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'Running Man' Schwarzenegger poised to 'Terminate' Gray Davis
By Carol Devine-Molin
Forget the conventional wisdom of the chattering classes! During the run-up to Arnold Schwarzenegger's bombshell announcement, political pundits of all stripes continued to echo the nonsense that Schwarzenegger had decided against a run for the governorship in California's upcoming recall election, and would instead opt to support Richard Riordan for the political hotspot. But Schwarzenegger fooled them all! The political landscape was turned topsy-turvy as the superstar declared his gubernatorial bid on the Tonight show. And, in fact, it's former Las Angeles mayor Richard Riordan who is supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger's candidacy, not the other way around.
Schwarzenegger smartly decided to grab the golden opportunity served up on a platter. As it stands now, barring any major changes generated by court action, Schwarzenegger will only have to navigate a short campaign season of two months duration, culminating in a fall 2003 recall election now slated for October 7th. It's an ideal situation for a well-known candidate such as Schwarzenegger who wishes to launch a political career without all the fuss and muss of a long, punishing and expensive campaign season. The 56 year old superstar has voiced interest in a political career on numerous occasions, and he's always had the courage and inclination to step-up-to-the-plate and reinvent himself as propitious circumstances presented.
Announcing his candidacy on the Tonight show, Schwarzenegger lauded his wife Maria Shriver who is "one hundred percent supportive" of his decision, as are his children. Schwarzenegger sadly noted that things were so much better when he first moved out to California, before this current era of burgeoning deficits and fiscal problems. He asserted that now the "atmosphere is disastrous", although "the people are doing their job…the politicians are not doing their job". After generalizing about politicians that are "fiddling, fumbling and failing" as California slides into the abyss, Schwarzenegger quickly zeroed in on the most egregious culprit of the current economic crisis, Governor Gray Davis. And Schwarzenegger has continued to underscore that "leadership" is key to enacting needed reforms, and he is well-capable of providing that salient political leadership.
Schwarzenegger cogently promises to "clean house" and straighten out the current mess that involves an almost unbelievable $38 billion deficit. Schwarzenegger's remarks make clear that he will focus upon overhauling California's "business engine" for the purpose of engendering a "business friendly" atmosphere and concomitant job creation. And, of course, he talks about improving the state's education system and providing after-school programs for youth, matters which have been of utmost importance to him over the past few years.
However, Schwarzenegger is quickly moving beyond merely defining the key issues in California, which are the abysmal economy and lousy public schools that give short-shrift to the children. He's now surrounding himself with former governor Pete Wilson's political strategists and consultants who are there to help him formulate the nuts and bolts of policy and a comprehensive campaign message. It almost goes without saying that California has been a bastion of ultra-liberalism, a stronghold for Democratic forces. The GOP desperately needs one of its own to break through and capture high office in California, someone to re-jigger the equation that will create a new dynamic in both state and national politics. I'm sorry to write off prior gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, but he's not going to be able to pull it off in this recall election -- he had his chance last year. For the GOP, Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably the best hope.
I'm glad I tuned into CNN as the Schwarzenegger story first hit the airwaves last week. It was worth it just to savor the expressions of shock and poorly masked disappointment on the faces of the left-leaning CNN broadcasters, particularly those of political analysts Bill Schneider and Jeff Greenfield. Not surprisingly, Schneider tried to downplay Schwarzenegger's chances of winning, as he claimed that public opinion in California reflected a decided lack of enthusiasm for a Schwarzenegger candidacy. I would bet that Schneider's polling results were from some liberal rag such as the Los Angeles Times. And Jeff Greenfield averred that Schwarzenegger still has to establish "credibility".
What is Greenfield talking about? Arnold Schwarzenegger is much more than a highly charismatic, fabulously wealthy cinema-star with a university degree in economics. He's a shrewd entrepreneur and businessman who parlayed his humble beginnings as a body-building into fame and fortune. In fact, Schwarzenegger's life represents the quintessential American success story. Besides, he's been in and around politics for many years as an activist for underprivileged children and the disabled (Inner City Games, Special Olympics, after-school initiatives, etc.) and a supporter of various Republican candidates. When questioned on his credentials, Schwarzenegger states, "I speak directly to the people…They want to have someone who will represent them".
