Arnold One Year Later: Though Arnold Schwarzenegger Gained Public Office through a Popular Appeal Labeling Him as Frugal and Moderate, His First Year in Office Shows That He Is Neither

Article excerpt

In the fall of 2003, Californians cast an historic vote. In a special recall election, they removed their governor, Gray Davis, who now holds the distinction of being only the second governor in American history to be recalled from office. In that same special election, Californians voted to replace Gray Davis with Hollywood mega-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, a naturalized citizen who had never held an elective office.

A year later, Operation Arnold launched a petition campaign to amend the U.S. Constitution so that Schwarzenegger can run for president. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) introduced the amendment in the last Congress. Arnold's supporters are running ads on cable television.

Is Schwarzenegger in favor of amending the Constitution so that he can be president? "Yes. Absolutely," said the governator during an interview at the Republican National Convention. "I think, you know, because why not?" he continued. "Like with my way of thinking, you always shoot for the top. But it's not something that I am preoccupied with.... Because there's so many things I have to do in California, and my promise was to straighten out the mess in California."

Sweeping Out Davis

So how about the mess in California?

Former Governor Gray Davis had fiddled until the lights went out--literally. He had continued the policies of his predecessors, using environmental excuses to prevent the construction of any new energy plants, even as population and energy use soared, energy prices skyrocketed, and rolling blackouts contributed to the Gold en State's economic implosion. Davis and the Legislature continued a state-spending binge of windfall revenues from the dotcom bubble. His policy decisions seemed driven by a Clinton-style "pay to play" fundraising that amounted to nothing less than political extortion and selling government service to the highest bidder. Despite such malfeasance in office, as late as the summer of 2003 the California media found car chases and celebrity murder cases more interesting. California's government sank invisibly and silently into a dark, deep ooze of incompetence and public indifference. The governor and the Legislature worked in obscurity. No media covered their chicanery.

Ted Costa, executive director of People's Advocates, led a grass-roots effort to gather enough signatures to force a recall of Davis. Leaders of both parties opposed him, but after a financial boost by California businessman/congressman Daryl Issa (who had his own designs on the governorship), signatures flooded in. A successful recall of Davis required a parallel election for his successor. The governor's race turned into a circus as over a hundred candidates jumped into the fray, including a Sumo wrestler, a comedian, a stripper, a porn star, and various socialists and environmental extremists.

Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy on the Jay Leno show. At his Sacramento campaign launch, he said, "Please bring me the broom.... We are here to clean house, to sweep out the special interests, and we are here, number one, to sweep out Gray Davis." Schwarzenegger's celebrity immediately brought worldwide attention to California.

California's Republican leaders, who were positively giddy over Arnold's star power, did everything possible to undermine support for state Senator Tom McClintock, the Republican front-runner. McClintock had established a strong pro-life, pro-family, pro-business, pro-gun record in the Legislature and was especially noted for his grasp of budgetary matters and his campaigns to drastically cut government spending. Schwarzenegger co-opted most of McClintock's economic program, and the Republican leadership pushed the line that Arnold was a McClintock who could win, a bigger-than-life movie action hero who could slay the state's economic demons as easily as he did the bad guys in his pulp fiction films. In the end Davis was gone, and the two Republican front-runners, Schwarzenegger and conservative Tom McClintock, together won over 60 percent of the vote. …