William F. Buckley, Jr. apparently thinks so, citing Jerry Brown:

Everyone in the United States, it seems, has commented on the California scene. The insight of Jerry Brown warrants attention. Mr. Brown is a little screwy but very bright, and did two terms as governor. To skeptics he said: “It’s obvious Schwarzenegger is qualified. I mean, what does it take to become a governor? I’ve been there; I’ve known all the governors since Earl Warren’s time. And basically, if you have above-average intelligence, you have common sense, and you can speak in front of a camera and to a crowd, you can govern the state. I mean, after all, the governing process includes the legislature, a very competent civil service, and all sorts of rules and regulations that guide the state on its way. The whole thing about experience is a canard.”

Interesting. I admit that it is counterintuitive to think that an “outsider” could plausibly serve as governor. But it’s hardly unprecedented. Many states elect governors who have never before held political office; usually they are businessmen rather than entertainers, of course. Similarly, many people are elected to the U.S. Senate as their first political office.

As Steven Taylor, from whom I found the Buckley cite, notes:

a) government is not, nor should be, the domain solely of “professionals” and b) when one elects a chief executive, one elects a team, not just one super-genius guy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chuck says:

    The meme is that Arnold is “just” an entertainer. That’s simply not true. Aside from his MBA, he is a multi-millionaire through his own efforts in business, in real estate development and other businesses. While the notion that he came to America with $20 in his pocket is just a little too self-serving, he did go from near penniless immigrant to very wealthy through hard work, and business savvy.

  2. John says:

    True enough. But politics is hard, non-obvious work. Every “outsider” thinks they can do better at pretty much any particular field. It’s the armchair quarterback syndrome. And they’re not always wrong. But when someone isn’t willing to tell you their plan, all you got left is faith. Sure, it’s the team that matters, but we have jack knowledge about that as well. Is Buffet and the others staying on? Who would he replace them with? Inquiring minds want to know.

    I have no problem with the outsiders, but they have a higher burden of proof in my mind. And Arnie isn’t even trying to convince me or anyone else that he knows what he’s doing. He’s appealing to the lizard brain and that’s all well and good. But I’ve been burned many times in business by likable people who seem to share my philosophy who turn out to be incompetent boobs. As someone I once voted for said “trust, but verify”.

  3. James Joyner says:


    True enough. My guess–and it is only that–is that Arnold will be more forthcoming closer to the election. It’s probably not very sound strategy to show your hand very early, as it gives the opposition more time to attack.

  4. John says:

    He’s a multi-millionaire strictly through the multi-million dollar movie contracts he has gotten in the past.. As a great sage once said: “turning $1,000 into $1,100 takes hard work. Turning $10,000,000 into $11,000,000 is inevitable. Hey, I was an Arnie fan ever since high school when he was just starting out. He’s an amazing guy. But I know a boatload of MBAs that I certainly don’t want running my business, much less the business of the 5th largest economy. And just because he’s taken his multi-millions and had them managed into growth isn’t a sign of brilliance – rather just a good financial manager he hired.

  5. John says:

    Well, I agree it’s a good election strategy James, but not a great strategy for me the voter. Part and parcell of having ideas is to have them critisized. I wonder if there’s a similar strategy with peer reviewed papers in academia? <heh>

  6. James Joyner says:

    Well, most voters aren’t paying that much attention right now, anyway. Right now, Arnold has to weather attacks from both sides, something Bustamonte doesn’t have to worry about. So playing it close to the vest is smart. And, even if the policies are sound, having them demagogued by the Davis machine for two months is tough to survive.

  7. I agree absolutely with what Jerry Brown says.

    The unfortunate part is that there are so many thousands of other jobs in the economy where it is also the case that any person of above average intelligence can do the job, but try telling that to a prospective employer when you are the person who doesn’t have the necessary experience.

    It seems to be an unchallengable dogma among HR professionals that learning is not transferable. It seems to me that they will always pick a person with a C or D average in a relevant field over a person with an A average in a different one.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Graham: Unfortunately, that does seem to be the case.

  9. Hermetic says:

    John, Schwarzenegger was a millionaire before his movie career (other than Hercules Goes Bananas and Pumping Iron) took off. He owned a chain of body-building gyms in California before he started to concentrate on acting.

  10. John says:

    I just think it’s going to be really funny hearing during the Presidential race next year that experience matters when everyone is now saying that it doesn’t. Kind of like the surplus and the deficit – it matters in California, but you can bet your bottom dollar it doesn’t matter in the Presidential race. Keep twisting, guys. ‘s fun to watch.