Maybe California weirdness is normal
Commentary by Pat Murphy
Muscle power is trumping brainpower in
When President Bush completed his annual
physical a few days back, doctors reported he’d put on five pounds, quickly
adding it was new "muscle."
Then this week, the inevitable: Hong
Kong-based Blue Box Toys plans to market a $39.95 jaunty military action figure
of "Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush—U.S. President and Naval Aviator" in a
jet flight suit to commemorate the commander-in-chief’s landing on the aircraft
carrier Abraham Lincoln. (Brain not included.)
And what pray is celebrity titan Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s appeal as possibly the next governor of Caly-phorniya (Arnie’s
pronunciation of the name)? His iconic image as the oiled-up, bare-chested
he-man Terminator, not as a policy wonk.
There’s more to this creeping muscle
theme. President Bush adds hints of muscle in his daily duties--taking the
nation to war, leaping macho-like out of a jet after an aircraft carrier
landing, daring Iraqi terrorists to "Bring ’em on!" to tangle with American GIs,
telling the United Nations to stuff it, etc.
For his part, Arnie deals with
Caly-phorniya problems with rhetorical sinew if not logic: "Hasta la vista,
baby!" Goodbye problems.
(He’s yet to deal with his starkest
inconsistency: he calls Caly-phorniya’s $38 billion budget deficit a crisis, but
presumably finds no fault in President Bush’s $400 billion-plus-and-counting
My longtime Pulitzer cartoonist friend,
Steve Benson, of The Arizona Republic, found irony in the Caly-phorniya recall
circus--a drawing of Gov. Gray Davis and his possible ouster labeled "Gray
Matter" alongside a muscle-headed image of Schwarzenegger labeled "Lack of Gray
If muscle is the metaphor for Republicans,
then Gov. Davis is the perfect metaphor for Democratic Party
image--narcissistic, dull, bland, wimpy, uninspired; a perfect match with party
leaders: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who needs periodic pulse checks to
see if he’s alive; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a late, late bloomer with
no signs of ever blooming, and DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, still whining about
the 2000 election results.
Strange bedfellows literally also are
found in this year’s politics. Republican Schwarzenegger is married into the
Kennedy clan via his Democrat wife, Maria Schriver, and Democrat presidential
wannabe John Kerry’s wife, Teresa, was a Republican until she recently changed
Political skills? Irrelevant.
Schwarzenegger’s $300 million wealth surely is as much evidence of his ability
to be Caly-phorniya governor as onetime baseball team owner George W. Bush, who
became Texas’ chief executive and then moved on to the White House.
Eloquence? Unimportant. Schwarzenegger’s
Austrian-accented English is less mangled than the president’s occasional
Topping off oddball elements of
Caly-phorniya’s political sideshow is the state’s use of punch card ballots for
the recall election in many voting districts, the same as those used in
Florida’s disputed 2000 presidential election.
Wouldn’t it be something if the
Caly-phorniya’s recall results were challenged and would up for a final decision
in the U.S. Supreme Court?