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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Schwarzenegger Off Camera

Aired August 7, 2003 - 20:00   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: California's Gray Davis faces a challenge from his own lieutenant governor. I'll be talking about the crumbling party unity with the Golden State's second highest ranking Democrat, Cruz Bustamante.
We're going to start, though, with Gray's high-profile Republican challenger, a man whose celebrity is so great, many Americans refer to him by his first name alone, even if they do pronounce it with a bit of an accent. We're talking, of course, about Arnold, Arnold Schwarzenegger. First name basis or not, what do we truly know about Schwarzenegger the man?

George Butler can shed some light on that for us. He is a personal friend of the new politician. He joins us from New Hampshire tonight. Also joining us this evening, Rabbi Marvin Hier at our studios in Los Angeles. He is a founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and investigated the Nazi past of Schwarzenegger's father, at the actor's request.

Welcome, gentlemen. Glad to have you both of you with us this evening.

GEORGE BUTLER, FRIEND OF ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you.

RABBI MARVIN HIER, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: Thank you.

ZAHN: George, I'd love to start with you this evening.

You've known Arnold for more than 30 years. He talked a little bit last night about how this process crystallized. In the end, was it that Maria that finally said, go for it?

BUTLER: I think Arnold, at the end of the day, has always made his own decisions. And, in my experience -- and I talked to "The Washington Post" about two weeks ago -- and I said, Arnold's got the chance of his life and he's going to do it.

And then I heard a lot of noise about, he was going to back out, he wasn't going to back out. And, of course, he didn't back out. And he's in. And that's what I would have projected.

ZAHN: And what do you know about Maria's enthusiasm for this? Because it has been widely reported -- in fact, I've talked with a couple of people familiar with both of them who suggested that this was a real tough call for her, not something necessarily that she'd like to embrace. BUTLER: Well, I've seen Maria campaign in New Hampshire, where I'm sitting right now. And she's a remarkable campaigner. And I suspect that she's done Californians a tremendous service by bringing Arnold from the far right to the middle Republican center.

ZAHN: You also know, George, that a lot of the pundits out there are saying that, right off the bat, Arnold's going to have to confront some pretty tough questions. Even he hinted at them last night when he announced his candidacy on Jay Leno's show, the rumors about womanizing, the rumors about racist statements he's made along the way, and use of steroids.

BUTLER: Arnold has always handled this. You've got to remember that he went to the epicenter of Hollywood and he took the hardest possible path to get there.

What we're talking about and dealing with here is probably the greatest Horatio Alger story ever. Arnold just didn't become Mr. Olympia or the best professional bodybuilder in the world. He became a millionaire, if not a billionaire. He married a Kennedy. He took Hollywood by storm. He managed his career himself. There isn't a single person out there who can say they really managed Arnold's career. And look where we're going.

I mean, if he's done what he's done so far -- and throughout his career, I've watched, moment by moment, where people underestimate him. This is not a man worth underestimating. He'll beat you every time.

ZAHN: Rabbi Hier, I know you've met Arnold Schwarzenegger close to 10 years ago, when he actually came to you at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and asked you to investigate his father's past and any potential ties to the Nazi Party. Tell us a little bit about that process.

HIER: Well, actually, I've known -- Paula, I've known Arnold since 1984. But, in 1990, after he visited with Simon Wiesenthal in Vienna and returned to Los Angeles, he called me and said: I have something personal that I would really appreciate if you did. I don't know anything about my father during the Second World War. And it bothers me.

He said: When I grew up and I went to school in Austria, nobody talked about the Holocaust. It was something that everyone in school was silent about. And I want to know what did my father do during the Second World War.

And so I said that we would do just that. And we investigated. I asked Arnold, I said, you'd have to give me his first name and date of birth. And we soon set out in the archives of the world, particularly those that specialize in this area. And we found that, in 1938, Gustav Schwarzenegger tried to join the Nazi Party right at (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

He was accepted into the Nazi Party as a member in 1941. We then researched whether there had ever been charges against Gustav Schwarzenegger for war crimes. And there were not in any of the archives. And we investigated this very thoroughly. And we informed Arnold of what we had found and sent him the card of his father's membership in the Nazi Party.

And I think, if I can say, that I think Arnold really wanted to know. It filled a void in his life. And I think he cared about it, because he was embarrassed about that period of history.

