As he sat with friends in an International
House of Pancakes in Santa Monica 35 years ago, Austrian body builder Arnold
Schwarzenegger ticked off a "master plan" for his new life in America.
He vowed to become a film star, to make
millions of dollars, to find a glamorous wife and ultimately to wield political
Well, he’s right on schedule—movie star, a
millionaire a couple hundred times over, wed to glamour Kennedy clan kinsman
Maria Shriver, and now wielding political power beyond his dreams as the focal
figure in California’s unprecedented recall election, regarded by some as a
Star-struck Californians apparently have
yet to awaken to the plan and their future as Arnie’s newest trophy, now that
he’s got the stardom, the fortune, the chic wife.
The announcement of his decision to run
for governor of California was a touch of Tinseltown drama: He announced on late
night TV comedian Jay Leno’s show.
Schwarzenegger’s mere presence on the Oct.
7 ballot has accomplished the improbable: Los Angeles television stations
addicted to covering car chases from helicopters and the frivolous contretemps
of the glitterati have actually scheduled political reports in nightly news
Even the likes of Time magazine has
fallen under the Schwarzenegger spell. The redoubtable Eastern Establishment
newsmagazine devoted its August 18 cover to a smiling portrait with the
overprint headline, "Ahhnold!?"
The Terminator’s stardom has dazzled news
organizations to the point that they have given him millions of dollars of
national air time and ink—for free. No other candidate could even afford to buy
what this star has received for nothing.
Television’s talking heads tossed aside
international news in favor of endless speculation on Schwarzenegger’s run.
In story after story, the 134 other
candidates and the facts that sparked the recall election in California were
mere footnotes, where they appeared at all.
The coverage has been all
Schwarzenegger—where he appears, what he says, what he wears.
What’s unfolding in California is not a
fleeting diversion, but the potential model for U.S. politics.
It’s a crisis of voter discontent with an
elected incumbent followed by the arrival of an untested theatrical performer to
take the public’s collective mind off serious issues of serious consequences in
need of serious work by serious people. Political handlers everywhere are taking
The tragedy is that if Schwarzenegger
captures his latest trophy—the California governorship and the political power
he covets—the state may be little more than the sort of prize that game hunters
mount on a wall.