BY INGA BARKS Contributing columnist
Regardless of your politics, President Obama had a bad debate. For many liberal pundits and fans, it came as a shock that this unique and splendid specimen of a genius president had a bit of a "hiccup," if you will.
To conservatives it wasn't a surprise at all. In fact, we were more shocked at Romney's stellar performance than we were shocked that Obama can't defend his own economic policies.
But I'll leave that for the pundits.
Wednesday's debate came on the heels of the release of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's unfortunate tell-all book with the creative and original title "Total Recall," in which he chronicles his marriage, his governorship and his ... wondering eye (and other body parts). As we watch this man who was once the equivalent of an arena rock star, now turned lounge singer, we see the similarities between Obama and the former governor.
Now bear with me here.
Schwarzenegger was a surprise candidate when he ran for governor. Not to say that we didn't know who he was. But there were no rumblings that he was looking for a gig as an elected.
He, like Obama, was known in his own circles for who he was. But on the political front, he sort of came out of nowhere and was immediately embraced as the end-all. The hope we were all looking for!
Once Schwarzenegger announced he was running, it didn't matter who else was qualified or who else was in the race. Just like poor Hillary Clinton, candidates of substance like now-Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Sacramento, were constantly described as being more qualified but "couldn't win."
So, Republicans in California threw loyalty out the window and suspended logic in the hopes that the "shiny object" would win, help other Republicans win, and raise lots and lots of money for the party.
(What, you thought Schwarzenegger and Obama were loved by other politicians because of their political acumen? Please!)
Like Obama with "hope and change," throngs of frenzied flocks gathered to hear Schwarzenegger utter the words "I'll be back."
And when Schwarzenegger won, the universe rejoiced. He became the most popular governor to hang out with. Suddenly, local politicians couldn't keep themselves from name-dropping, and the media was so in love with the movie star governor that it didn't dare throw anything but softballs during interviews.
It was Schwarzenegger this and Schwarzenegger that. Before long, Gov. Schwarzenegger was being hailed internationally just for being him! He was on magazine covers and asked for interviews around the country and speaking engagements around the world. But for all the fanfare outside California, the shine was coming off for those within its borders.
Despite his calls for bi-partisanship, Schwarzenegger couldn't get the two sides to meet. He couldn't get a balanced budget, and by the end of his term in the governor's office, he had seen us go from the 5th largest economy in the world to the 8th.
His overreaching global warming regulations had driven businesses and jobs out of the state, he had failed to pass true reforms in California because of pushback from state employee unions, and he failed to get a tax increase to cover what he had always called a "spending problem, not a revenue problem" because of pushback from his own party.
He was mostly ineffective. Sound familiar?
Like Schwarzenegger's green initiative, Obama has managed one giant success in the Affordable Care Act. Critics of both feared the worst for our economy, but that mattered little.
Certainly Schwarzenegger's legacy isn't one of making California a better place. In fact, he left it in worse shape than he found it! All this from a man who got elected not because of his policy genius or political savvy but because he, like Obama, was different.
New and fresh. Charming, handsome and a little politically sexy. Like Obama, he had clingers-on who wanted him elected so they could ride his coattails. And because he was a veritable rock star, he found himself surrounded by worshippers and yes men.
Which brings us to Obama in the recent debate. He was as shocked as Schwarzenegger was when he didn't get his 2005 reforms passed. How could this happen? He's adored! Everyone tells him how wonderful and smart he is. NO one interrupts him. He owns the room!
At least that's what his staff, advisors and elite movie stars tell him.
I could go on with the comparisons between these two, but you get the point.
To my Democrat friends, I caution: The legacy of the shiny object might be very disappointing and less substantial than you'd hoped. To my Republican friends, don't get too haughty over one debate victory. Remember, California's shiny object won re-election even as the shine was coming off.
-- Inga Barks, who hosts a talk show on KMJ AM 580, is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are Barks' opinions, not necessarily The Californian's. Next week: Ric Llewellyn.