Did you or any Californians you know vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election because you thought it would be funny? Good for a laugh? The source of years of bad "Governator" jokes, and so on? Then you heard the campaign message clearly, because that's why Schwarzenegger chose to run, too.

Maybe he did occasionally want to effect political change during his terms as governor, even though there's not much a California governor can do. But at least when he decided to run, he was mostly trying to mindfuck a TV audience for his own amusement. That's the story he tells Michael Lewis for his latest Vanity Fair piece, about California's terrible problems:

If there had not been a popular movement to remove sitting governor Gray Davis and the chance to run for governor without having to endure a party primary, he never would have bothered. "The recall happens and people are asking me, ‘What are you going to do?' " he says, dodging vagrants and joggers along the beach bike path. "I thought about it but decided I wasn't going to do it. I told Maria I wasn't running. I told everyone I wasn't running. I wasn't running." Then, in the middle of the recall madness, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines opened. As the movie's leading machine, he was expected to appear on The Tonight Show to promote it. En route he experienced a familiar impulse-the impulse to do something out of the ordinary. "I just thought, This will freak everyone out," he says. "It'll be so funny. I'll announce that I am running. I told Leno I was running. And two months later I was governor." He looks over at me, pedaling as fast as I can to keep up with him, and laughs. "What the fuck is that?"

Why that's participatory democracy, sir! Let's ban it.

[via Ben Smith; image via AP]