- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger brushes off criticism for dodging early debates leading up to the California recall election and for not giving specific remedies for the state’s problems.

Some say his attempts to appeal directly to voters on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and CNN’s “Larry King Live” have been equally light on specifics.

Asked about solutions to California’s $38 billion budget deficit and chronic job losses, the movie star turned Republican politician said he would hit the road to “drum up business” and talked about the general need for leadership in the state.

On other state issues, Mr. Schwarzenegger said “we have to think” about them.



“We have to think about the infrastructure,” he said. “We have to think about the pollution problems that we have, that we have to cut down. You have to think about the water rights.”

Those answers may not be good enough for many voters, said John Pitney, government professor at Claremont McKenna College in California.

“He needs to be more specific than he’s been,” Mr. Pitney said. “He really needs to close the sale.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said the candidate “has gotten a bum rap” on specificity, and noted that Mr. Schwarzenegger has outlined a plan to fix California’s strained workers’ compensation program and offered proposals to reform elections in the state.

On “Larry King Live,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said a lot of workers and their attorneys are exploiting the workers’ compensation system with unnecessary trips to doctors’ offices that increase costs. He said he would stop that.

Mr. Schwarzenegger announced last week that he would make access to the state’s open records and open meetings a civil right protected in the state constitution and that he would seek to limit fund raising during the state budget process.

John Stussie, spokesman for state Sen. Tom McClintock, Mr. Schwarzenegger’s closest Republican rival, said it was telling that Mr. Schwarzenegger has taken questions only from friendly interviewers like Mr. King.

“On ‘Larry King,’ Arnold did not allow Larry to go to telephones. We have yet to see Arnold in a non-scripted environment,” Mr. Stussie said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schwarzenegger will attend his first and only debate, which his opponents have decried as “scripted.” He and the other candidates scheduled to attend — Mr. McClintock, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, independent columnist Arianna Huffington and Green Party candidate Peter M. Camejo — have received a list of questions that will be asked.

The scripted questions will be a topic starting point, then the candidates will address each other.

“It’s not a debate — it’s a movie,” Mr. McClintock said last week while threatening to boycott the event.

Mr. Stussie said, however, that organizers assured him that only 20 percent of the debate time would be consumed with the scripted questions. The rest will be dedicated to “give and take.”

Mr. Stutzman said the Schwarzenegger campaign was the first to complain about the preview of questions and welcomed the chance to go head-to-head with the other candidates.

“It’s not a traditional format where you are asked a question, give a two-minute response and move on,” said Mr. Stutzman, accusing the other candidates of “being afraid” of a round-table debate with Mr. Schwarzenegger.

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