Memo To: Arnold Schwarzenegger
From: Peter Bart
YOU’RE A SAVVY GUY, Arnold, and you’ll doubtless gather around you some sharp advisers. But since this column specializes in unsolicited advice, we want to offer up our thoughts about your gubernatorial race.
First, let’s confront the realities: The whole recall process is an exercise in anti-politics. That suits you fine since you should run as the anti-politician. That’s the closest thing to a win-win strategy I can think of.
And remember, you’re Mr. Autonomy, Arnold. Republicans like to idealize Ronald Reagan, but when he entered politics he was a “kept” man. His kitchen cabinet told him what to say and think, just as General Electric wrote all his lines a few years earlier. Arnold, I know you well enough to state definitively that no one tells you what to think, at risk to life and limb.
Another point: Don’t read anything that the Media Pundits write about you. They’re convinced you’re going to make some astonishing gaffe that will terminate your campaign. Remember, they’re desperate for material. And since you’re a Hollywood figure, they need “funny” material. “Can the man who impersonated a robot beat the governor who acts like one?” That’s their idea of a hot line — almost every paper in the world has already recycled it.
EVERYONE SAYS THERE have to be debates. Where does that come from? Is there some hidden item in the Constitution? My advice to you is to avoid debates, Arnold. If you debate Gray Davis, you’ll have trouble staying awake, and so will your audience. The only possible exception would be a debate with Arianna Huffington. That would at least have entertainment value, with or without subtitles.
Which brings us to an important precept: In the past, Arnold, you have occasionally been guilty of over-selling. In your ardor to support your movies, you’ve sometimes given too many interviews and raised hyperbole to new levels. You made “Last Action Hero” sound like “Gone With the Wind.” So during this campaign, cool it, Arnold. Remember, less is more.
And don’t even go near the negative campaigning that Gray Davis and his ilk specialize in. He’s been on the “low road” so long, he couldn’t even find a high road on the political map. Stay above it all, Arnold. No one wants to hear the garbage.
AND DON’T FEEL diffident about letting the creative community sing your praises. The Bushies are convinced that everyone in Hollywood is a Streisand liberal, so an outpouring of support for you would be a deft maneuver. I’ve talked to many individuals — directors and actors alike –who have worked with you, and you are one of the few stars around who has left an abundance of good feeling in your wake. That’s a wonderful resource — use it well.
If Gray Davis gets desperate — and he will — his secret weapon, Hillary Clinton, may make an appearance in the state. If that happens, Arnold, buy her a McCarthy salad at the Polo Lounge or a schnitzel at your restaurant in Venice. She’ll realize you’re a lot better company than the governor and may end up campaigning for you.
Remember, you can only beat yourself, Arnold. Hold to the message: You’re the humble guy from Europe who made it big in the U.S. Sure, you’re an “invented” man, but you’re self-invented — some political machine didn’t create you.
I think you’re going to win. And if you do, one last bit of advice: If they try to recall you a year from now, terminate them.