Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2003/ 19 Tishrei, 5764

Wesley Pruden

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Waiting to amend the Constitution | A little success in politics can turn the most sober among us giddy, even silly. Politicians and pundits quickly go a little "off," like shrimp left out of the refrigerator over a hot summer's night.

The election of Arnold Schwarzenegger may change many things. So far the only change is in the governor's office in Sacramento.

Nevertheless, some Republicans are running a fever. Some of them even want to amend the Constitution to enable Arnold, who has yet to get the keys to the gubernatorial limousine, to ascend to the White House. "Terminator III," "IV" and "V" won't have to be merely movies, but the drama of real life.

This enthusiasm, like that of giddy teenagers squealing at the sight of Britney Spears, is probably hysteria of the moment. Most of the giddy Republicans will feel better in the morning. But the expectations raised for Arnold Schwarzenegger are not the hysteria of the moment. Some usually sane heads seem to imagine that if we can get the Constitution amended by Christmas and Arnold cures everything that ails California by New Year's Eve, the Terminator would still have time to file for president in time for the New Hampshire primary even if he misses the Iowa caucuses.

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The first actual result of the Terminator's success on Oct. 7 may be to put to rest the feminist intimidation of the brave men in public life who are so terrified of being falsely accused of "sexism" that they pretend they haven't noticed that men and women are different, that they look different, act different and even have different abilities.

Arnold is not the first celebrity who ever pinched an attractive bottom and lived to pinch again. Enrico Caruso was famously arrested for pinching a lady in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo in 1906 and was bailed out of jail by the Metropolitan Opera. But the California result is not a blow for harassing women, however, and the next pol who tries it had better be a president or a movie star, or he will see how irrelevant the Schwarzenegger precedent really is.

What makes Arnold a different kind of Republican is that he won't have to "grow" in office. A Republican officeholder typically comes to town so terrified of contact sports that his idea of the route to success is to look and act like the Democrat he has just defeated. Hence the party's traditional campaign slogan: "Vote Republican, we're not as bad as you think." Arnold, on the other hand, comes already fully grown.

Some of the Republicans with the fever to amend the Constitution won't be as offended by the "fully grown" Arnold as other conservative Republicans when the new governor works to enact some of the things dearest to the hearts of California liberals, such as civil unions for homosexuals, loosening of control of immigration and the further Hollywoodification of the culture.

Some skeptics, not all of them Democrats, suggest that the Terminator is just another Bubba from Hot Springs, only with rhinestones. "Republican leaders became exactly what they opposed during the Clinton years," writes George Neumayr, managing editor of the American Spectator, the magazine whose reporting first identified Bill Clinton as the voluptuary-in-chief. "Excuse-making, shoot-the-messenger shills for a law-breaking libertine. For the sake of one cheap win, Republicans embraced a Clinton charmer credibly accused of groping up to 15 women (at last count). Where is the honor in this victory? Where even is the pragmatism?"

There are in truth one or two superficial similarities. The Terminator's promise to investigate himself after the election echoes Bill Clinton's famous caution, after the first Monica disclosures, that he shouldn't make a judgment about what his behavior was "until we get all the facts." If these worthies don't know "the facts," who will?

But there are profound differences, too, clearly perceived, and Arnold, like Bill before him, gets the benefit of having been cut a little slack. If he succeeds as governor of California the grousing about the groping will fade quickly into the memory hole, like the plot of a bad movie. He will even get the benefit of a modest definition of "success." But amending the Constitution can wait until the fever cools.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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