ZAHN: And Rabbi Hier, his father's membership in the Nazi Party, as you no doubt -- has spawned a number of rumors about alleged anti- Semitic remarks he made as a young man. What can you tell us about that? Is that true?

HIER: Well, as I've said, I've known Arnold since '84. I've been to his home on a number of occasions. He has been an active supporter. He's one of the largest contributors to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance. He speaks for us on tolerance in the museum, he and his wife.

And I can say this, that, usually, the trait of anti-Semites is not to associate with Jewish organizations and with causes that are dear to the Jews. So it doesn't fit the pattern of what I know.

ZAHN: George Butler, Rabbi Hier, thank you for your joint perspectives this evening. We very much appreciate your time.

BUTLER: You're welcome.

HIER: Thank you.

ZAHN: There is an aspect of novelty to Schwarzenegger's candidacy. But what happens when that novelty begins to wear off? Can he become a serious, viable candidate?

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe is a political analyst at the University of Southern California.

Appreciate your being here with us this evening.

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: Hi.

Let's talk a little bit about how the announced candidate addressed the issue of California's fiscal problems. Apparently, we don't have what the candidates said, so why don't I read out loud what he had to say today at a news conference.

A reporter threw out a question: What is it you plan to do to cut the budget? And, boy, I'm not going to do a very good Arnold imitation here.

JEFFE: Go for it.

ZAHN: But he essentially says: "We will have a plan very soon, a detailed plan on how to face these kinds of problems and how to solve these kinds of problems. The important thing to know is that we have a crisis here in California. We have a $38 billion budget deficit that we have to deal with."

Were you surprised he didn't have a more specific answer to that question?

JEFFE: No, I'm not.

I think, first of all, there is very little time to give specifics in this campaign. Secondly, I think, beyond education, in which he has a very good grounding, what is being done very quickly is that his staff is bringing him up to speed on the broad outlines. I don't know that voters -- I don't know how voters are going to react to that.

If he's going to have a plan, and he says he's going to have a plan, it's got to be done in the next week or so, or voters will begin to get a little impatient, I think. But they'll give him some slack.

ZAHN: But do you believe, as some analysts believe, that maybe the specific perspectives on issues doesn't matter as much to them, because they simply just want Gray Davis out of office? Is there any truth to that?

JEFFE: That's a good part of it. Absolutely. That is a good part of it.

You have a governor who is historically unpopular, but a governor who has been in politics for over 30 years, whose campaign slogan was, experience money can't buy, who was once called the best-trained governor in waiting in the state of California. And the perception of the voters is, well, look where he got us. Why don't we try something fresh? Why don't we try something new?

I don't think that voters are convinced that experience does it all, not after what they perceive to be the problems with a governor who is one of the most experienced politicians around.

ZAHN: So, in the end, what core issue do you think will be the most important to Arnold Schwarzenegger, given what you have just said?

JEFFE: Well, I would expect that Arnold Schwarzenegger's core issue will be Gray Davis.

But he will also talk a bit -- quite a bit about his commitment to education, his successful shepherding of Proposition 49 after- school initiative. And he will stay within the confines, first, of those issues he knows and can comfortably address and hammer home leadership, courage, not Gray Davis. And I think that will be probably the heart of his campaign.

ZAHN: Sure.

JEFFE: And it will be done mostly, quite frankly, not on issues, but by paid media. And he won't be alone. I don't think we're going to hear a whole lot of detailed, substantive issues debate.

ZAHN: Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, thank you for your time tonight. And I didn't even attempt to do my Arnold imitation.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And you're probably very grateful for that, aren't you?

JEFFE: Oh, I wanted to hear it.

ZAHN: I'll bet you did. Again, thanks for dropping by.

Schwarzenegger's decision to run for governor has sent shockwaves through the political community. How are the Democrats reacting?

I'm joined now from Los Angeles by Judy Woodruff, host of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS," to talk a little bit more about that.

Hi, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about how the Democrats are reacting to the lieutenant governor announcing that he indeed will face off against Governor Gray Davis.

WOODRUFF: Well, first off, they didn't get their wish, the wish being that the senior senator from the state of California, Dianne Feinstein, would run. She made that clear yesterday. She won't. We talked to her again today. She said there's no chance she's going to reconsider.

But beyond Dianne Feinstein, Democrats are pretty much all over the map, Paula. You have the governor himself, who some say originally didn't take this recall seriously enough. Now some say he should be more aggressive. Others say, well, he has the tendency to be too aggressive. He's trying to work it through the courts. He lost an effort to get it to the state Supreme Court tonight, just now, as a matter of fact. So there's a good chance he'll try it through the federal courts, to put a stop to this whole thing.

