Now that the recall registration deadline has passed and the “Total Recall” jokes are getting old, the time has come to look at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s politics.
A financial disclosure report, released to the press on Monday, confirmed that the movie star has more than enough personal wealth to run. In 2000 and 2001 alone Schwarzenegger made $51 million. But after all the talk about his sex life, wealth and body-building fame, the question remains; what does the movie star promise as a politician?
In the first few days of his campaign, Schwarzenegger been following in the footsteps of the tight-lipped Bush administration. He is neither forthcoming with political details nor responsive to inquiring reporters. Instead of describing how he would cut the state budget, he simply stated: “We will have a detailed plan very soon on how to face those kinds of problems, and how to solve those kinds of problems […] The important thing is to know that we have a crisis here in California.”
Given such revealing statements from the candidate, those interested in the brass tacks of Arnie’s politics need to do a little more digging. Schwarzenegger, who claims to be a friend of immigrants, recently told reporters, “I love immigrants. You know, I’m an immigrant myself.” But despite his statement of the obvious, it turns out that in 1994 he voted for California’s proposition 187 — the controversial ballot initiative that strove to cut health care and public education for illegal immigrants. The measure was eventually ruled unconstitutional, but is seen as a litmus test for candidates’ Latino-friendlyness. And although Schwarzenegger managed to vote for prop 187, it turns out that the Terminator doesn’t always make it to the voting booth. Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle reported that in fact Arnie has only voted in five of the past 11 elections.
Schwarzenegger has played himself up as the candidate who is best qualified to serve California’s diverse populace, but with a pro-prop 187 reputation, it didn’t take long for Democrats to start dredging up the dirt. On ABC’s This Week Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, was quick to point out that the driving force behind Prop 187 — former governor of California Pete Wilson — is Schwarzenegger’s campaign chairman. But Schwarzengger’s close connection with the anti-immigrant legislation doesn’t end with Wilson. Don Sipple, Arnie’s new media consultant, created the harsh television commercials promoting the anti-immigrant initiative. The doomsday ads featured a grim narration voice warning viewers that illegal immigrants just “keep coming.”
Sipple, a long-time Republican publicity manager, has worked for several Republican senators and governors, including Pete Wilson’s campaign. In fact a number of Schwarzenegger staffers helped Wilson defeat Kathleen Brown in 1994. But Sipple also has a personal history that he would rather keep quiet. In 1997 Mother Jones published an exposé on Sipple. In “The True Character of a Spin Doctor?”, Richard Blow wrote:
“Don Sipple’s story may have its own, potentially much darker hypocrisy. He has helped craft devastating attack ads despite allegations about his own past that would sink the healthiest of political candidates. He has been accused of abusing two wives, even as he has helped Republican candidates leap the gender gap with ads that exploit women’s fears of violence. And his story suggests a specific kind of public-private overlap: A number of those who know him believe that the same qualities that may have led Sipple to the alleged abuse — his aggression, his obsession with control, his gift at suasion — are the same qualities that allow him to excel in politics. As David Steelman, Debbie’s brother, puts it, ‘Was Don Sipple hired despite what he was — or because of it?'”
Sipple now seems to be making a comeback with Schwarzenegger. He appears enthusiastic about the prospect of recall madness, not just in California, but nationally. He told the Washington Post that a recall trend might be in order:
“This is not restricted to California’s borders […] this has the potential to spread nationally very quickly. As much as (some people) despise direct democracy, the people like it.”
With such controversial positions making headlines in the first week of campaigning, the next two months of recall politics are sure to filled with more headlines about the man behind the cyborg.