Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
The Terminator’s credibility is now totally terminated. Not since the execrable John Edwards have we seen a politician leave the public scene in such disgrace amid revelations that he betrayed supporters and his trusting family.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fall is a multiple-fronted debacle, including a lashing Supreme Court decision this week ordering mass releases from the state’s gulag-like prison system, even as he tries to put a smiley face on it that says “Cahlee-forniyah.”
Schwarzenegger long enjoyed the image of someone who was a charismatic, goal-driven person of character, and a skilled negotiator. In 2003 he survived “Los Angeles Times” allegations that he sexually harassed and molested women and was viewed as someone with instinctive political skills who cherished his picture-perfect family. These pillars of what seemingly made up Schwarzenegger now seem as authentic as the façade of a building on a Hollywood movie set blown up in one of his action movies.
In 8 years he has gone from being a 200 lb cinema and political gorilla to a chimpanzee that left political office with a 23 percent approval rating. He earned it.
For his book on Schwarzenegger’s earlier years, “Party of One,” the Sacramento Bee’s Daniel Weintraub interviewed me and concluded I was the quintessential California independent voter whose support for Schwarzenegger varied depending on his degree of partisanship. But, in the very end, I like many concluded there was little there there.
Schwarzenegger’s attempts to foster bipartisanship with GOP bigwigs by smoking cigars with them failed because he lacked professional political skills. He switched his Republican partisanship button on and off until he was disliked by Democrats, Republicans and independents. Despite environmental victories, he was as ineffective as the Democrat he replaced in the recall, Gray Davis. His personality became grating. He didn’t represent a third way in American politics but inept governance.
On his final day in office he outraged many remaining hardcore supporters by reducing the manslaughter sentence of the son of his political ally Fabian Nunez and kissed off critics. The recent news that he betrayed his well-liked wife Maria Shriver and had a “love child” then turned political toast into fine ash.
How bad was it? On Twitter, Schwarzenegger’s 17-year-old son Patrick changed his name from Patrick Schwarzenegger to Patrick Shriver. Daughter Katherine later deleted a Tweet saying she was ready to reconcile with him. Its clear Schwarzenegger’s two kids with Shriver still love him and it’s also clear they’re embarrassed by him.
He put his movie comeback plans on hold but how well can he fare? At 63 he now looks like Conan the Barbarian’s grizzled grandfather. Arnold can no longer coast on likability. And his stand-alone acting? It’s so wooden that my ventriloquist dummy watches him and yells: “Daddy!”
Since the news broke about his impending divorce pundits have used the line from Arnold’s movie: “I’ll be back.” But there are probably more Americans now who’d like to see Schwarzenegger go back anywhere but on the public stage.
Many Americans don’t want “Hasta la vista, baby” – – see you later baby. They want “Adios para siempre” – good bye forever. Knowing Hollywood, he will be back.
But the old Schwarzenegger “brand” and all the perceptions that entailed are gone — destroyed by Schwarzenegger’s hubris and his political and personal limitations forever.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.
Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman.