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Jewish World Review August 12, 2003 / 14 Menachem-Av, 5763

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham
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Consumer Reports

What would Reagan do? | After faking everyone out, including me, with his decision to run for the governorship of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger now needs to get down to business. Box-office flops may be embarrassing, but a political flop after such a build-up as he has engineered would be much worse. There's no after-life in DVD rentals for failed candidates.

Navigating the Malibu-Brentwood-Bel Air social circuit is a snap. Holding forth on a press junket to promote the latest film is a no-brainer - although those questions from "Access Hollywood" can be real mindbenders, I'm sure. But navigating the sprawling, vexing labyrinth known as California politics is another matter altogether.

Even in California, man cannot get elected on celebrity alone. Mr. Schwarzenegger needs some basic guidelines to follow to avoid having his current sizzle turn into an election-day fizzle. So here's my memo to Mr. Schwarzenegger:

One: Think Reagan.

Be upbeat, sunny, and positive. Yes, the deficit is astronomical and hard choices are necessary, but you will get it done. Period. Gray "Skies" Davis will do what he always does in campaigns - he'll avoid taking personal responsibility and go negative. Let him. Flick him off like a piece of lint.

Californians need hope and optimism. Give it to them. Whenever you're in doubt, ask yourself, "What would Reagan do?" "How would the Gipper respond?"

Two: Tout your American success story.

You are an immigrant who worked hard, played by the rules, and achieved the American dream. Tell your story - again and again. You are an entrepreneur and a risktaker who could never have found such success in any other country in the world. You now want to give something back by dedicating yourself as aggressively to leading California as you have to playing leading roles. When the Davis team tries to portray you as a hard-bodied know-nothing, respond by saying that the voters of California are tired of soft-bodied know-it-alls.

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Three: Avoid the tug-of-war between GOP moderates and conservatives.

This will be tough but it's important. The state's ongoing feud between the Republican right and middle-of-the-roaders is fierce. Gray "Skies" exploited this rift when he attacked moderate Dick Riordan in the 2002 GOP primary.

The key here is to convince both camps that given all the political and economic carnage across the state, you're the only one who can bring both sides together. Give a "united we win, divided we fall" speech.

As for the explosive issues - such as abortion, gun control, and immigration - that fuel this raging intraparty struggle, you should not run away from them. State your beliefs but always first acknowledge that reasonable people disagree about these complicated matters. Remember, your strategy should be never vilify, always inspire.

Four: Don't be afraid to be politically incorrect.

Ignore the consultants and handlers who urge you to steer clear of the hot-button issues about which you feel strongly.The public will want to hear from you on illegal immigrants, affirmative action, and bilingual education. Offend no one and you motivate no one. Your answers to these questions should come from your gut, not from a focus group. Again, treat the opposition with respect, but tell the people what you believe and why. And if your language is sometimes not artful, don't worry. President Bush has managed just fine, and still can't pronounce "nuclear."

Five: Dedicate this recall election to the people.

The campaign to recall Mr. Davis has been a grass-roots effort from Day 1. Back in February the political elites scoffed at the notion that some fledgling movement could ever disrupt Mr. Davis's hold on power. As usual, they were wrong and totally underestimated the people's fury and frustration at a political leader who had abused their trust. On the "Tonight Show," you seemed to have this point down pat when you said "The people are working hard. The people are paying the taxes, the people are raising the families, but the politicians are not doing their job. The politicians are fiddling, fumbling, and failing." The people, not the politicians, are what make California great; and the people deserve better.

Even if Mr. Schwarzenegger follows this five-point plan, he could still tank at the political box office. The political unknowns that lurk behind every corner could terminate even the Terminator. But I'm betting on him because, unlike Mr. Davis, he doesn't need the political power. He already is powerful. Now he wants to do some good.

Mr. Schwarzenegger surprised the critics in Hollywood when he parlayed Mr. Olympia into Mr. Box Office. And this week he surprised many of us when he decided to try to parlay Mr. Box Office into Mr. Governor. The next one to be surprised may be Mr. Davis.

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JWR contributor Laura Ingraham is the host of a radio show syndicated nationally by Westwood One Radio Network and the author of "The Hillary Trap: Looking for Power in All the Wrong Places". Comment by clicking here.

08/06/03: Hillary, courtside
07/30/03: Gray skies just got darker
07/23/03: Sticking it to the Children
07/08/03: He's not invincible
07/01/03: It's time to take back the Constitution
04/01/03: Peter Arnett's MOAB
03/25/03: The Dems' Michael Moore Problem
03/18/03: Dixie Chicken out
03/11/03: The real predator drones
03/04/03: The French PR machine crashes
02/25/03: Keep us safe --- let's be more like Europe!
02/11/03: Hollywood loves dictators
02/05/03: First Amendment frauds in Cincinnati
01/28/03: The elites versus the voters
01/22/03: Playing (and losing) Homeland Security politics
01/14/03: What have you done for the free world lately?
12/17/02: Who is the better leader: Gore or Lott?
12/10/02: Who, more than anyone else, is actively advancing the cause of civil liberties around the world?
12/04/02: 'Tis the season to hope for the worst
11/27/02: The Federal P.C. Police Versus Small Business Owners (Cont'd)
11/19/02: Bipartisan moves to reward illegals
11/13/02: Eminem, a rebel? You gotta be kidding!
11/05/02: In defense of low turnout
10/30/02: Hell, no they won't go!
10/22/02: Where are the moderate Muslims?
10/15/02: California dreaming, cont'd
10/08/02: Slick Willie's running
10/01/02: Euro-worries about wall flower status
09/26/02: How lucky we are that the Straight Talk Express drove off the cliff!
09/18/02: What Jackson and Sharpton know about conservatives
09/12/02: The Today Show v. guns
08/27/02: Bush not attending the UN-sponsored "bash Amerika" conference!?
08/20/02: The NEA: Let the anti-American indoctrination begin!
08/13/02: Bubba's revenge
08/07/02: Bilingual bust continues its drag on our schools
07/30/02: Dems love for big lawyers=big opportunity
07/23/02: No time for vacation
07/16/02: Is Homeland Security all wet?
06/25/02: The firing season has arrived
06/18/02: Picking the next chief
06/11/02: Intelligence coup, with much more to do
06/07/02: The Bush administration's foul ball
05/30/02: Post-feminism in the aftermath of 9-11
05/23/02: The press gunning for Ashcroft
05/19/02: El Jefe basks in Carter's Light
05/15/02: Former presidents who don't understand the word "former"
05/07/02: Ozzy deified, many mortified, drugs glorified?
05/01/02: Bush: "California here I come ... sort of"
04/27/02: The good news about conservatives versus Bush
04/17/02: While the cat's away....
04/09/02: Preview of 2004: See how Dick runs!
01/29/02: A kinder, gentler human-rights violator?
11/27/01: Military tribunals provide streamlined justice
09/07/01: Scariest animal wears pants
08/17/01: Depressed after seeing uncut version of Apocalypse Now --- and for good reason
07/20/01: The other, maybe more important, news
06/22/01: Washington's pro-Bono worship is unnerving
06/01/01: Burying conservatism
05/17/01: Ashcroft's abuse of power

© 2002, Laura Ingraham