Discouraged about recall lunacy? Look on the bright side

October 13, 2003|By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON - Feeling embarrassed that an actor and body-builder with no experience is going to govern the Golden State? Appalled at a recall campaign built on steroids, stardust and a platform that added up to three little words, Hasta la vista?

Well, I say snap out of it. Lighten up. Put on a happy face. This is the moment to remember the wisdom of that other California actor, governor and Republican, Ronald Reagan. It was Ronnie, after all, who described an optimist as someone who walked into a room full of horse manure and said cheerfully, "There must be a pony in here somewhere!"

Yessss. Somewhere in the recall election that hoisted Arnold Schwarzenegger by his own nerve and narcissism into the governor's office, there's got to be a pony. Somewhere in a campaign that gave a serial groper a pass for being "playful," there's gotta be a pack of ponies.

Pony One: OK, let's admit it. We won't have Gray Davis to kick around anymore. The recall is a rotten idea, but Mr. Davis is the guy whose neighbor donated $2,000 for the cause just to get rid of him. Mr. Davis is the guy who could, as Budd Schulberg once wrote, light up a room simply by leaving it. You go, Gray.

Pony Two: Remember when all else is done that this campaign gave Mary Carey a second career. The porn star and one of 135 candidates now understands the true beauty of politics. "Running for governor," she gushed, "I got to be on camera with my clothes on."

Pony Three: This campaign will keep poli-sci students and professors busy for the next three years. I can see the final exam question: "Exit polls show that (a) 51 percent of the voters said issues were the most important reason for their vote, and (b) 67 percent said Arnold avoided the issues. Explain how he won in 500 words or less."

Pony Four: There will be no more Terminator movies for three years. Need we say more?

Pony Five: We will no longer be subject to long, depressing disquisitions by the media on how Hollywood and Washington are morphing into one cult of celebrity, how reality and un-reality programs are getting harder to tell apart. The heck with K Street, and stop dreaming about President Bartlet. In this race, the audience, uh, voters, saw Pumping Iron as Pumping Politics. Folks, pick up your popcorn and your tax returns, it's over!

Pony Six: Did anyone notice that the local TV stations in California were actually covering politics? Kobe Bryant, where are you? On a milk carton? Could this become a habit? J. Lo, Ben, time to file papers, and I don't mean marriage announcements.

Pony Seven: We are now forever freed from feeling inferior to our European counterparts. On the morning after the election, the Austrian tourism bureau proclaimed that Arnold was now the most famous Austrian, having replaced that has-been hack, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Pony Eight: We can now look forward with malicious joy to the prospect of President Bush embracing a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control Republican married to a Kennedy. Can't you see Arnold arriving for his prime-time speech on terrorism at the Republican National Convention with all six Hummers?

Pony Nine: William Jefferson who? Here's to all those talk-show hosts who declared that feminism was dead when the leaders didn't want to impeach President Bill Clinton for consensual sleaziness. Now California has elected Arnold with a trail of nonconsensual gropers hanging onto his shoe. Talk, radio, talk!

Pony 10: So what if Maria Shriver is the new Tammy Wynette. There's always the Senate, right?

I realize that California is in deep weeds. But I can't help feeling the perverse pleasure of watching the supremely confident man from Muscle Beach stride onto the stage of Sacramento. "That's the way I always see my life. It's a big play," he once told Esquire. But what happens when you aren't in charge of the script?

Mr. Schwarzenegger promised to "kick some butt" in the capital - as opposed to grabbing it - and "terminate the budget" - as opposed to fixing it. Will our boy find that being governor is nowhere near as fun as playing governor?

Hey, call me Ms. Optimism. But if you're in need of another pony, I see one just over the horizon. It's called Recall II: the Sequel.

Ellen Goodman is a columnist for The Boston Globe and appears Mondays and Thursdays in The Sun.

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