First a disclaimer: I have never met Arnold Schwarzenegger, have never spoken to him, was never contacted by his political people, no one ever asked me to support him, or offered me money to do so. I supported him because I respect him and because I am convinced that he will be good for California. In fact, if I may brag just a little, I started predicting that he would be the next governor of California many months ago, when only a few hard-line nuts seriously considered that a recall could be successful. I didn't think/hope that Gray Davis would be recalled. I just was sure that Arnold would run and win the next race.
I knew a lot less about him at that time than I do now but one thing was clear: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a winner. Always has been and always will be. And he won on Tuesday by continuing to use his abilities, his intellect and his will. The fact that he has a world-class body and looks doesn't hurt, but I am convinced that a man with his mind, energy and drive could be confined to a wheelchair and still be a success.
Arnold came to America in 1968. He was 21 years old -- no money, no English, no education, no wealthy parents or friends to help him. And look at him now: a multimillionaire businessman, a movie superstar, married into American aristocracy, practically unlimited White House access by both Democrats and Republicans. He will be the governor of a state with a population four times that of his native Austria. Not too shabby, right?
Yes, when he arrived in the United States he already had a reputation as an up-and-coming bodybuilder, but obviously he had much more. After all, there are probably hundreds of bodybuilding champions and all they have are wonderful memories of past triumphs.
The Los Angeles Times, to put it mildly, is not overly sympathetic to Arnold. Its lengthy Schwarzenegger biography disdainfully noted, in an uppity sneer, that he had amassed a hodgepodge of credits in the 1970s by taking classes at Santa Monica college and UCLA extension classes. Excuuuse me? Is this something to be sneered at? He had the discipline and the will to workout hour after hour each day, tried out -- successfully -- for small parts in B-movies where his part had to be overdubbed in English and he still found time to study and amass enough credits to eventually get a degree in international business and economics from the University of Wisconsin in just one year. Many years later he was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater.
Arnold never looked back -- he concentrated on looking ahead, achieving and succeeding. He became a very successful real estate investor, a brilliant businessman, a philanthropist who gives many millions to charity and pays many millions in taxes every year. No, he didn't graduate from Yale or Harvard, and maybe that is a good thing when you consider some of their graduates.
The media persist in portraying him as a muscle-bound ignoramus, a show business shell with little substance. The media is wrong. Julia Roberts has been quoted as saying that, "Republican can be found in a dictionary between 'repulsive' and 'reptile.'"
I can't picture Arnold ever saying that a Democrat is between "despicable" and "disgusting." He has more class -- and brains.
A few weeks ago I was surfing the channels and came across an interview of a local state senator on Fox News. I didn't even hear the question that was asked, just the answer: "Do you really think that at a time when our budget deficit is $8 billion, that I should worry about an insignificant $10 million?"
Insignificant $10 million? And the reporter took it in stride. This is Sacramento's attitude to your dollars at work. Schwarzenegger had to work for every dollar he made. His attitude is different, and his abilities impressive.
I've long thought so, and now, it seems, millions of California voters agree.
Si Frumkin is chairman of the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews.