Capitol Punishment

How Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped worrying and learned to love selling out to special interests

I was already back home from three days in Sacramento when Jennifer in the governor's press office called about my credential.

"We were only able to find two articles where you actually covered the governor at an event,"she said.

That meant that someone in the governor's press office had waded through the 23 Nexised stories where I've written about Arnold Schwarzenegger, in order to find the two where I'd actually seen him in person. And that meant that the goodly folks in the governor's press office had gotten an eyeful of stories like this one:

"When Arnold Schwarzenegger talks, I listen. Well, I mean, sometimes I listen. Sometimes I just stare off into space and wonder what would happen if you put a cheeseburger in front of Maria Shriver. Or a plump baby. Actually, come to think of it, I really don't listen at all."

Or:

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected governor of the golden dream by the sea. He reneges on every campaign promise he can remember making, and then reneges on other candidates' promises for good measure. Everyone is thrilled to pieces and blames the legislature, except Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-The Taliban), who blames Bill Clinton."

Here's one:

"A sex scandal could never sink our good Governor Schwarzenegger, though not for his lack of trying. And I'd still sleep with him before I slept with Kevin Federline, though I have to say: not happily."

And here's my personal fave:

"Hey, you know who's charming? Arnold Schwarzenegger! He's so charming! I think it's especially charming how the emcees at his events goad the mobs to 'find the guy from the LosAngelesTimesand beat him up!' Ha! That is hilarious! It is so very funny—especially when you consider how very easy it is to sway and incite the kinds of folk who would show up for an Arnold rally. By which I mean they are simple-minded and stupid. Thank you.

"Hey, here's a funny one the emcees should try: 'Find the shops of the Jews and break all the windows, and in the morning, we will round them up and put them on the trains! Ha, ha, just kidding!' Thank you. You know what's even more charming than that? How Arnold grabs the breasts of the women and says to them, 'Have you ever had a man slide his tongue up your ass?' and all of these things. No, I'm not bothering to put allegedly.

"Sue me."

I've always found that one to be especiallywell-put! * * *

"It'll be you trying to get an interview with the governor," my editor was saying. "It'll be great!"

It would not be great. Do you really think Arnold Schwarzenegger's people will let him be interviewed by any media besides talk radio demagogues John & Ken? And even if he was the free and easy open-government type—and even if he wasn't now so sought-after by the media that he has to hold his pressers in the ConventionCenter—doyou really think they'd let him get within a hundred yards of me?Now, with Schwarzenegger's approval ratings sliding to Bush-like lows, and the media licking its chops in slavering glee, I can't even get Schwarzenegger's guy on the phone—a guy I've known for probably three years now, a guy near whom I've attended weddings and funerals and brisses (actually, not funerals and brisses).

And what if the governor tried to touch my boobs? If the governor said something about his tongue and my bottom, and I decked him in his oversized noggin, would I go to jail?

Still, I love Sacramento, being a total power slut and all, and the city itself is just flat gorgeous. Have you ever seen the Capitol park in spring? No? Don't you wantto fall in love? I started to warm to the discomfiting idea. I could hang out with my favorite communist state senator, Gil Cedillo, who is sexy, like Al Pacino, and is a communist!

"Just so you know," my boss told me, "I'm not sending you up there to hang out with Gil Cedillo. You're going up there to work."

Oh.

* * *

Forty-five minutes after I'd checked into my hotel, I was sucking down an Absolut rocks (with a twist) at Chops, formerly the venerable Brannan's. It still has the dark woods and orchids, but they've 86ed the Pat Brown posters and the sad, defeatist "George McGovern: It's Time We Won."

This was my grand scheme: to dine at the places the governor might dine (Chops, Frank Fat's and the Esquire Grill) and ambush him with my delightfulness. I would be polite, certainly, while asking such brain-ticklers as "Knowing what you now do about the state of the budget, and how the shortfall could not have been easily made up, as you'd said it would, by forensic accounting to eliminate waste and fraud, would you still have supported Gray Davis' recall?" and he would enjoy knocking brains with me. Clearly, going through his office was going to be an embarrassing waste of time for everyone involved.

But I bet I could find him at Chops.

* * *

I don't find him at Chops. But I'm having a delightful conversation with a teachers' union lobbyist about pensions and tenure—nobody's all that het up about Schwarzenegger's plan to raise the requirement for tenure from two years to five, the only part of his education proposal, which he's been trying to put on the ballot, still standing—and am soon being circled by legislative staffers in sharp suits and former Jerry Brown appointees. I don't think Sacramento has very many girls.

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