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Will Arnold Schwarzenegger Win California Governorship?

Aired August 7, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: the governator?

QUESTION: Can you terminate your competition?


ANNOUNCER: Arnold Schwarzenegger joins the race.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I speak directly to the people.

ANNOUNCER: But can the "Last Action Hero" become the next governor of California?





ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.



Say what you will about California's exotic politics. They're making the month of August a lot more interesting than we Washington pundits are used to. Today, we're debating -- What else? -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to run for governor.

But first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Al Gore surfaced today to let us know he is unhappy about the Bush administration, but not unhappy enough to do anything about it. After watching all the other Democrats attack President Bush, Gore wanted to jump on top of the pile. In a speech that ran 35 minutes, but seemed a lot longer, Gore criticized the administration's handling of everything from Iraq to the economy.

Al Gore hasn't said anything since September. But by watching him today, you can tell you haven't missed a thing.



NOVAK: The only line anyone was waiting to hear was the fact, surprise, surprise, he still is not running in 2004. Who could stand another Gore campaign?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, clearly not George W. Bush, since he lost to Al Gore the last time.


BEGALA: The guy has something to say. He had an important message today. He's not running for president, but he's still doing a lot by pointing out the many, many falsehoods, fibs and fabrications that we get from George W. Bush.


NOVAK: You know what I like?

BEGALA: God bless Al Gore.


NOVAK: I like the idea that we're about to have a candidate for governor of California who plays a robot. We had a candidate for president who was a robot.



BEGALA: Nah. He had a lot to say today. It was a terrific speech.

Well, in other news today, two more American soldiers were killed in Iraq last Wednesday in a -- late on Wednesday, rather -- this week. And a powerful car bomb killed 11 people outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad. That means a total of 112 Americans have died in Iraq in the 99 days since President Bush landed on that aircraft carrier all dressed up like an extra in "Top Gun" and declared, mission accomplished.


BEGALA: Well, with today's terrorism and the American deaths, we know the mission is far from accomplished in Iraq. Still, it made a heck of a photo-op, didn't it? Who cares if it was intentionally misleading. Beside, it shows President Bush was ahead of the curve. With movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a politician, Mr. Bush is now a politician who plays a movie actor.


NOVAK: You know, I don't want to be critical of you, Paul, but it seems like, every time one of our brave soldiers gets killed, you make a political game out of it, attacking our president.


NOVAK: I think you ought to let that alone, because I just don't think it's seemly to attack the president of the United States...

BEGALA: Never.

NOVAK: ... every time a brave American dies in battle.


BEGALA: I don't think it seemly for him to have those kids over there. No way, Bob Novak. No way. He has 150,000 of our sons and daughters over there. He has to be responsible. He has got no plan to win that occupation.


BEGALA: No plan to protect those troops. And I'm not going to let them die in silence. No, sir.

NOVAK: Al Sharpton...


NOVAK: Why don't you yell a little louder?

Al Sharpton has a new theory about why his presidential campaign isn't getting anywhere. It's a conspiracy by the racist media. Sharpton tells the Associated Press that most reporters are -- quote -- "automatically dismissive of anything that is not like them, which is white males" -- end quote. Maybe the thing Sharpton is really upset about is that there are so many white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

At least two white journalists like Al, Tucker Carlson and I. We both say he is the ideal Democratic candidate.


NOVAK: Judging by all the times that Reverend Al has been on this show, I can say, CROSSFIRE clearly is not part of the vast white conspiracy.

BEGALA: That is a good point. He's a frequent guest on this program. He's got a message to deliver. You guys love him. He can't criticize CROSSFIRE.

But you know what? I want to see how many of his colleagues and competitors running for president have the guts to sit down here. If they can't go toe to toe with Bob Novak, how are they going to go toe to toe with George W. Bush?

NOVAK: I want to ask. Do you think...

BEGALA: So where is Howard Dean? Where is John Kerry? Where is John Edwards? Where is Dick Gephardt?

NOVAK: Do you think there's a white conspiracy against Al Sharpton?


NOVAK: I don't either.

BEGALA: Listen, look, I just -- I think that he's not gaining the traction that he would want to. But he can come on in this show any time he wants.


BEGALA: Well, President Bush has signed an executive order that puts one class of people above the law: big oil companies. According to the Government Accountability Project, Mr. Bush's executive order gives big oil companies that sell Iraqi oil blanket immunity from lawsuits and even exempts them if they commit crimes.

Bush officials deny not charge, but the legal director for the Government Accountability Project says Mr. Bush's order -- quote -- "cancels the rule of law for the oil industry" -- unquote -- even if they violate human rights, bribe officials or wreck the environments. Oil companies say they're happy to be placed above the law by Mr. Bush for anything that they do in Iraq. Some are reportedly thinking of changing their name from Exxon and Mobil to Uday and Qusay.



