Vol. 2, Issue 28, July 20, 2004
Californians Taken Aback by Governor's Strongarm Tactics
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was swept into office as governor of California last year in a special election, people expected changes. His magnanimous smile and easy confidence heralded a colorful administration in touch with the people; Schwarzenegger's outsider status was seen as a welcome change from career politician Gray Davis.
"He was a real 'compassionate conservative,' it made me so happy when he won," said Sacramento republican Tricia Markham. "But my goodness! I wasn't expecting this."
Astonishingly, the seemingly mild-mannered candidate has made substantial waves in Sacramento by using what some are calling "strongarm tactics," routinely defying Sacramento's most venerable political institutions and stubbornly pushing the Legislature to accept budget compromises which would have been unthinkable under previous administrations.
"I was anticipating more of the warm, paternal presence which we all saw in "Kindergarten Cop," but instead he's become some kind of terminator-type machine rolling over his opponents," said Markham. "And did you know he rides a motorcycle? I didn't know that before the election. What other secrets is he hiding?"
The charming star of such lighthearted movies as "Twins," "Junior," and "Jingle All the Way" has a macho streak, it turns out, and he is not ashamed to admit it.
"I enjoy smoking cigars," said an unrepentant Schwarzenegger to an assembly of shocked journalists at a rally the other week. "I spend a lot of time in the gym, too. What are you going to do about it?"
Some have speculated that the governor has focused on physical fitness so much in an effort to look more like fellow Republican President Bush, who is known for his daily workouts and sharp criticism of those who neglect their physique. But others note that there were signs of Schwarzenegger's machismo well before he took office.
"He starred in an obscure historical epic in 1982 which actually contained a fair amount of violence," said Jerry Vance of the Public Policy Institute of California. "Moreover, rumor has it that Schwarzenegger was apparently a bit of a Romeo in his youth, although none of the details have come to light for the voters to consider."
Californians are still not sure what to make of the congenial movie star's unexpected belligerence and cast-iron determination. In fact, when it was reported that Schwarzenegger had called Democrats in the Legislature "girlie-men" for their unwillingness to stand up to special interest groups, many assumed the media reports were incorrect.
"I still can't believe he said that," said Markham. "Are you sure he didn't say "curly men," or "gracious men," or something like that? It just seems so out of character for him."