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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Schwarzenegger and Nader, Together at Last

What a duo on Meet the Press today! Can you imagine what the conversation in the green room must have been like? The egotistical Nader must have been steamed that the muscle-bound, media-hyped film star was upstaging his little announcement, pushing him into the second half hour segment. Schwarzenegger is the king of the Golds Gym gang bangs, the groper on movie sets, the Hummer driver. Nader, by contrast, is a never-married man in his 70s who lives in Dupont Circle and has been a campaigner against auto industry products like the Hummer for decades. A political satirist more skilled than I am should take a shot at this one.

Anyhow, their two interviews were quite a pairing as well--two very different kinds of lunacy and incompetence. Arnold started off on a nice note by saying he wasn't happy to be on the program but that he had to make the appearance to campaign for the bond issue ballot questions that are coming up in California:

And so this is why it is very important for people to vote yes on Prop. 57 and 58, and that's why you see me campaigning up and down the state and doing as many interviews as possible, including sitting here today with you, although I love you, Tim. But, I mean, you know, we are out there, you know, promoting and campaigning this because it's very serious.

Yeah, those damn interviews, in which you might get asked tough questions, they're a real drag (you had to see his body language and hear his tone of voice on this one). Fortunately Arnold avoided the Sunday shows during the recall campaign last fall. My favorite part was when Schwarzenegger admitted to having made some mistakes since taking office:

Like for instance with the budget, I remember when we made the midyear adjustments, I made certain decisions of programs, for instance, for the mentally disabled and I made certain cuts. And then after that, when I talked about it, I didn't realize that I made those cuts, so I had to go back and just say, "Look, I made a mistake. I made those cuts. I did not intend to make those cuts. I want to put it back." ... It was like literally two or three days later when we--I mean, I read it, number one, in the paper, and then we talked about it in our family. And, you know, I have been a big promoter and always involved with Special Olympics, with helping people with mental disabilities. And I said to myself, "What am I doing? I'm now making cuts in programs for mentally disabled? That's not good." I mean, so then I went back and made the adjustment.

So he made a mistake by cutting funding for programs for mentally disabled people, and he only realized what he'd done and tried to change it after he read about it in the paper. Does he have any idea what he's doing? It sounds like he is just signing things that his advisors put in front of him without knowing what they are.

The Schwarzenegger interview was quite cordial, with Russert even flattering the governor by playing a clip of the movie Demolition Man, a futuristic film in which reference is made to a past Schwarzenegger presidency. That all was by way of introducing the question of whether he would run for president if the Constitution were altered to allow it. Arnold tried his best to look humble in responding.

By contrast, Ralph Nader was confronted with all of the calls by Democrats for him not to run for the presidency, leading him to issue a charged denounciation of those who have made such calls. He must be annoyed that the idea of Schwarzenegger running is treated as a fun hypothetical and the idea of him running causes such angry exchanges. Arnold, of course, is willing to take one of the major party labels, which makes a difference (being telegenic and likeable probably does too).

Nader lived up to my expectations of inane babbling. He seemed to call everyone and everything "corporate"--an evil epithet in his world--and he made some amazingly illogical claims. This was a joke:

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Al Gore would have invaded Iraq?

MR. NADER: He would have. I think he was a hawk. He may have done it in a different way. He and Clinton got through Congress a regime-change resolution as a pillar of our foreign policy.

Never mind that Gore has been giving speeches for months now denouncing the president's war in Iraq and that he endorsed Howard Dean. His mention of the Clinton administration policy toward Iraq echoes the RNC talking point that is meant to absolve the president of responsibility for misleading the country into war (and he cites the policy inaccurately to boot). This was another joke:

The military industrial complex, as Eisenhower pointed out, is getting bigger and devouring half of the federal budget's discretionary expenditure. And we have no major enemy left in the world, no Soviet Union, no Communist China.

Can you say "terrorism"? I highly doubt that railing against defense spending will be a winner with the elctorate at large this year. This sounds like something he must have used in his 1996 campaign, and it's past time to update it.

He cast aside legitimate questions with meaningless sound bites, as expected. The Nation magazine was dismissed as the "liberal intelligentsia", whatever that is supposed to mean. "You'd never find that type of thing in Canada or Western democracies in Europe." I laughed again at that one; tell the voters we should be more like France, there's another winner.

I can't see how this performance won Nader any votes, though I'm obviously biased. I just wished we could've seen any Nader-Schwarzenegger interaction (or had them appear jointly)--that would've been priceless.