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Sorry Arnold, No Two-Picture Deal

January 26, 2005|PATT MORRISON | Patt Morrison's e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com.

Now I know what was mighty enough to shove the Super Bowl from its hallowed last-Sunday-in-January perch: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead of watching an over-hyped, overpriced sporting event called the Super Bowl this weekend, Americans can watch a made-for-TV movie about an over-hyped, overpriced political event called "See Arnold Run."

The film account of how Schwarzenegger campaigned for his titles of Mr. Olympia and Mr. Governor should be worth watching if only to marvel at the likes of Cruz Bustamante and campaign consultants George Gorton and Don Sipple portrayed on film.

"See Arnold Run" will probably get decent numbers, which doesn't mean they'll ever make its natural sequel, "See Arnold Run California." Campaigning is thrilling and visual; governing is murky and equivocal. The Schwarzenegger quandary is that the more interest in government he generates, the more people take notice if -- when -- he screws up.

He may be the outsized outsider as a candidate, but even Schwarzenegger must fit into the constitutional paint-by-number outlines of governance. What producers will be clamoring for filmic moments like these, from Schwarzenegger's Sacramento?

* "Attack on the Girlie Men": When legislators, that other branch of government (remember them? You elected them too) balk at doing Schwarzenegger's bidding, the governor -- evidently too timid to just shoot up the Assembly -- threatens to go straight to the voters and call a $50- or $60-million election to get his way.

* "Conan vs. the RNs": To Schwarzenegger, bad-guy "special interests" are those that don't give money to his causes. At the annual governor's conference on women in December, he ridiculed as "special interests" nurses protesting his hospital staffing policies, and some women at the conference were dumb enough to cheer him instead of the women working among bedpans and blood.

* "Hope Sinks": Everything is under the dangling budget blade except tax breaks for the loaded. State workers who care for the old and infirm get wage cuts from $10-plus an hour to $6.75, minimum wage. But yacht buyers can keep ducking sales tax, and big companies can still move offshore and dodge paying what they owe the state. If you can buy a yacht, you can pay the flipping sales tax.

* "Worse Santa": Schwarzenegger plays Kris Kringle when the cameras are on and then leaves it to his staff to play Grinch afterward. He was all sympathy at La Conchita, promising the landslide-stricken townsfolk, "I'm going to help them so they can come back." Where's the money to make it happen? Maybe he wrote a personal check off camera.

* "Payday the 13th": Schwarzenegger hallelujahs government reform but talks over, under and around the biggest reform of all: Proposition 13, which sticks every new homeowner with bigger property taxes but uses a snake-oil-slick definition of "selling" to let businesses dodge reassessment even when they change hands. Disneyland pays about a nickel a square foot, Capitol Records pays about a dime -- and a brand-new homeowner may pay $2. Why should only murder and Prop. 13 have no statute of limitations?

* "Rich and Richer": Already slicker and quicker at fundraising than Gray Davis ever was, Schwarzenegger plans to finance his political will, and make an end run around campaign finance reform in spirit and letter, with a coalition of his friends called Citizens to Save California. It can legally rack up tens of millions on short notice for his initiatives so he can bang the celebrity drum and render the Legislature impotent (well, more impotent than it makes itself).

* "Throw the Endodontists From the Train": Schwarzenegger overrides his own reform commission to try to abolish the state's medical, dental and pharmacy boards but keep the California Film Commission, ornamented with his pals, like Clint Eastwood and Danny DeVito.

This year's list of Oscar nominations came down Tuesday morning. Schwarzenegger's name is not now nor has it ever been on that list. But after a life in pictures, the governor of California should have mastered one premise as well as -- perhaps better than -- any of the Academy's choices: Unless the original is a hit, you don't get a shot at a sequel.

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