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3.19.2004

President Arnold
A fair and balanced look at the reasons why

By John O'Connor, champion bodybuilder.

There has been a lot of loose talk going around lately about Arnold not being a future president of the United States. This is bosh, balderdash, and wishful thinking. The same people who think he can't become president are the same people who said he would not be elected governor. California likes to send ex-actor governors to the White House, and this is simply the next one.

Accept this. Or face my wrath.

Arnold's vices may prove to be his virtues. The Republican party is currently in the throes of a fundamentalist takeover. Reagan's empty and insincere promises to the religious right are now a thing of the past. This is increasingly a party of true believers, and theocracy is not far from their political ideal. Bush & Co. may have their greatest problem in dealing with terrorists, not in their unwillingness to use force, but in their unwillingness to articulate the ideal of a free society -- a society in which church and state, or mosque and state, are separated. The Middle East practices what the American South preaches. I don't see how the Republicans are going to get very far with the introduction of an alternative social order. Yes, they have the muscle to fight terror. No, they can't articulate an alternative to religious domination without alienating their base.

Arnold, say what you like, is not that much of a hypocrite. Even if he were, he couldn't pull it off. He cannot, at this point, do the George Bush trick of finding Jesus and pretending to be a different person. Arnold is a former bodybuilder and actor, and not really bothered by either fact. He may be Hollywood, but he isn't fake. The Republicans are not Hollywood, but they are fake beyond the possibility of redemption -- their astonishing hypocrisy in religious matters simply beggars belief. Were it not for the fact that I have seen it occur.

Let's say you wanted someone who exemplified the values of the gospel. He would be heterosexual, monogamous, hard working, not proud, concerned about the poor, disposed to turn the other cheek, etc. In a word, Jimmy Carter. By contrast, imagine someone who got the heck out of his small town origins and never went back, never went to church, did go to Hollywood, did marry a movie star, did divorce her, did marry a second wife of highly questionable morals, did inaugurate the no-fault-divorce revolution, did cater to the rich, did ignore poor people, did like pride and did like war. In short, Ronnie.

I am not saying Reagan was a bad president or Carter was a good one. What I am saying is that, if you take the gospels as your guide, Carter is your man. The Republicans, with a great deal of sanctimony and self-righteousness, chose Reagan and have yet to look back. Bush II is currently running as Reagan's heir. None of this is wrong per se, but is wrong to maintain that you like Christ when your actions say (or rather scream) give us Barabbas. Jesus may be their favorite philosopher, but Herod is their favorite candidate. This sort of dishonesty is typical of the Republican approach to religion, and it is the main reason their domestic agenda has so little appeal for me. They have made the political equivalent of a pact with the devil -- promising to give lip service to all these Christian things when their actual values are something else entirely.

None of the true believers are electable. John Ashcroft, for instance -- who, unless I am much mistaken, would very much like to be President. The half-believers, such as Newt Gingrich, are even less so. The Republicans must compromise themselves to win, and they know it. That is why they are pushing to alter the law to get Arnold elected. None of their other people have a prayer. I do mean that literally.

Arnold is electable -- a very important point in American politics. First, people like him. Second, he's strong. Third, he is perfectly bright, and, to top it off, has mastered the art of playing or acting dumb or silly -- a trait Americans usually reward in their statesman. Fourth, he has a sense of humor. Put those first and fourth assets and together and he is already ahead of most politicians. Fifth, he is a self-made man and, because of his wealth, will probably be not terribly corruptible. He won't have to make $100,000 in trading cattle futures, for instance -- he doesn't need the money. If he does favor the rich, it will be on principle, or because he is one of them already. Americans like a success story, and Arnold has everything Americans like in a president. Once the law is changed, he is a shoo-in.

And they will change the law, because the Republicans know -- the smart ones know -- Andrew Sullivan knows -- in their hearts, they all know -- what a collection of losers, sex-fiends, hypocrites, closet-cases, baby-seal-clubbers, Eddie Haskells, fascist wannabes, whiners and mullahs they have in their tent. None of them are electable.

Arnold is presidential. The question is not if, but when.

John O'Connor

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