Schwarzenegger has wisely positioned himself as a "political outsider", which is a considerably more positive notion than a "professional politician" embodied by Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger views himself as a populist candidate – a citizen-candidate who felt compelled to come forward and address the overwhelming difficulties exerting a death grip on the state of California. Schwarzenegger's overall political stance and persona should be notably appealing to the California citizenry.
As to the Democrats that are squawking that Schwarzenegger is bereft of elective experience, those same partisans sang a considerably different tune when Hillary Clinton campaigned for Senate office in New York. They pooh-poohed the fact that Mrs. Clinton: a) rode in on her husband's coattails, b) never lived in New York State prior to running for office, c) never held elective office, not even that of local dog-catcher, and, d) failed horribly in attempts to tackle two pivotal issues assigned to her by her husband, Bill Clinton, regarding the poorly-rated Arkansas education system and national health care. By all rights, the New York electorate should have diligently rejected the Senate bid of a woman who tried to foist an onerous system of socialized medicine upon America. But, of course, the New York electorate is terribly left-leaning, and the citizens immediately embraced an ideological soulmate without hesitation.
The truth is that the Democratic Party, more aptly recognized as the entrenched liberal party, is deathly afraid of Schwarzenegger who will energize this race like no other candidate – and he will inevitably draw cogent fire from the Democrats who understand he is the man to beat. Make no mistake; Schwarzenegger is not only viable, he is now the leading contender whose message will resonate particularly among the young voters that already adore him. I'm sanguine that he'll capture the right-leaning and independent voters, as well. According to a just released CNN/Time poll, Arnold Schwarzenegger significantly leads the pack of numerous candidates with support of 25 percent of California voters, followed by Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamanate with 15 percent. Bill Simon trails far behind with only 7 percent support.
The momentum has already begun. Schwarzenegger has well-respected California Republicans such as Pete Wilson and Richard Riordan in his corner. As reported by Fox News, Schwarzenegger is starting to pick up endorsements from other high-profile state Republicans such as congressional representatives Mary Bono, David Dreier and Dana Rohrabacher. Former congressman Michael Huffington has decided not to run in the recall election, throwing his support to Schwarzenegger as well. And Congressman Darrell Issa, the politico who spearheaded the recall petition drive, has altogether dropped out of the race, a clear indication that he is deferring to the Schwarzenegger candidacy. Furthermore, as icing on the cake, President Bush recently stated that Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a "good governor". The Republican Party appears poised to coalesce around the Schwarzenegger candidacy.
Moreover, the Democrats have yet to field a strong candidate for the October 7th recall slate. Their best hope, Senator Diane Feinstein, refused to eschew her senior senate position in favor of a gubernatorial run. And bucking the party's political machine, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante broke with his Democratic compadre Governor Gray Davis and declared his candidacy. So much for party loyalty among the Democrats. And I certainly wouldn't lose any sleep regarding the challenge presented by others in the running such as political columnist/activist Arianna Huffington (dubbed "Zsa Zsa" Huffington by the Free Republic political crowd), actor Gary Coleman, and pornographer Larry Flynt who's not even smart enough to keep his private sex toys out of the dishwasher. Former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth is also on the slate.
As to the conservatives that are complaining that Arnold Schwarzenegger is too moderate, I have this to say: This is California for heaven's sake, which is even more left-leaning than New York. The purist conservatives, those with the finely tuned sensibilities out there, are going to have to get real and stop insisting that Republicans only support "true conservative" candidates in very liberal states. Sure, I'm more philosophically in tune with Bill Simon, a fellow conservative, than Schwarzenegger. But the truth of the matter is that conservatives are not electable in the People's Republic of California – at least not yet. California's very liberal political milieu, rife with members of the "Looney Left", is not going to be changed overnight. It will be done incrementally, the same manner in which the current political climate evolved over time. Here in New York, we've been through this before. And, at the end of the day, Rudy Giuliani cleaned up crime in New York City and made it livable once again. And when the crisis hit on 9/11, you all know the superb leader that was there for us – Rudy Giuliani.
Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.
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