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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of August 20 - 26, 2003


Trophy politics

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 power.

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 "circus."

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 programs.

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 notice.

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.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.