- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

As Arnold Schwarzenegger is poised to be elected the next governor of California, we wish him well. He has, in the matter of a mere month, made the difficult and rarely successful transition from well-intentioned private citizen to shrewdly competent candidate for high office. At the beginning of his campaign, we expressed our serious concern that he was not ably managing his own campaign organization — often a sign of an ultimately failed candidacy. But he has clearly brought his years of experience in successful business activity to bear on the quite different business of politics. There is no better leading indicator of successful service in high office than a well-managed campaign.

We were also skeptical of his ability to convert mere movie-star glamour to the more demanding requirements of political leadership. Unambiguously, Mr. Schwarzenegger has demonstrated that he possesses that rare gift of intuitive, humane leadership. And, rarely has an incoming governor needed superb leadership skills more than the winner of next week’s elections will. A grievously mismanaged government in Sacramento has created a dispirited, confused, angry and (in some instances) fearful public. No new administration will successfully untangle the mess in Sacramento without the enthusiastic support of the public. Mr. Schwarzenegger, uniquely amongst the other candidates and incumbent governor, is positioned to marshal a reinvigorated public to the formidable task of returning California governance to a sound and prosperous basis. We were also encouraged by the straightforward apology he offered yesterday for his prior inappropriate conduct while on various movie sets.

But, as a newspaper that stands for traditional, conservative principles, our greatest initial concern was whether those principles would be best advanced by the Schwarzenegger candidacy. And, although we publish our newspaper 3,000 miles from California, what happens in this historic upcoming governorship will affect both Washington and the nation at large — so, we have watched carefully as he has articulated his governing philosophy. On this central concern we are largely, though not completely, satisfied. He made the early, important decision to utterly reject a proposal by some of his advisers to roll back Proposition 13. This week he again reassured us, as he announced his 100-day agenda, which commits him to balancing the budget by budget cuts and programmatic reforms — not tax increases. He surely knows that this will be no easy task. Having accepted this formidable challenge, Mr. Schwarzenegger has assured us that his fiscal policy will be sound. That is the central job of the next governor, and the correct policy basis on which to judge a candidate’s fitness for the governor’s office in this particular election. If he succeeds, he will provide a model for responsible budget balancing in other states, as well as at the federal level.

We understand why principled conservative Californians would consider voting for state Sen. Tom McClintock —who is a solid, experienced and admirable conservative across a broader range of conservative concerns. But, in elections, it is the results that matter. Somebody will be sitting in the governor’s chair after the election, raising or lowering taxes, cutting or not cutting budgets. Assuming the recall wins, there is no plausible view of the current state of public opinion that would put Mr. McClintock in that chair. It will be occupied by either Mr. Schwarzenegger or Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. While a principled vote for a candidate with whom you agree is always a civically virtuous act, we are convinced that sensible, conservative policies are more likely to become law if Mr. Schwarzenegger wins the election, and restores a platform from which traditional conservative voices can be heard.

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