Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2003 / 15 Elul, 5763

Lewis A. Fein

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Consumer Reports

Make Us Proud Again | Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly stronger than his political opponents. But is he smarter, more capable of developing and communicating a strategy of economic success and political stability? Is he prepared to accept - and are we as voters willing to overlook - the otherwise necessary traits of political courtship: position papers, debates, extended interviews, extemporaneous eloquence, calculated outrage and sustained momentum. For the Schwarzenegger campaign - a candidacy I initially dismissed, later reexamined, now accept and herein endorse - is the closest approximation of what California is, and what every other major candidate continues to ignore -- that California is an idea even more than a place, the intersection between promised land and fatal shore. Only Schwarzenegger respects this power, because he represents its most obvious truth: that to be a Californian - to absorb every vibe, aura, mantra and ethos - is, simply and quite rightly (and without embarrassment), the very reason California is the golden state.

Schwarzenegger's opponents may have a more resilient message, but they all lack a crucial theme. Any candidate can campaign against higher taxes or more restrictive license fees, but the ultimate winner is the man who not only fights in the arena but can find the forum's entrance . . . which is not within any press release, nor brightly underscored upon any map. For the path to victory - the journey from ambition to aspirant to executive occupant - begins first with a question that is rhetorical in construction and personal by design: What do you believe?

Arnold Schwarzenegger believes that California is a poor reflection of an obscured image -- greatness. Not mediocrity. Not the passive acceptance of mild economic change. Not resignation before trouble, or excuses against calamity. Not politics as usual!

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His opponents have a response that avoids greatness by embracing the gutter, a desperate act that ruins individual loss through the cheapest brand of political silence: the Holocaust. The use of a father's shameful service (Gustav Schwarzenegger's Nazi past) to destroy a son's abhorrence of and moral distance from evil, murderous, genocidal wrongs. And Schwarzenegger's opponents know this truth as plainly as Jews themselves should acknowledge - and as many Holocaust scholars readily concede - the difference between a madman's Austrian roots and a bodybuilder's Viennese accent.

Any person who ignores these facts belittles history's essence; any politician who excuses such behavior furthers evil's success, because the real crime is the refusal to distinguish between an actor who wears a brown shirt and a killer who owns one. And therein lies the difference between Schwarzenegger and his opponents: their perception ignores our reality; their hatred attacks Arnold's optimism. The choices here have no smog to obscure them, no lies to refute them.

Californians have a responsibility to replace grayness with hope, with the belief that California is not a political bookend to a nation struck by terror and cursed by darkness. In this contest, voters have a choice between disaster wrought by "experience" and economic success authored from strength. The candidate before us abandoned a past he did not choose to embrace a country he willingly loves. He may speak the words with difficulty, but the translation is clear:

Arnold for America, Californians for Arnold.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2003, Lewis A. Fein