Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger declared he was running for governor, it feels like being stuck in a "Conan" rerun, only this time round, it's Arnie the Republican who seems determined to wear the jeweled crown of California upon his troubled brow. What's troubling about all this (besides the fact that we will personally drop-kick the next person who says, writes or ululates the phrase "The Governator") is that people from all across the political spectrum seem to be saying, "What the heck! I'm voting for Arnie!" That kind of reckless abandon works well when renting Arnie's latest action flick, but it bodes badly for the well-being of California -- and we can tell you why, in 50 easy reasons!
Notice that, while we're not above the occasional (OK, very frequent) sarcastic snipe, we've stuck to issues about Arnie that really bother us, meaning you'll have to look elsewhere if you're worried about his controversial support of medical marijuana or his wild youth (though his attitudes about women then and now creep us the hell out, as you'll see below). We've avoided sketchy information such as recent claims that he supported apartheid, and stuck to the facts as they were known as of presstime.
We all have to face the fact that this recall election is in full swing, and now is the time to put this ridiculous candidacy in perspective. The truth is that a vote for Schwarzenegger is a vote for the Republican party in general, and a woefully inadequate, unqualified Republican in particular. But just in case you've been hornswoggled into believing that a vote for Arnie is a vote for the people of California, read on.
1. He wouldn't vote for you -- or anyone else.
This is how seriously Arnie takes his U.S. citizenship: By skipping nearly half of the elections since 1992, voting records show, he has avoided having to exercise his democratic right to take a stand on such issues as bilingual education, medical marijuana and tax increases for the wealthy. To add insult to injury, he skipped these last two issues (in the 1996 election) because he was promoting "Jingle All the Way" and "Eraser," two of the worst films of that or any other year.
2. He's in way over his head.
This can't be stressed enough, so expect us to revisit it often. There are three basic levels to Arnie's ineptitude: (1) He has never run so much as a town meeting, and now he wants us to put him behind the wheel of the sixth largest economy in the world; (2) he treats his campaign as if he were promoting a movie, continually falling back on his experience as an entertainer in an apparent attempt to compensate for his lack of experience as a statesman; (3) he loves to talk about all of the problems we're facing in this state, but his lack of specific ideas for how to fix them is taking on legendary proportions.
3. He thinks you don't care that he's in way over his head.
"The public doesn't care about facts and figures," said Arnie at a press conference. If there is a God, these words will haunt him throughout the campaign. On Sept. 4, he went so far as to blame the media for his own hollow, sloppy campaign: "You always want to have fast answers," he told journalists in Riverside. "I want to have good answers." Hey, buddy, pencils down! Next time, figure out the answers before you tell people you're ready to be governor of California.
4. He keeps repeating that he's going to "clean house."
Never trust any politician who says this. What it really means is: "I know so little about what works and doesn't work in politics that I'm not even going to try to figure it out. Instead, I'm just going to throw everything out, whether it works or not." And what that really means is: "I'm in way over my head" (see reason No. 2). Anyone remember the Republican "revolution" of 1994 -- that sure worked out great, didn't it? Little-known fact: the "clean house" school of cowboy politics has its roots in the racist "Know-Nothing" movement of the 1850s. The Know-Nothings got swept into state and legislative offices on a platform of radical right-wing change, then fell out of favor just as quickly when voters discovered they knew ... well, nothing about governing. Now you can do your part to keep anti-government jackasses out of government!
5. His own house isn't as "clean" as he wants you to think.
Arnie wants everyone to think that his huge personal fortune means he can't be bought, but his financial disclosures reveal that even as a civilian celebrity, he loves them "gifts." He's received thousands of dollars worth of free shirts and sweaters from Armani, cigars worth $250 to $500 each, a fancy humidor from Tupperware (what the hell?) and lots more. Doesn't seem to matter much that he can already afford all this stuff himself. Don't be fooled: movie stars are accustomed to taking expensive gifts from people trying to win their favor -- and if Arnie liked the size of the presents in Hollywood, he's gonna love Sacramento.
6. He's discovered 'special interests' -- and maybe they're not so bad after all!
Cruz Bustamante is the one taking the heat for pushing the legality of campaign finance to the limit, but Schwarzenegger's doing it just as ferociously -- and unlike Cruz, Arnie comes off looking like a complete hypocrite in the process. Here's a little taste of what a "reformer" Arnie is: In order to take advantage of a loophole in campaign finance laws, he formed a second recall committee, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall Committee (yes, it really is called that), which is exempt from normal finance rules. Of course, this is the man who originally claimed he didn't need any outside money. Now he's resorted to hilariously lame antics like returning a $2,500 check from a law-enforcement union, as if that represents more of a special interest than the rest of the special-interest money he's taking. The most bizarre twist of all is that he appears to have decided that the money he has accepted is not special-interest money, if he decides not to call it that. As an analysis in the San Francisco Chronicle put it: "Apparently the actor thinks that those people giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars won't want anything in return."
