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Tom Ross: Life with Arnold

— My friend, Alvin, a wildlife biologist, just returned from 18 months spent hunting for a new species of lemurs in Madagascar. During that time, he was almost completely shut off from news of the outside world. He had learned of the war in Iraq, but very little else. Naturally, he was starved for current events and asked me to bring him up to date.

“Tell me, what are the real hot burner issues dominating the news today?” Alvin urged.

“You’re not going to believe this, Alvin,” I said, “but cable television news channels are devoting more time to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s run for governor of California than they are to the buildup to the presidential primaries!”



Alvin:

“Run for governor, I think I heard of that. Isn’t that Schwarzenegger’s new movie with Annette Benning?”



Tom:

“No Alvin, you don’t get it. This is reality I’m talking about.”

Alvin:

“Oh that’s right, Tom, I almost forgot! When I left for Madagascar that whole reality television craze was just building momentum. Let me guess what the premise of this new show is. FOX assembled a list of the 10 people least likely to be elected governor of California and brought them together to see if they could get their nomination petitions signed. I’ll bet their calling it, ‘Survivor Sacramento.’ Ha, ha.”

Tom:

“Alvin, you’ve been hanging out with lemurs for too long. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bad movie actor, is the frontrunner in the race to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he’s recalled from office.”

Alvin:

“You’re cracking me up, Tom. I wish you’d get to the real news, but I’ll play along for a little bit. Forget that before Schwarzenegger became a B movie actor, he prepared himself for a life in government by running for Mr. Olympia. You’ve overlooked the fact that when Ahnold played Ben Richards in “The Running Man,” one of his most memorable lines was, “I’m not into politics. I’m into survival.”

Tom:

“Score one for you Alvin, but you’ve forgotten that Schwarzenegger earned his degree in business from the University of Wisconsin in 1979. I would submit to you that the man is as good at dissecting a balance sheet as he is at cleaving evil-doers with a battle ax.

“And the fact is, Ahnold has begun to use some of his best movie lines in interviews with rapier-like effect. Just the other day, Larry King asked Ahnold a complex two-part question about where his campaign contributions are coming from, and how he would respond if Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton reduces California’s supply of water from the Colorado River. The guy didn’t bat an eye before regurgitating one of the lines he spoke when he played the warrior Kalidor in ‘Red Sonja’: ‘I’m no mercenary. Nobody pays me. And if I think somebody owes me something, I take it.'”

Alvin:

“Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, get serious! The guy can’t expect to become the next governor of a state with an economy bigger than the gross national product of Italy just by repeating his lines from old movies!”

Tom:

“I wouldn’t bet against it, Alvin. The other night, David Letterman asked Schwarzenegger what part of the campaign has been the most rewarding.

He slipped into his Conan the Barbarian personae for this pithy response: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women.”

Alvin:

“Lamentation of the women? That baloney might work on a late night talk show, Tom, but The Terminator is going to have to persuade the state Legislature to adopt his budget. He’ll have to learn the art of persuasion!”

Tom:

“Listen lemur-breath, you stayed in the jungle too long. It was the Terminator himself who once said, ‘I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.’ and I believe it was Maj. Dutch Schaefer who spoke the immortal lines, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

Alvin:

“Thomas, are you suggesting, even for a minute, that Ahnold would threaten the Legislature of the great state of California with violence?”

Tom:

“Alvin, I’ve finally run out of patience with you. Violence sells! When you’ve rented a few DVD’s and reacclimated to the real world, maybe we can talk again. In the meantime, all I can say is, hasta la vista, baby.”


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