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Arnold Schwarzenegger Fails the Manliness Test

When it comes to standing up to Bush and other conservative bullies, Ah-nold is a girly-man.
 
 
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"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience", Martin Luther King said, "but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." By this measure, Arnold Schwarzenegger fails the test. He flexes his impressive muscles for show. But when strength and courage truly are required, he cuts and runs. In his own inimitable words, he is a girly-man.

Back in June the governor stood up to the federal government for 17 days, refusing to send the California National Guard to the border in a dispute with the President over immigration policy. He finally agreed, but insisted, "I'm the commander-in-chief -- so I can take back the National Guard at any time that I want."

In this case, where little was at stake except perhaps for the liberal votes he was seeking as his gubernatorial re-election campaign began in earnest, Schwarzenegger stood tall. California law trumps federal actions.

Fast forward four months. Schwarzenegger vetoes a bill allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp in California. The bill was approved by over 60 percent of the members of both state legislative chambers. Hemp industry sales in the U.S. now exceed $270 million a year. Legislators decided that a policy that allows Americans to buy products they cannot make is absurd.

Why did the governor veto AB 1147? Because "... it would be improper to approve a measure that directly conflicts with current federal statutes and court decisions", he insisted. "This only serves to cause confusion and reduce public confidence in our government system." In this case, to Schwarzenegger, federal law trumps state law.

The defining moment of Governor Schwarzenegger's manliness may be his stance regarding another form of the cannabis sativa plant, medical marijuana. Here we are truly talking about a matter of life and death. As everyone probably knows, in 1996, California voters approved a ballot initiative that decriminalized medical marijuana. Those wracked with pain or terminally ill could use the drug, even though the feds continued to view any marijuana use as illegal.

In 2002, a unanimous California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Compassionate Use Act. It ruled the law a "wholly" state affair. As Schwarzenegger was gearing up to run for office, the 9th Circuit Court in 2004 upheld the lower court. The Bush Administration's top Justice Department lawyer on the issue, Mark Quinlivan, speaking to the American Bar Association annual convention, compared the plaintiff's states rights arguments to legal arguments made in the past by southern segregationists.

Taylor Carey, special assistant state attorney general in California under Governor Gray Davis responded that the Constitutional Bill of Rights trumps both state and federal law. "When the (federal) government acted to protect the civil liberties of the children of Alabama, they acted with the highest degree of moral force. When they act to prevent critically ill people from obtaining medication, they are not acting with the same degree of moral propriety."

A January 2004, Field poll found that 75 percent of California voters -- cutting across political, religious and generational spectrums -- believed the 1996 medical marijuana proposition should be enforced by the state.

In June 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the lower court's decision in a 6-3 ruling. However, state laws remain unchanged.

The federal government continues to send agents into California to arrest the terminally ill and interrupt their access to a drug deemed legal by the people of California. When it comes to medical marijuana, Schwarzenegger walks small. When it comes to medical marijuana, Schwarzenegger doesn't talk about California sovereignty or the will of the people. He doesn't call himself Commander-in-Chief.

He meekly stands aside and allows federal agents to invade California and arrest our weakest and most defenseless. Indeed, last year several California groups filed suit against the governor to stop state troopers from violating state law and arresting those with doctor's prescriptions who have marijuana.

Schwarzenegger's body remains well sculpted. He may be physically strong. But his character is weak. When you refuse to come to the aid of the weakest among us, you fail the Martin Luther King test of manliness.

David Morris is co-founder and vice president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis, Minnnesota and director of its New Rules project.

 
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