him “Arnold” because they feel they know him from his movies, or because they’re afraid of mispronouncing “Schwarzenegger”?
I spent Saturday afternoon in Norwalk, at the L.A. County registrar-recorder’s office, as the deadline clock ticked down on the candidates. On my way in, I almost got knocked off my feet when I bumped into the advancing mammaries of the porn performer who’s running for governor. “Oops,” she said.
But there was something else I felt even more decidedly. A finale -- to Gray Davis’ political career, perhaps, and a certain orderliness of democratic process -- and an overture. At the fringes of the circus tent were some just-folks candidates lined up with their 3,500 bucks who really had something to say and wanted a forum to say it. And why not? In the quirky math of recall, Davis could get 40% of the vote and still lose the governor’s job, and one of the nearly 200 candidates on the ballot could get 10% of the vote and win it.
The recall is a car we bought 92 years ago, and it’s been sitting in the garage ever since. We’ve turned over the engine and topped off the battery from time to time, but that’s it. Now we’re taking it out for a drive. If it takes us right off a cliff, we’ll know it’s time to get a new car. If we survive the crash.
Patt Morrison’s e-mail address is patt.morrison@ latimes.com.