7. As an actor-turned-wannabe-california-governor, he's got Ronald Reagan for a role model.
Why don't any actors with good politics ever want to run? And once -- just once -- could we get an Academy Award winner? Hell, even a People's Choice award-winner would be a start.
8. He wants Ronald Reagan for a role model.
According to a 1988 Playboy interview, Arnie was "in heaven" when Reagan was governor of California. (He offered the same endorsement of Richard Nixon's presidency, by the way. Bonus!) More recently, he said of Reagan, "We have the same philosophy and approach to things," and that his own political platform "is exactly what Ronald Reagan stood for." Wait, Arnie has a political platform? (See reason No. 2.)
9. He's a wimp.
Action hero, like hell! Arnie practically went into hiding after announcing that he was going to run. His first "press conferences" were far more notable for all the ducking and covering he did than for the meaningless rhetoric his supposedly high-powered campaign team came up with. In the end, he chose right-wing talk-radio shows to finally admit what (and how little) he stands for -- ensuring he wouldn't take any heat from actual journalists about his crappy campaign in the process. But none of this wussiness can compare to his most cowardly act so far -- ducking out of the Sept. 3 debate to which Gov. Davis and the top six candidates looking to replace him were invited. His stated excuse, an unspecified "prior family commitment," leaves us ... well, speechless. Perhaps "was soiling own pants in fear of informed public political forum" was considered too wordy.
10. He lies. On Aug. 20, he said of negative campaigning: "I will never attack. Why would I worry about someone else? It's not my style." Just five days later, he said "Bustamante is Gray Davis with a receding hairline and a mustache. It's the same person. Same philosophy." Is this a new record time for a candidate to publicly flush his integrity down the toilet?
11. He drives a Hummer.
Please don't forget how "environmentally conscious" Arnie is when he's clogging your lungs with exhaust, crushing your economy car into a compact cube of metal on the highway, and pushing your gas prices into the stratosphere with several tons worth of penis-size insecurity. (Yes, we have seen that picture. We consider it inconclusive at best.)
12. He may consider 'The Crusher' a political strategy.
Upon introducing Arnie, Maria Shriver reportedly told her uncle Sen. Ted Kennedy, "Don't think of him as a Republican. Think of him as the man I love, and if that doesn't work, think of him as a man who can crush you." Of course, we have our doubts about his actual toughness (see reason No. 9).
13. He is -- no matter what anyone says -- a Republican.
Can everyone just stop saying, "Oh, he's not really a Republican." Um, yeah, he is. By the way, did you know Bush is a compassionate conservative?
14. He chose one of the most hated ex-governors of California to run his campaign.
Talk about "lemon law" governors -- Pete Wilson wound up his time in office with his approval rating completely in the tank. The tide had clearly turned against Wilson's aggressive anti-immigrant stance, and voters rightly blamed him for the sleazy campaign that got Proposition 187 passed. (Hey, did we ever figure out if televised election ads could be prosecuted as hate crimes?) Yet the man who the president of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project called "the anti-Christ in the Latino community" continued to defensively and insincerely claim he had worked for the will of the people while at the same time beating a hasty retreat with a political semiretirement. Now, he's back, and has brought on most of his old advisers to ensure that a Schwarzenegger tenure would basically be a return to the Wilson years. So, to sum up: not only does Arnie not know how to govern California, he picked one of the most revolting politicians in the state to explain to him how it's done.
15. He voted for Prop. 187.
Speaking of that nasty little pet project of Pete Wilson's, Arnie himself voted for it -- despite his claim of having a uniquely empathetic understanding of issues facing immigrants. Welcome to the "I got mine, screw the rest of you" school of politics.
16. As a gubernatorial candidate, he's an actor.
This is a man who uses movie catchphrases he didn't even write himself to try to convince voters he's a viable candidate. And oh yeah, Arnie employed that same "I'm not gonna run, oh wait, yes I am" tactic in the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest -- which, by the way, he won. If nothing else, the man is a showman extraordinaire.