NOVAK: Well, you just were quoting there. You didn't tell the audience who you were quoting.

BEGALA: Yes, I did, the Government Accountability Project.

NOVAK: No, no, that's not the Government Accountability Project. You're quoting these loony left-wing groups like Earth Rights International, who took in "The Los Angeles Times." They took you in.

Those -- that money is not going to the oil companies. It's a development fund for the people of Iraq.


BEGALA: I never said the money was going to them. I said Bush has placed them above the law, which he plainly does. If you want to the article, it's got the language of the executive order in there. (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: It was denied by the administration. It's denied by the people who are trying to help the poor people of Iraq. I'm surprised at you, Paul.


BEGALA: They're not telling the truth, Bob. They're not telling the truth. They're covering up for big oil. People should go to the "L.A. Times." The whole story is there. You can look for yourself.

In a minute, speaking of L.A., we're going to consider why California politics has got more flakes than Post Toasties these days.


BEGALA: Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced he's running for governor, which Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who started this whole thing, to breaking down and crying in front of the press, as he announced that he will not run. But which party will be weeping on Election Day?

We'll debate that when CROSSFIRE returns.




NOVAK: Well, the titles of Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies pretty much tell the story. He's been the "Last Action Hero." Now that California is facing "Total Recall," Schwarzenegger went on "The Tonight Show" to announce he's the "Running Man."

But for Governor Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger may really be "The Terminator." And you can get the Democrats will try to cast him as a "Predator" and "Conan the Barbarian." Let's talk about "Collateral Damage" with two members of California's congressional delegation, Democrat Loretta Sanchez -- she joins us from Anaheim -- and Republican Dana Rohrabacher, from Irvine.


BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us.

Congressman Rohrabacher, I hear that you're actually a personal friend of Arnold's. And I do know that two of your colleagues, Congresswoman Mary Bono, Congressman David Dreier, are said to be endorsing Schwarzenegger today. Do you endorse Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor of California?

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Absolutely, I endorse Arnold Schwarzenegger. I've known him for 20 years. He's going to be a breath of fresh air to the people of California, just like Ronald Reagan was. He's going to be a phenomena in this state.

NOVAK: Loretta Sanchez, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy on "The Tonight Show." Will you announce your candidacy on CROSSFIRE?

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, no, I don't think so, Bob. I'm still working with my other colleagues to come up with a prominent Democrat that we can put on that ballot, one that we know will make a strong governor.

NOVAK: Will you run? Are you a possibility?

SANCHEZ: Well, I'm not out of the running. It's not really -- I enjoy the job that I have right now. And there's a lot of things I still have to finish in the Congress. So I think we're trying to find some other prominent Democrat that can pull out the Democratic vote, so that we can defeat the recall.


ROHRABACHER: Does that mean you're not supporting Bustamante, Loretta?

SANCHEZ: I think Cruz Bustamante, first of all, he's the legitimate person to put in there, if we, in fact, would vote out the governor, because he's the lieutenant governor. That's what he's been in that position for, to take over for the governor, if that need be. And, of course, he was the Speaker of the House here in California. He understands the issues. He's dealt with them.

ROHRABACHER: He's been part of the problem all right.

SANCHEZ: And, of course, he's a Latino, which -- how can you say no, when the largest growing population in California is Hispanic?


ROHRABACHER: See, this is the reason


BEGALA: Congress Rohrabacher, let's me get a question in here, rather than you. This is CROSSFIRE, not "Rohrabacher Fire."


BEGALA: Let me ask you a question. And that is this.

Your friend Arnold just a few minutes ago answered his few questions from the press, not just the hugs he got from Jay Leno last night. This is the very first question that candidate Schwarzenegger was asked. I'm going to play you a piece of this videotape and ask you to respond.


QUESTION: What is your plan to cut the state budget?

SCHWARZENEGGER: We will have a plan very soon, a detailed plan, on how to face those kind of problems and how to solve those kind of problems.

The important thing to know is, is that we have a crisis here in California. We have a $38 billion budget deficit that we have to deal with. And the only way we can deal with those issues is by bringing business back to California, because businesses, when you bring them back to California, it brings revenue back to California. And when you have more revenue, you then can afford to take care of all those programs that need to be taken care of.


BEGALA: Wow. "We'll have a plan for you soon." This is not a dumb guy. I think he's a very bright man. And he's spent months studying this and he doesn't have a plan, because all he's thought about is himself, his ego and his campaign. He can't even answer the first question: What are you going to about the budget deficit?

Aren't you embarrassed?


ROHRABACHER: You know, political pros like you guys, who have immersed yourselves in this for so long, don't understand. That was a terrific answer. The people of California are waiting for someone who


BEGALA: Bring more revenue in. Nobody thought of that, of course.

