‘I Used to Be in the Cool Business'

I just attended the opening of Gov. Schwarzenegger's new think tank at USC. The think tank is oriented toward the future and figuring out ways to harness local and regional governments, along with the private sector, non-profits and the academic world -- to address big global problems, from health care to climate change to political gridlock.

But the think tank launch was much more entertaining than all of that. Indeed, Schwarzenegger convened two panels of huge names -- one from politics, one from the entertainment industry -- to talk very broadly about change, and pose questions that the think tank might address.

The first panel consisted of four former governors -- Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Charlie Crist of Florida, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, and Schwarzenegger -- along with former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle and current U.S. Senator John McCain.

Their discussion could have been titled, "What the heck happened to politics?" They talked about how hard it has gotten to get things done -- and how much harder governance has become -- as a result of the media, partisanship, and the country's diversity.

The second panel consisted of big entertainment names -- Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, movie producer Brian Grazer, Lionsgate co-chairman Rob Friedman, Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer, and Schwarzenegger -- talking about how much difficult it's gotten to make films and entertainments given economic pressures, and the pressures from new and social media.

Iovine lamented that people began to offer him pity and condolences on the problems of the music industry, which he hates. "I used to be in the cool business," he said. The discussion could have been titled, "What the heck happened to Hollywood?"

After a day of this, the two questions: "What the heck happened to Hollywood?" and "What the heck happened to politics?" began to sound like one:

How do we preserve institutions and the good work they do in a flatter, more democratic world?

No one had any answers. But it was a big question -- one well worth the attention of a think tank backed by a movie star and former governor.

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