17. His own adviser can't think of three good reasons to elect him.
George Shultz, co-chair of Arnie's Economic Advisory Team, said at his candidate's first press conference that there were three things about Schwarzenegger that he particularly liked. He got through the first two OK -- he likes the way Arnie listens to people when they speak, and thinks Arnie makes up his own mind about what they say. But all he could think of for reason number three is that he personally likes Arnie. Wow! Arnie, thou art officially damned with faint praise. "Personally liked by George P. Shultz" -- you couldn't even put that on a résumé!
18. He's got women issues.
In a 2001 article, Premiere magazine called him "Arnold the Barbarian" for various alleged acts of impropriety toward women. Arnie denies them. More recently, he told Esquire magazine: "As much as when you see a blonde with great tits and a great ass, you say to yourself, 'Hey, she must be stupid or must have nothing else to offer,' which maybe is the case many times. But then again there is the one that is as smart as her breasts look, great as her face looks, beautiful as her whole body looks gorgeous, you know, so people are shocked." Uh huh. Well, if anyone can figure out what that's supposed to mean, please drop us a line. Many women aren't waiting to find out -- a group of them picketed his campaign headquarters Sept. 5, saying past misogynist behavior and comments on his part made him unfit for office. Part of what undoubtedly fueled their fire was the dredging up of a 1977 interview in the now-defunct Oui magazine, in which he said some, let's face it, totally off-the-wall stuff about women, in particular his story about gangbanging a black woman that sounded like nothing so much as a rape fantasy. Turns out it was a fantasy -- on Sept. 3 he said he lied about it happening. Oh, that makes us feel better (see reason No. 10).
19. No, really, there's something freaky going on with his women issues.
Just last month, he described his work in a scene from T3 to Entertainment Weekly thusly: "How many times do you get away with this -- to take a woman, grab her upside down, and bury her face in a toilet bowl? I wanted to have something floating in there ... The thing is, you can do it, because in the end, I didn't do it to a woman -- she's a machine! We could get away with it without being crucified by who-knows-what group." Charming.
20. He's a threat to working Californians.
When a candidate starts talking about the state's "anti-business" climate, you can bet that the people he's really going to get "tough" with are the state's workers. Do we have any reason to believe he supports mandatory overtime, a living wage, paid family leave or even the health care and safety standards by which working Californians live and die? Besides, recent articles have revealed Arnie's rhetoric on the subject of jobs to be faulty at best and outright distortion at worst. One example (and there are plenty more): though he continually harps that we're losing jobs to other states because of our "hostile" business environment, it turns out California's unemployment rate has increased by only 1.9 percent since 2000, compared to an increase of 2.3 percent nationwide. There's so much wrong with this state's economy, and yet we don't see Arnie talking about the right numbers or solutions.
21. If elected, he would be properly called the 'Kaiser' of California in his native Austrian tongue.
We just thought you ought to know.
22. As a gubernatorial candidate, he's a novelty item.
This country's last showbiz-figure-turned governor was Jesse Ventura, who is in many ways a far better point of comparison for Arnie than Ronald Reagan. Ventura ran on his celebrity and a few headline-grabbing positions, and his political legacy never amounted to much else, either. So far, Arnie doesn't even have the headline-grabbing positions.
23. He supports prayer in school.
Apparently, he believes it should be "up to the schools." Oh, that's fantastic. Maybe we can ship in Ray Moore of "I need everyone to see my Ten Commandments" fame for his campaign team and really lose our right to a separation of church and state.
24. He may not support gay rights as much as everyone believes.
Despite the fact that it's fashionable to characterize him as "pro-gay-rights," and he does say he supports domestic partnerships, the truth is he hasn't taken a stand on the one pressing gay-rights issue he can actually do something about. To quote from the letter Assemblyman John Laird sent to Arnie last month about AB 205, the proposed legislation which would give domestic partners many of the same rights as married couples (and which, by the way, Gray Davis supports): "Most of the leading candidates for governor have clearly defined their positions of legislation and issues affecting the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered] community. Since you have not, we are urging you to do so immediately." As of presstime, he had not.
25. He picked Rob Lowe of 'West Wing' fame to be on his campaign team.
Are we living some kind of satirical article from The Onion? Just checking.
26. He's known for 'pumping up' the crowds at GOP conventions.
Oh, but wait, he's not really a Republican, right?