Separately, you've got state elected officials in California who were trying a united strategy. But then you had the lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, who you are going to talking to a little later. He's jumped in. So has the state insurance commissioner. That messed up the united strategy. You've got the congressional delegation, Paula, who, as we speak, is having a conference call to figure out whether they try to ride one horse, one candidate.

Meantime, you've got other Democrats saying, well, maybe this isn't so bad after all. All this excitement will turn out Democrats and we can just defeat the recall on the first ballot. So take your pick.

ZAHN: Yes, a lot of choices there. You have just mentioned that we'll be interviewing Lieutenant Governor Bustamante. And guess what, Judy? He has showed up. So we're going to let you go.

Thank you for your perspective this evening. And we're going to introduce our audience to him now.

As Judy mentioned, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante announced his candidacy this morning, confirming that he will indeed enter the race. He joins us from Sacramento now.

Good evening. Welcome.

LT. GOV. CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (D-CA), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you for having me on, Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you.

Did you call Governor Gray Davis and let him know that you planned to enter your name into the ring?

BUSTAMANTE: I'm making a call for him today.

ZAHN: This came after your news conference?

BUSTAMANTE: Yes. I'll be calling him after the news conference.

ZAHN: I'm sorry. The news conference, you already had one series of press conferences this morning.

BUSTAMANTE: That's correct.

ZAHN: So, in advance of your announcement, you did not notify the governor?

BUSTAMANTE: No, I did not.

ZAHN: And why not?

BUSTAMANTE: Well, I've seen a lot of things over the last several weeks, Paula.

We've been trying to stop the recall. I'm opposed to the recall. I think it's -- for all the reasons I think have been expressed, it's bad for the institution. It's bad for the economy. It's for all the wrong reasons. And, as a result, many of us have come out strongly against the recall.

But the strategies that have been developed haven't been working. The strategies, as you see in the polls, just don't seem to be working. And there's a real concern by many of us who are in public service, many of us who care about the kind of people that we have been representing and the issues that are so important to our state, that we're that concerned that his ability to win may not quite be there. So what we're trying to do is that we're trying to create a second option, an option that would provide an opportunity for Democrats that, in the event -- we hope that the governor will win. But, if he doesn't, it will provide a second option, a serious option for Democrats to be able to hold on to the governorship.

ZAHN: But you don't know what even some of your Democratic colleagues are saying. In creating this second option, what you in fact are doing is being a spoiler.

BUSTAMANTE: No, I think what we're doing is creating a second option. I think that's something that's been spun by the press more than anywhere else.

But I think it's important that we clearly note that this is not -- my campaign will be to say, no on the recall, but yes on Bustamante. I think that provides us a measure of safety, a safety belt, if you will, to make sure that we provide the best opportunity to hold on to the governorship.

If you care about fair admissions to universities, if you care about the coastal legacy, if you care about issues of choice and many other issues that we care and we fight for every single day about, we want to make sure that that position, the very important position of the person who signs a budget or signs or vetoes bills, is going to be kept in the hands of the Democratic Party.

ZAHN: Let me ask you this, in closing, Lieutenant Governor. There was a lot of pressure on you brought to bear by members of the Democratic Party not to put your name in the ring. What do you hear from them today?

BUSTAMANTE: Well, I've had mixed results.

Clearly, there's some people who are disappointed. But I've had a tremendous amount of people who have called in support. I think that people are starting to clearly see that my involvement and my candidacy will generate a tremendous amount of excitement in a lot of the base of the Democratic Party. And I think we're going to see a tremendous amount of people coming out to vote. And I'm going to suggest to each and every one of them that they vote no on the recall, but just to make sure, they also vote yes on Bustamante.

ZAHN: And let's say they don't do that, and they end up voting for Schwarzenegger. He becomes governor. Will you feel any sense of responsibility if that ends up happening and he becomes governor?

BUSTAMANTE: I think that I would have provided another opportunity to win, not an opportunity to lose.

ZAHN: Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, I know you've had a very busy day, been up from very early this morning. Appreciate your dropping by.

BUSTAMANTE: Well, it's good to see you. I haven't seen you since the convention. ZAHN: I know.

BUSTAMANTE: Good to see you again.

ZAHN: I know. It's been quite a long stretch of time here. Thank you.

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