I mentioned the other day how much I enjoy The Graham Norton Show talk show on BBC America. However, I didn't watch it last night. There was a specific reason: one of the guests was Arnold Schwarzenegger. No doubt he was promoting his new Terminator movie. It's not that I had no interest in watching the show, it's that I couldn't bear it.
It's been a common feeling for me. I get annoyed just driving around town and seeing billboards for the movie. When the TV spots come on, I switch the channel. Lest one think otherwise, this has nothing to do with the Terminator franchise. My reaction is far more rounded.
As little as I think about his time as governor, which is significant, I find next to nothing amusing or entertaining about Arnold Schwarzenegger and his post-gubernatorial career. In fact, every time I'm reminded of him making another movie, it just confirms to me not only that he did a terrible job as governor of my state, but why this was so.
When someone is governor of the state of California -- any state, in fact, but most especially California -- the largest state in the union, with an economy bigger than most countries, that person takes on a huge amount of serious responsibility. It suggest that the person who goes after and then accepts the job not only has a deep interest in the political process, but far more commitment to social well-being. And though the job stops when you leave office, the platform you've been given for continuing public service (whether in the public community or private business) is as great as any available in the nation.
Now, to be clear, Arnold Schwarzenegger has absolutely been under no obligation to continue working for the public benefit. But he didn't even try. He went immediately into making movies again. And as I said, my concern is not what he does post-governorship, but how that choice shows how little he was concerned about running a state for the good of the people in the first place, and as a result ran California into the ground.
Keep in mind, that as his time in office was nearing an end, he began moaning about how unfair it was that, as a foreign-born citizen, he was unable to run for president, and was even looking into what efforts could be made to change that prohibition. Thank goodness we were spared that possibility. After all, here's a man interested enough to consider running for President of the United States, yet after leaving office as governor of California couldn't be bothered to do anything -- not a single thing - for the public welfare. President was just, apparently, a bigger role. Instead, he just jumped back into movies.
(And huge flops every one. But at least he got his paycheck, so happily he came out from it fine. I suspect the new Terminator film will do well -- though we'll see. Thank goodness he had a fallback, now that being president didn't work out.).
It always seemed to me that the man ran for governor because his movie career was on the wane, and being a governor -- and governor of California, no less -- would be a massive ego trip. He lucked into the job, since there had been a recall election, and the process to run was much easier than would be normal. No real debates were necessary to get the Republican nomination, and little campaigning was necessary. Having a big name among so many little-known challengers under the odd, uncommon circumstanced lead to a far-smoother path.
And once elected governor of the star-eyed state, he did an awful job. Progress came to a halt, the economy collapsed during his tenure, the state's budget surplus turned into significant red ink, and he used borrowed funds to merely temporarily patch the leaking, causing unattended long-term problems -- which only finally were addressed and turned around with austere but strong actions by his successor, Democrat Jerry Brown. Further, the Enron scandal overlapped with his meeting as a private citizen with Ken Lay, Enron's head. The state's resulting energy crisis -- caused specifically by Enron's illegal activities in California-- is what lead to then-governor Gray Davis getting recalled...which opened the door for Schwarzenegger getting the job.
So, when I seen Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately leap back into movies right after being governor of California, I just clench my teeth and only find comfort in having all my suspicions confirmed about how microscopic was interest he had in doing the actual job of governor and working for the public interest. Imagine with his profile and that background, former governor of California, he could have done after leaving office. He could have run for the U.S. Senate; he could have been a congressman; he could have worked for public interest groups, even if only as a mere figurehead to get attention for important causes; he could have done something, anything, large, small, whatever. He could have formed a PAC to push for allowing foreign-born citizens to run for president, something he said he was interested in, even if it now only benefited someone other than him. He could have done a conservative radio talk show. Gotten a gig on "Fox News." Something, anything. He was governor of California. He was a Big Name. But he did nothing. He jumped right back into movies.
Which explains why California suffered during the time he was the oh-so-adorably named "the governator."
He didn't have the ability. He didn't have the substance. But mostly, far above all, he just simply couldn't care less.
Which is sort of how I feel when I see one of his movies hit the screen.
Keep in mind, too, that Arnold Schwartzenegger is someone who was feted as the Republican Party's Darling. The "new conservative." The Poster Boy for the foundation of the GOP.
Well...in some ways I guess he actually was that. Someone in politics with no actual interest in governing or helping others, who drove his constituents into the ground and then fled.
Put that on the billboard.
I'm sure he was very entertaining on The Graham Norton Show. I'm not sorry I missed it, though. Or pretty much anything about the guy...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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