Ronald Reagan was an actor who became governor of California, so why not Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or so the argument goes. Why not actor Gary Coleman, then, or any of the other candidates for whom inexperience, not to mention cluelessness about what's needed to repair the damage done to the state's economy, seems to be their main qualification?
President George Bush has endorsed Schwarzenegger, saying he would make a good governor. Based on what? The president couldn't possibly know what Schwarzenegger stands for, because no one else seems to know, including Arnold.
At least he has his lines down. In rapid-fire TV appearances following his "Tonight" show announcement that he is a candidate should voters recall Gov. Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger lamented the exodus of businesses from the state and said something must be done to get them back. Would he cut taxes and reduce the regulations that caused them to flee? He didn't say. According to the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, between January 2001, and January 2003, California lost 223,900 private-sector jobs, but government jobs rose by 121,700. Can he reverse that trend? He's not saying - yet.
What about social issues such as same-sex "marriage"? "I don't want to get into that right now, "Schwarzenegger told ABC's "Good Morning America." He has advocated reversing the car tax increase - an issue former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore rode to victory in the '90s - but he also wants to spend more on school construction and hire more teachers.
Schwarzenegger seems to think he can take advantage of voter distrust and disgust with Davis by focusing on the embattled governor and not himself. That may work for the first week or two, but Arnold is going to have to come up with a platform that is more substantive than "I'm not Gray Davis." His aides say one will be forthcoming.
Contrast Schwarzenegger with Ronald Reagan. By the time Reagan ran for governor in 1966 (winning by a 1 million-vote margin), his political philosophy had matured. He converted from Democrat to Republican while president of the Screen Actors Guild during debates about the alleged influence of communism in the film industry. He toured the country under the auspices of General Electric, which sponsored his TV show. But Reagan's philosophy began evolving much earlier. In a soon-to-be-published book of his letters compiled by longtime aide and family friend, Martin Anderson, Reagan expresses interest in the world around him as early as age 11.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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