27. He's got creepy connections to the energy crisis.
Arnie suddenly doesn't want to talk about why he was meeting with Enron CEO Ken Lay in Beverly Hills in May of 2001 -- in fact, he claims he "can't remember" the meeting. Does he think one single person will believe this? This was, after all, right about the time California was being destroyed by Enron's "Death Star" market-manipulation tactics, and though the scandal of course had yet to break, you better believe a meeting with Lay at that time was a huge deal -- not the sort of thing that just slips your mind. We can't help but wonder what kind of chit-chat Arnie made with California's worst enemy that hazy day. Hmm, "Death Star," "Terminator" -- guess he and Ken Lay really speak the same language.
28. He's got even creepier connections to the energy crisis.
Arnie's campaign team includes adviser Marty Wilson, who during the energy crisis worked as a spin doctor for Reliant Energy, one of the companies that was later revealed to have manipulated California's energy market.
29. He chickened out on Proposition 13. So then Arnie goes and hires Warren Buffett, a Democrat, to be his "top economic adviser." Well, that was certainly an interesting twist. Might Arnie actually be interested in pumping some progressive ideas into his campaign? Nope. When Buffett dared to actually suggest something intriguing -- that Proposition 13, which capped property assessment increases in California at 2 percent per year back in 1978, was partly responsible for the gutting of state services, Arnie flipped out. His campaign said Arnie was rejecting Buffett's position, and affirmed that their candidate would never deem to question the validity of the California GOP's sacred text.
30. As a gubernatorial candidate, he's a P.E. coach.
Arnie joked that Buffett's punishment if he so much as mentioned Prop. 13 again would be "500 sit-ups." A vote against Arnie is a fully satisfying way to get back at your sadistic high-school gym instructor who thought jokes like that were funny.
31. Bush thinks he'd make a 'good' governor.
This from a president who thinks a record federal deficit is good economic policy, the use of nuclear weapons is a good military strategy and tax cuts are a good way to relieve unemployment. Did someone say Arnie isn't really a Republican?
32. He's not really 'the people's candidate.' He may, in fact, be the candidate least qualified to understand the needs of the typical California citizen. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Arnie has a net worth of more than $100 million. In 2001 alone, he paid $383,000 for household help. If elected, he'll be the fattest of the Sacramento fat cats.
33. His father was a Nazi.
Look, we realize Arnie himself is not a Nazi. We realize Arnie has a reputation as a strong supporter of Jewish causes. But, man, the fact that his father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, joined Hitler's notorious storm troopers six months after they helped launch Kristallnacht creeps us out.
34. He invited accused Nazi war criminal Kurt Waldheim to his wedding.
35. He's unequipped to deal with the state's $38 billion deficit.
Anger over the deficit was supposedly one of the key reasons for recalling Davis in the first place. However, when asked at a press conference if he himself would have to come up with details about how he would solve the budget crisis before the election, he said simply, "No." No? Why not? And don't give us the excuse that the public only has to know the governor is "tough enough to clean house" -- oh wait, he already did (see reason No. 2 and No. 4). Said Democratic Party chairman Art Torres of this strategy: "The lesson Pete Wilson's team has learned is never to give specifics. The game plan is to shuffle and soft-shoe." But even the softest of shoes can't hide the fact that electing a political novice to govern 34 million residents while trying to fix this budget crisis will likely cause bond ratings to fall even further.
36. He stumped for Bush Sr. in the 1988 presidential campaign.
And we bet he can't wait to do it for Bush Jr. in 2004. Oh, but wait, he'd only do that if he was really a Republican.
37. His own party doesn't care who he is, as long as he wins.
Despite the fact that many conservatives are as worried about putting Schwarzenegger in the governor's mansion (for different reasons) as the Democrats are, state GOP leaders have been working behind the scenes since the middle of August to get the other top Republicans in the race to drop out. So much for the idea that the backers of this recall were actually concerned with finding a better governor than Davis -- they're just drooling over the idea of getting any Republican into office. Too bad for Arnie that GOP rival Tom McClintock's much-celebrated showing in the Sept. 3 candidate debate gave McClintock the chutzpah to say the next day on National Public Radio that he would not under any circumstances bow to pressure to drop out -- and how ironic, considering that Arnie skipped that same debate.
38. If he wins, Bush gets re-elected.
Don't think so? Imagine a replay of the maddeningly close 2000 presidential election -- and then picture Bush taking California. We could see just such a scenario next year. Bush has been salivating over our state since Day One, and for a while after the big patriotic push for Gulf War II, it looked like he might have it in the bag. But a Field Poll released Aug. 21 shows his support in California eroding, with only 42 percent of voters here interested in giving him another four years -- down from 46 percent just a month earlier. (An unspecified Democrat put up against him was favored by 47 percent of those polled.) But Schwarzenegger would try to put some real muscle into Bush's campaign here, and a victory for him in the recall election will be perceived as a successful first strike in Bush's 2004 presidential election drive.
