Friday, 25 May 2007

The Governator

Now, I'll admit it, when Arnie won the the race to become Governor of california, the fifth largest economy of the world, I really did think it represented an all time low in American politics, the final dirty triumph of celebrity soundbite and photoshoot politics. I struggled to understand just how the people of California could elect the same man who ran around in a loin cloth and big sword, chopping off peoples heads, pillaging villages and shagging nubile barbarian women. I didn't think it boded particularly well for the future, especially combined with with G. Dubya at the national helm.

And yet, in spite of all that initial misgiving, I can only say that I'm deeply impressed by the man. Whilst nominally a Republican, he's a Californian first and foremost, and that means liberal with a small L. He's pro choice and pro gay rights, and in July this year even signed a further $150m to stem cell research after Bush's veto of a bill that would allow federal funding. He's raised the minimum wage from $6.75 to $8.50, and perhaps most importantly for me, behind the image of the cigar smoking Hummer driver, someone who is really actually rather radically green in his agenda.

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For example, just today Schwarzenegger and fellow Republican Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut accused the U.S. government on Monday of "inaction and denial" on global warming.

"It's bad enough that the federal government has yet to take the threat of global warming seriously, but it borders on malfeasance for it to block the efforts of states such as California and Connecticut that are trying to protect the public's health and welfare," the governors wrote in The Washington Post.

California is leading the US now on climate change issues, and where it goes, the rest of the country tends to follow. In September, he signed a bill to reduce the states greenhouse gas emissions by 25% over the next 20 years, stating that "We simply must do everything we can in our power to slow down global warming before it is too late... The science is clear. The global warming debate is over."

So whats going on here? Well, it seems clear, when you strip away the Hollywood persona, that Arnold is no chump. Here is a guy who was born into a small backward Austrian town, to a drunken Nazi father, and used body building to get to America, won Mr. Olympia six times in a row, and became probably one of the biggest film stars of the last couple decades. Behind the muscles, chiseled jaw line and thick accent, there is a shrewd business man and entepreneur, and one who, it seems, has a great deal more awareness, foresight and vision then anyone, including this humble fan, gave him credit for.

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