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Doug Gamble- Contributor

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel.

Expediency vs. Principle
If the recall gets back on track, a crucial choice looms Oct. 7
[Doug Gamble] 9/17/03

If the court decision postponing California's recall election is overturned and the vote is put back on track, and assuming state Sen. Tom McClintock stays in the race, Republicans will have to choose between expediency and principle Oct. 7. At the moment, expediency is leading in the polls.

If this were a primary, the conservative bent of state Republicans would probably mean a McClintock victory over Arnold Schwarzenegger. But since the candidate receiving the most votes becomes governor if Gray Davis is recalled, conservatives are tempted to give Schwarzenegger a free pass on ideology just to have a Republican as chief executive.

Even if it means postponing a GOP governorship until January 2007 - and I believe a conservative running a smart campaign can win statewide office in this state - I hope California Republicans will match McClintock's principled stand on the issues with principles of their own and vote for him over a watered-down Republican whose unofficial campaign slogan seems to be, "Details, schmetails." If he were Arnold Schwarzenegger, insurance agent, instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor, his campaign would be a joke and unworthy of coverage.

The fact is his support is built entirely on a foundation of celebrity. How else to explain the all- news channels breaking away from regular programming to cover live the actor's every utterance before a microphone? It is only a movie star's fame that makes him more media-worthy than McClintock.

When Schwarzenegger is greeted at campaign events by throngs of squealing teen-age girls and crowds pressing forward for handshakes and autographs, it has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with fame. The actor's calculation, probably correct, is that in our celebrity-obsessed culture, star appeal trumps substance.

Those who vote for Schwarzenegger will do so without really knowing what they'll be getting. He still speaks in vague generalities and has not spelled out the particulars of achieving stated goals. According to TV ads that contain more fluff than the lint filter of an overused clothes dryer, his entire solution to the budget deficit is to "open the books."

He has said nothing about what programs he'll cut, and, although he insists he won't raise taxes, I don't believe him.

Particularly irksome is his decision to duck all but one of the scheduled debates. What other than political cowardice and contempt for the voters would cause a candidate to pass up opportunities to make his case before a statewide TV audience, a viewership made all the larger by interest in the recall? And what credible candidate would refuse to hold a news conference at a party's state convention as Schwarzenegger did last weekend?

Yet even such solid Republicans as Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and conservative spitfire Ann Coulter seem to have fallen under the Schwarzenegger celebrity spell, backing a candidate who is pro-abortion, favors gun control and gay adoptions and is to the left of Sen. Dianne Feinstein on school vouchers.

Schwarzenegger is compared to Ronald Reagan, but the real Reagan Republican in this race is McClintock, a courageous fighter against big government and higher taxes for over two decades. Also, it is McClintock who has seen a recent surge in poll numbers while Schwarzenegger's have remained relatively stagnant. But apparently no good work goes unpunished as the California GOP sees it, so it's the genuine Republican the party wants to boot to the sidelines.

If enough Republicans vote for Schwarzenegger, he may become governor, but at what cost to the party's soul? Their votes will decide if conservative principles are worth fighting for or whether most California Republicans are just star-struck groupies.

This opinion piece first appeared in the Orange County Register

Copyright 2003 Doug Gamble




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