39. He openly admits to and supports drug use.
Oh, we don't mean his comments about marijuana -- we find those fascinating. No, we're talking about his unapologetic use of steroids. In 1996, he said: "I used steroids. It was a risky thing to do, but I have no regrets. It was what I had to do to compete." This guy was in charge of Bush Sr.'s President's Council on Physical Fitness? What a great role model for kids who want to really pump up!
40. He's got a Machiavellian streak. In the documentary "Pumping Iron," Arnie boasts about the dirty tricks he played against the competition, revealing blind ambition and a sobering delight at his own ability to manipulate his opponents.
41. Did we mention he creeps us out?
In "Pumping Iron," he also says "I was always dreaming about very powerful people -- dictators and things like that."
42. Oh yeah, and he's got those woman issues.
In his 1988 Playboy interview, he said that "neither my mother nor Maria is allowed to go out with me in pants." Wow, his jokes about women just get more and more hilarious!
43. He's going to dumb down politics even further.
We don't mean he's dumb. We mean the coverage of his campaign makes a Schwarzenegger governorship looks more like an entertainment story than a news story. And really, can you blame the media for having showbiz pundits cover the candidacy of a man running on the fact that he's in showbiz? Sam Farr put it to us this way: "It's like when Clint Eastwood became mayor of Carmel, and no one wanted to debate the merits of that choice, either. People just wanted a celebrity to call their own."
44. He can't get the Kennedys to back him.
C'mon, Maria Shriver is his wife, and he can't get the in-laws to put in an official nod? (A $15,000 check from Maria's mother Eunice Shriver does not count, by the way.) "I don't support the recall effort" is basically all Sen. Edward Kennedy will say, even after Maria threatened him with a crushing (see reason No. 11). Gee, maybe it's because Arnie's ... a Republican?
45. For the last time, he is a Republican.
"I'm a Republican, and I'm running as a Republican to be the next Republican governor," said Arnie on a Sacramento radio show on Aug. 26. Case closed.
46. His knee-jerk attitude towards taxes is ridiculous.
At least he's said he won't completely rule out tax increases (though we'd be interested to know what qualifies as the "dire emergency" that might justify them in his book), but other than that, his comments on taxes in this state are so radically right-wing it makes you wonder if he even realizes the seriousness of the state's budget crisis. At a news conference, he said of Californians' tax burden: "They get up in the morning and flush the toilet and they're taxed ... Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax." Um, does he even understand what Prop. 13 did?
47. He's a 'family values' Republican.
When Salon.com asked him what he considers the most pressing problem in inner cities, he replied "The parenting problem." Really! However much of a problem you think single-parent households are, the fact that Arnie thinks they're a bigger problem than poverty, joblessness, living-wage issues and a broken educational system tells you a lot about his attitudes towards the poor and working-class, who don't have the benefit of a $20 million-per-movie paycheck to get them through. Oh yeah, definitely the people's candidate.
48. He'd never survive a regular election. Providing further evidence that Arnie is a wimp (see reason No. 9), before the recall he had already been fueling speculation that he might run in the 2006 gubernatorial election. But he couldn't have hedged and stammered his way through a full election cycle nearly as well, and when you think about how much easier it is to sneak in through the back door of the recall election, it's no surprise that Arnie launched a blitzkrieg, last-minute campaign last month for which he was completely unprepared (see reasons No. 2 and No. 3).
49. He needs a serious ego check.
When his campaign appeared shocked by the late-August Los Angeles Times poll that showed him significantly trailing Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Bustamante's campaign manager Richie Ross pointed out that Arnie is "used to having his rear end kissed, not kicked." Now we remember why Californians always seem to reject the high-profile narcissistic millionaires who occasionally think they can buy an election.
50. It'll be six months before we can recall him.
Apparently, them's the rules -- no new recall effort until he's been in office for six months. But there'll be two bright spots -- first, the number of signatures needed will be smaller even than the ridiculously paltry number needed to get the David recall on the ballot; second, we're sure Arnie will understand the need to hold him responsible for his own failures. What's that, champ? Now you think the recall rules are unfair? Now you think the state needs to be freed from the burden of a badly written, exorbitantly expensive and almost impossible to execute law written by a political opportunist almost a century ago? Too late, sucker! Coming soon: "Total Recall 2!"
Sarah Phelan and Steve Palopoli are, respectively, news editor and editor of Metro Santa Cruz.