ROHRABACHER: You know what? The people of California understand that jobs are fleeing this state, that it's causing a tremendous problem in financing state activities. We need to get business back in. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't -- by the way, is he expected to have something right off the bat? He needs to think about it.


ROHRABACHER: No, he's not.

BEGALA: Yes. He wants to be the governor of your state. He wants to overturn an election.


BEGALA: He doesn't have a clue about the biggest issue in the state.


ROHRABACHER: Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the force behind this recall. And the bottom line is, he is going to have a plan for the state of California. He's going to have the best advisers, not brought out by these pros who have immersed themselves in the problem over the years. He's going to have fresh answers.

SANCHEZ: Dana, that's exactly the problem...


NOVAK: Go ahead, Ms. Sanchez.

SANCHEZ: That's exactly the problem that we have with Schwarzenegger as a candidate. It's, he doesn't know the issues. He doesn't know the problems.

ROHRABACHER: I thought it was a great answer.

SANCHEZ: He hasn't studied them. He doesn't know how much we're spending on medical care. He doesn't know what are the problems at the hospital.

ROHRABACHER: That is a great answer. He knows you


ROHRABACHER: He knows you can't drive business out in California.


NOVAK: Let me get a question in.

ROHRABACHER: He knows you can't drive business out of California.

NOVAK: Let me get a question in. You're leading right into what I'm going to ask you, because Senator Feinstein says that Arnold doesn't know enough about the budget, like this. You people are living on a different planet. You don't understand what's happening with his candidacy. And let me just play a little sound bite of what he said to Jay Leno last night.

Let's listen to it.


SCHWARZENEGGER: I can promise you that, when I go to Sacramento, I will pump up Sacramento.


JAY LENO, HOST: Arnold, thank you, buddy. Arnold Schwarzenegger.


NOVAK: You see, that is what -- that is what you're...

SANCHEZ: Exactly. He will pump up Sacramento. That is no answer to the problems of what we're facing here.



SANCHEZ: He has no idea about how many hospitals have closed. He has no idea about how what we keep them open.

NOVAK: Don't you understand?

SANCHEZ: No, I exactly understand that access to health care is important.


ROHRABACHER: They created all these problems. They created all these problems.

SANCHEZ: I understand that people want better schools.

ROHRABACHER: Arnold Schwarzenegger knows more about the issues than you knew, Loretta, before you ran for office.


SANCHEZ: No, he didn't, Dana, because I was a financial adviser to municipalities. I knew exactly what type of conditions were happening in local municipalities in counties and at the state level.

ROHRABACHER: This is a man who has actually made money and empowered people. This is a man who has actually made money in the private sector.

BEGALA: Congressman, Congressman Rohrabacher, Congressman Rohrabacher.


BEGALA: He has been in the private sector.

ROHRABACHER: Yes, he has.

BEGALA: And so help me to understand, then, what this means: "I'm going to pump up Sacramento."


BEGALA: That's lovely.

NOVAK: That's what people want.

BEGALA: You know what's he's going to do? He's going to pump up his ego. He's going to pump up his sagging, flagging movie career. That ain't an answer to a $38 billion deficit. "Well, we have to pump it up, boys."


BEGALA: Come on. That's a joke, isn't it?

ROHRABACHER: I've known Arnold for 20 years. The fact that you're underestimating him now is going to be his greatest strength. The liberals created these problems. Arnold's going to come up with fresh solutions. He's going to sweep the state.

SANCHEZ: You know...


NOVAK: I want to get one question in. What ever happened to the plan that all the Democrats were going to stay off the ballot, because you were going to save Gray Davis? Is that gone with the wind?

SANCHEZ: No. The plan here is that we are going to field a good, prominent Democrat who will help to get out the vote in the special election.

NOVAK: That's not what Gray Davis wanted.

SANCHEZ: ... which supports us and who, secondly, should the recall go through, would make a great governor, one who understands about education.

ROHRABACHER: As compared to the last Democrat they foisted off on the voters.

SANCHEZ: One who understands about medical care, one who understands about business.


SANCHEZ: One who understands


BEGALA: Congressman Rohrabacher, keep your seat. We're going to take a quick break.

My job right now is to pump up CNN's ad revenues by going to a quick break.


BEGALA: Then Wolf Blitzer will bring you the headlines. Then we'll come back and have more fun on "Rapid Fire." The questions and answers will come faster than Republicans trying to come up with excuses for Schwarzenegger not having any ideas for his campaign.


BEGALA: And then our viewers will have plenty to say about government-to-be, potential governor-to-be Arnold Schwarzenegger in our "Fireback" segment. Stay with us.





BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf, for those headlines.

