Dumb state elects new governor after political circus
NEW YORK -- The three-ring circus came to an end in the State of California last week: only the elephants and the human cannonball were missing. The political clowns were aplenty. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born physical culturist and Hollywood movie star, was elected Governor of California in a race in which 135 candidates-- including a porn star, a smut peddler and a punk rocker -- were embroiled in an electoral battle for 77 days.

Schwarzenegger's victory came as a surprise to some because of a rash of allegations that the former Mr Olympia was a serial groper who forced himself on women and fondled them -- mostly on Hollywood movie sets.

The headlines in the mainstream media may well have come off the sleazy supermarket tabloids: "Arnold Groped Us: Six Women's Horror Stories". Or "Schwarzenegger Shocker: I Admire Hitler."

Having offended most women and Jews, he still won over 50 percent of the votes to be elected governor in a State with 15.4 million registered voters. The late night comedians and editorial writers had a field day. Jay Leno remarked that Schwarzenegger's passion for groping women (15 of them-- and still counting) at least assures Californians that he would be a "hands-on" Governor.

But one New York Times columnist couldn't resist the temptation of comparing Schwarzenegger with New York politicians. In the Big Apple, he said, the politicians are so corrupt that when they grope you, they are not looking for private parts, but reaching out to steal your wallet.

Schwarzenegger, who claims he will never be a corrupt politician because he is rich in his own right, spent $10 million out of his own pocket on a campaign that saturated television viewers throughout California. The outgoing Governor, Gray Davis, was "recalled" less than a year after his re-election primarily because he mismanaged finances of one of the biggest States in the country.

But the "recall" of a governor as a political weapon has never been used in the country since the ouster of Lynn Frazier of North Dakota back in 1921. For most Americans, the recall was both the best and the worst test of direct democracy at work.

At its worst, it could be deployed to undo any popular election purely for political reasons. And at its best the recall could send an ominous political message to all governors that if they screw up the State's finances, they could go the way of Gray Davis.

Davis was accused of running the State's finances to the ground and piling up a $38 billion budget deficit. The State of California, on the other hand, has been dismissed by some as one of the "dumbest" States for electing as its new governor a muscle head, an ex-alcoholic, an anabolic-steroid user and a womanizer.

The sharpest criticisms have come from those who argue that Schwarzenegger has no game plan to resolve California's economic crisis. At the height of the election campaign, he also avoided most news conferences and debates with other candidates. The only debate he participated in, was the one in which the candidates were provided questions in advance (but mercifully not the answers).

Since Schwarzenegger admitted his sexual misconduct and apologised for it ("Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets"), the squeaky clean, right wing religious conservatives in the Republican party have been in a political dilemma as to how they should react to the misbehaviour of one of their own card-carrying party members.
And now that he has been elected governor, will the Republicans embrace him or shun him?

President George W. Bush, a God-fearing Republican who believes in "family values", is expected to appear on the same platform as Schwarzenegger for a presidential fund-raiser in California next week. The State of California is crucial for a presidential re-election in November 2004 -- and Bush cannot afford to ignore Schwarzenegger notwithstanding his sordid past.

As Robert Knight, director of the politically conservative Culture and Family Institute, would remark: "The president is a politician who is running for re-election, and given that California could be the key to 2004 and that the vote was resoundingly for Arnold, I don't think the president feels he is embracing Arnold in all of his manifestations."

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