Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Last Stand

The Terminator left Hollywood at his peak in 2003 to win a recall election as Governor of California. His premiere was SRO. He cut taxes, especially the despised car tax, and reined in spending. Pundits were speculating about amending the Constitution to let the Austrian-born citizen run for the Presidency.

He should have left the Governorship then. Instead, success fed his ego. Indeed, Californians learned he lives for acclaim. If the political winds change, then his politics change.

The Governator offers an important lesson for President Obama. You’re riding high, and it goes to your head. The lives of both have been an unparalleled success. Then the hubris kicks in.

The Governor was at a high 65% popularity rate when he derisively referred to picketing nurses outside a 10,000 woman conference in Long Beach: “Pay no interest … to special interests. I am always kicking their butts.”  He also called some politicians as “girlie men.”

The nurses kicked the Governator’s butt within a year. They defeated his four November 2005 ballot measures to reform California’s budget. The 65,000 California Nurses Association picketed him everywhere, including fundraisers in Boston and New York.

The New York fundraiser showed the movie brave Terminator desperately scampering for a refuge from the nurses. The nurses proved the Terminator lacked cojones. His body may have pumped up on steroids, and his head swelled, but his need for adoration trumped any political convictions.

Schwarzenegger shifted gears. He hired a partisan Democrat as his chief of staff, and then joined the tax and spend crowd in Sacramento, riding the state into economic chaos.  He did neither the citizens of California nor the California Republican Party any favors.

He left office a political failure, as well as the father of an illegitimate son by his housekeeper. The family resemblance is unmistakable. No DNA test is needed. Maria said “Hasta La Vista, Baby.”

The Governator replied “He’ll be back.”

And so he is in The Last Stand, which premiered last weekend. His film career picked up where his political career and personal life left off.

It bombed, coming in tenth with but $6.3 million in sales. Someone should tell The Terminator, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis that Americans are not interested in watching 65 year old paunchy action heroes. Unfortunately the trio will die hard, emulating Custer's Last Stand.

They should look to the 82 year old Clint Eastwood for guidance in selecting movies.

The Governator lost to a consummate, accomplished wispy actress, Jessica Chastain, who starred in the two biggest grossing movies, Mama with $28.1 million in receipts and Zero Dark Thirty with $17.6 million. She can act.

He accompanied the bomb with two statements. First, he defended movie violence, at which he excelled, as just being entertainment, and thus unrelated to violent shootings, and that he is still in love with Maria; he wants her back.

He failed a basic lesson. Kennedy men may cheat, but spouses of Kennedy women do not cheat on a Kennedy.

He should retire to the $20 million political think tank he recently endowed at USC. He could teach a course in “Lessons from Failures.”

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