Time now for "Rapid Fire." We're talking about the California political circus with two members of the state's esteemed congressional delegation. They are Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

NOVAK: Ms. Sanchez, what about Willie Brown, the colorful, brilliant mayor of San Francisco getting on this ballot as that high- profile Democrat you're looking for?

SANCHEZ: Well, I think we're probably going to see Cruz Bustamante be the delegation's choice for the ballot.

BEGALA: Congressman Rohrabacher, do you support a national law for those people who might want to recall President Bush?

ROHRABACHER: I think that we should go more in the area of allowing the voters of this country to express themselves.


NOVAK: Loretta Sanchez, do you think that mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger and trying to imitate him is a good campaign technique?

SANCHEZ: Oh, I don't think that's what you're going to see.

NOVAK: We saw it.

SANCHEZ: We're going to talk about the good things the governor has done and we're going to talk about the good candidate we've got on the question -- the No. 2 question.

BEGALA: Mr. Rohrabacher, tell me this. Are you worried, though, that with somebody as famous as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the race will now be about Arnold instead of about Gray Davis?

ROHRABACHER: When the people of this state get to know who Arnold is, they're going to be happy he's running. He's a very thoughtful man. I've known him for 20 years. He's very bright and he's going to have a lot of creative ideas.

NOVAK: How about Barbra Streisand?


NOVAK: Wouldn't that be a great tie-up: Barbra Streisand vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger?

SANCHEZ: Well, actually, Barbra's a very bright woman, but I think that she's happy at home and singing.

BEGALA: Congressman Rohrabacher, are you going to advise your friends to come on talk shows like CROSSFIRE or just to stay with puffballs from Jay Leno?

ROHRABACHER: I think that he's going to have to make sure the people get to know who he is. And that's using the media.


BEGALA: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, thank you very much.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Loretta Sanchez.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Bob.

NOVAK: Thank you, Dana Rohrabacher.


NOVAK: It's time for our "Ask the Audience" question. Take out your voting devices and tell us: Is Arnold Schwarzenegger qualified to be governor? Press one for, yes, of course, he's qualified. And if you don't think so, if you're a sour person, vote no. Take two for no.

And we'll have the results right after the break, along with some recall-related "Fireback"s.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Fireback."

But first, the results of our audience poll. We asked our studio audience this question: Is Arnold Schwarzenegger qualified to be governor? Look at this, 80 percent of the Republicans say yes, but 75 percent of Democrats say no, so straight party divide.

NOVAK: Well, I think he's more qualified than somebody like Gray Davis, who has spent his whole life in government. That's the worst qualification for public office.



NOVAK: All right.

Zoila Peters of Santa Barbara, California sends us this e-mail: "The Democrats in California are running scared. Arnold is going to clean house. Hasta la vista, Gray Davis." (LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Brian in Monroe, Louisiana, writes: "It cracks me up when I hear the hypocrisy from the Republican talking heads complaining about actors voicing political opinions. Don't they worship Ronald Reagan and now Arnold, the Terminator? Go, Penn. Go, Streisand. Go, Baldwin. Go, sheen. Oh, wait. I get it now. It's only wrong if they are Democratic actors."


NOVAK: I'd like to see Streisand run. That would be great.

OK, Megan Hopkins of San Jose, Cal: "Remember the Democratic legislators overheard on loud speakers plotting to extend the California budget crisis for their own political gain? Yes, well Californians do, too. And as a thank you for their selfless service, we're going to send them a Terminator." What a slogan that is.



BEGALA: Keith in Halifax, Canada, observes of the faraway California political scene: "I really thought Arnold had more integrity than to get himself involved in that undemocratic circus in California. I hope he wins, though. I think it's only fitting that a Republican inherits the mess largely brought on by the Bush administration's policies."



From the audience, please.

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Austin (ph) from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

With California's current budget crisis, is Mr. Schwarzenegger the right person for the job?

NOVAK: I think so. He's got a lot of money.


BEGALA: He's a terribly bright guy. And I think he could be an effective politician. But he didn't answer the first question, which is, what are you going to do about the budget crisis? It's the budget crisis that's precipitated the recall. And if he wants to be the governor, the fact that he doesn't have any clue what he would do is embarrassing.

NOVAK: Go ahead. Go ahead. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Megan Kindling (ph) from Winter Haven, Florida.

And I was wondering if President Bush would be helped more in the 2004 election by having an unpopular Democratic governor or a Republican governor.

NOVAK: Well, let me tell you a little secret. The president didn't like this recall. He wanted to have Gray Davis hanging in the wind. But this is something the people of California wanted. It has nothing to do with the White House.

BEGALA: Yes, he -- bush is staying away from this. Even though Schwarzenegger had campaigned for President Bush's father back in 1988, our current President Bush has been keeping very far away from this, which I find interesting.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



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