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AMERICAN MORNING

Interview with Political Columnist Molly Ivins

Aired October 6, 2003 - 07:35   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Much more now on that knockdown, drag- out recall race in California. This weekend, Arnold Schwarzenegger calling the allegations that he groped women "campaign trickery;" Governor Gray Davis though telling Larry King that Schwarzenegger needs to respond to the accusations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: The allegations, if true, are very disturbing. We're talking about seriously mistreating 15 women in situations that in some cases, if true, would be a crime. So, clearly, he's disturbed people. We've not heard a forthright response from him. There have been some evasions, occasionally an apology, occasionally a denial. And the question gets down to this: Are all 15 of these women lying? Or is Arnold Schwarzenegger not telling us the truth?

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: OK, you say that these are criminal, it's criminal to grope?

DAVIS: Well, some -- well, you know, some charges -- I mean, some of these incidents are appalling. I mean, pressing people up against refrigerators and putting your private parts next to other private parts. I mean, this is pretty -- this is not good stuff. And it's a crime to intentionally touch another human being in certain places, and that has happened.

Now, that's assuming the allegations are true. The only ones who could tell that would be, you know, the professional prosecutors. They're the ones that are in the business of determining whether this is true, partially true, or not true at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Gray Davis with CNN's Larry King.

How is the recall election now being viewed outside the state of California? It's certainly garnered an awful lot of attention.

Political columnist Molly Ivins, no stranger to some strange politics, live in Austin.

Nice to see you, Molly. Good morning to you.

MOLLY IVINS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Thank you.

HEMMER: I just told Soledad we can't make this stuff up, can we? IVINS: We in Texas are so grateful to the state of California for having, you know, flashed behind all summer long, thus drawing attention away from certain irregularities here in the great state.

HEMMER: So, as you mention that though, what do you think the view is from Californians? Are they embarrassed by this? I ran into some people here in New York at the end of last week, and they say "We apologize to the country for what's happening in our own state." Do you think that's the dominant view or not in California?

IVINS: A little bit. I really think they are taken aback by the zoo-like quality of this. And I'm going to tell you -- I promise, I'm not going to sound like it this morning. But I am a serious political reporter. I am a policy wonk. I think that government is incredibly important.

I went out to California to look at this race and came back saying, oh, Gray Davis makes Mr. Rogers look like he was on steroids, and Arnold Schwarzenegger looks exactly like a condom stuffed with walnuts. This was not the most profound observation I have ever made about serious public affairs, but it's irresistible. You can't go out there without kind of going, good grief!

HEMMER: So, what does that tell you? If that's your -- if you're this policy wonk and you think government is important, and you come back with those observations on the two leading men in this race, what does that tell you?

IVINS: It tells me that there is not much of substance being discussed out there, for starters. And second of all -- and I really do think it's terribly important. Now, this big, beautiful and badly damaged state being fought over in political terms with such -- I don't know how to explain it. Nobody is really addressing what's wrong, what's wrong and how to fix it. It's all just sound bytes and show biz. So, I go along and I laugh and I say, oh, ha-ha, how funny. But I don't think it is, really.

HEMMER: Hey, Molly, is it sympathy you're offering or empathy, or both?

IVINS: Well, there you are. When you come from a state as weird as Texas, you have no business criticizing anybody else.

HEMMER: You know, the amazing thing is Cruz Bustamante hasn't made a headline in about a week's time. It's completely put him aside...

IVINS: I know.

HEMMER: ... when he has been really right neck and neck with Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. These two men have really dominated over the past eight days, and we will see tomorrow. Do you believe polls, by the way?

IVINS: No. In California, I'm very leery of polls. It's my experience with that state, reporting on it, that almost none of the California polls are really helpful.

HEMMER: Thank you, Molly, from Austin Texas. Appreciate you coming on with us today. We'll all watch it tomorrow, OK? Thank you.

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