You probably saw the story about Schwarzenegger’s lead in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. But did you click on the poll results? That’s where the truly disheartening news is: When asked, “do you regard Arnold Schwarzenegger as a candidate who deserves to be taken seriously or do you regard Arnold Schwarzenegger's candidacy as a joke?,” 73% of registered California voters said, “Taken seriously.” Among likely voters -- you know, the people who are usually considered more civic-minded and responsible -- the percentage who take Schwarzenegger seriously is even higher: 78%. When asked whether or not “Schwarzenegger would do a better job or a worse job than someone who had a career as an elected public official,” 52% of registered California voters (and 58% of likely voters) have no doubts whatsoever -- they say “Better.”
Well, that’s how Americans think, isn’t it? We don’t care about qualifications. We just trust cocky, swaggering, belligerent maleness. We figure that if you’ve mastered that, you’re qualified to do anything you feel like doing.
This is why George W. Bush is president. He didn’t know the head of the government of Pakistan; America didn’t care. He was a well-to-do smart-ass with high self-esteem and a BMOC smirk, and so America -- or at least 48% of those who voted in 2000 -- thought he was a straight shooter. And 9/11 and its aftermath have made him seem like even more of a straight shooter. We don’t even care if he misses all the time -- Osama, Saddam, the anthrax killer -- or shoots at nonexistent targets -- Saddam’s chemical weapons, Saddam’s biological weapons, Saddam’s nuclear weapons -- just as long as he keeps shooting straight.