- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Not really. Nor do we think Republicans Tom McClintock and Peter Ueberroth should get out of the race. At least not yet.

Well, maybe Mr. Ueberroth should. His blandness and lack of energy will not do.

The Democrats already have their Gray candidate. What’s more, Mr. Ueberroth doesn’t seem to be much more specific than Arnold Schwarzenegger, the frontrunner among Republicans currently in the race. But, then again, Mr. Ueberroth’s nonpartisan pitch overrides his token Republicanism. For example, he’s the only Republican in the race to oppose Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative barring state benefits to illegal aliens. Does this country-club Republican think he’ll get Latino voters away from Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante? Indeed, in this crazy election, Mr. Ueberroth could end up with more Democrats and independent voters than Republicans.

Mr. McClintock is another matter. He is outspoken, articulate and specific. If only he could be appointed governor. On substance, he is the best of the group. Even liberal opponents admire his integrity. Ironically, politician McClintock is more of an outsider than outsider Mr. Schwarzenegger. Mr. McClintock barely lost in last year’s controller’s race. If elitist Republicans had given the populist Mr. McClintock an extra $100,000, he would have won. And he would have been the odds-on favorite to replace Mr. Davis in this recall. But now, in this election, Mr. McClintock has hardly raised any money. Mr. Schwarzenegger’s press shop probably has more staff than Mr. McClintock’s entire campaign. If Mr. McClintock cannot organize a professional campaign, people will ask, can he organize state government?

Still, it is conceivable that Mr. McClintock could cost Mr. Schwarzenegger the election. And, from our standpoint, replacing Mr. Davis with Mr. Bustamante would be cruel and unusual punishment for the Golden State. There are strong reasons for Republicans to back Mr. Schwarzenegger. He is the frontrunner. He has star power. He has plenty of money. And, he has become Mr. Recall. And, maybe if he’s elected, good advisers can educate him on the job.

But for now, forget about issues. When campaign manager George Gorton scheduled Mr. Schwarzenegger on morning talk shows, the Terminator would not answer questions. And campaign veteran Mr. Gorton was demoted. Consider Rep. David Dreier, who has replaced former California Gov. Pete Wilson as Mr. Schwarzenegger’s surrogate campaigner. We admire Mr. Dreier, both on weighty national matters and practical politics, usually. But in his enthusiasm to sell Mr. Schwarzenegger’s candidacy, he can sound silly, as when he tells voters that Arnold is a conservative.

Let’s be fair. We admire Schwarzenegger’s rhetoric on taxes. But, his first act was to name Warren Buffett a senior adviser on economic matters. And in turn, Mr. Buffett’s first act was to attack Proposition 13 and call for raising property taxes on homes. Some other members of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s “Economic Council” are also tax-hikers. And when his communications director Sean Walsh went on Fox, he opened the door to tax increases. Mr. Walsh, like Mr. Gorton, was demoted — because he misspoke or because he spoke?

Two Sundays ago, the Los Angeles Times asked each candidate a few simple questions. Mr. Schwarzenegger alone would not respond. Last Sunday, the newspaper asked five more simple questions. For example, what additional gun control measures do you favor? Messrs. McClintock and Ueberroth opposed new measures. Even Democrat Bustamante (!) said he “does not believe the state should adopt additional measures until we give existing laws a chance to be evaluated.” Mr. Schwarzenegger, who did respond to the question on abortion (“I’m for choice”) declined to answer the gun question. (Yesterday afternoon, he did answer a longer list of what appeared to be orchestrated questions on a talk show.)

We have no doubt that his handlers will spoonfeed him the correct reply. He already is on conservative talk radio shows. Apparently, the hosts agree to ask him easy questions. And he, unchallenged, compares himself to Ronald Reagan. This is called conservative outreach.

Outsider Mr. Schwarzenegger depends substantially on Sacramento insiders from Pete Wilson Inc. He also pledges to clean up Sacramento. But one of the state’s biggest scandals involved insurance companies that failed to pay legitimate earthquake claims. They gave hush money to Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, who resigned in disgrace. And, you guessed it, Mr. Schwarzenegger hired the culprits.

When he started, Mr. Schwarzenegger boldly said he would bankroll his campaign. Now, he’s accepting campaign money. We don’t have a problem with that. It’s the contradiction that is both foolish and not admirable. All of this is not very good for Mr. Schwarzenegger. He has a high negative, partly because people sense he is trying to be someone else. We don’t agree with him on many things. We even might accept him, vastly imperfect as he is.

But if he loses his credibility, he won’t have much left. And if that happens, Republicans may hope that Tom McClintock has not yet dropped out.

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