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February 22, 2004
Meet the Press: Schwarzenegger and Nader, Together Again For The First Time

Tim Russert gave Meet the Press viewers a spectacular one-two punch this morning, interviewing both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and potential independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Shortly before air time, CNN anticipated Nader's decision and announced he was indeed throwing his hat into the ring.

But first, Russert interviewed the Governator, who performed impressively in his segment. Despite Russert's attempts to put Arnold in the position of abandoning children and blind people for lower car taxes, Arnold turned it around and told Russert that the problem wasn't the car tax, it was that the legislature increased spending at a 43% clip over the last five years, far outstripping the 24% increase in tax revenues over the same period. He acknowledged that he would raise taxes in an emergency, but only then, and his implication was that he did not consider undisciplined legislators an emergency condition.

Russert touched on the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in San Francisco, and Arnold answered that he wants the Attorney General to take action to stop it. He refused to be brought into a hypothetical debate, saying that if he went down that road, it would occupy "50% of my time" for no good purpose. Later, Russert went a little softer, allowing Arnold to wax a bit more philosophical, and Arnold took the opportunity.

He did an excellent job projecting a highly engaged and thoughtful image; Arnold obviously not only knows the broad strokes of his position but the details as well, and thinks constantly about leadership. He would be a star on the national stage if he was a natural-born citizen, and Russert brought up Orrin Hatch's proposed Constitutional amendment which would remove that barrier, playing a possibly prescient clip from Sylvester Stallone's Demolition Man, in which Arnold is mentioned as a past President. While obviously amused, Arnold would only say that he favored the amendment, but he was too busy to worry about any other job than the one he already has. Good answer, and a terrific appearance.

CNN now has the release from NBC on Nader's announcement, just as he's appearing on my TV. Hmmm. Nader explains that Washington is now "corporate-occupied territory", and staked out the Deaniac territory pretty well, even to the extreme of Dean. The Nation warns that Nader risks alienating progressives, "perhaps irrevocably," and Russert played a video from explaining that with just a fraction of Nader votes in Florida and New Hampshire, Gore would be President. (They don't mention, of course, that Gore never would have been Vice President without Ross Perot's candidacy in 1992.) Nader struck back harshly, claiming that the "liberal intelligentsia" wants to suppress choice, possibly the first time I've ever agreed with Nader. Nader pointed out that there wasn't just three candidates in Florida and New Hampshire, and all of them had an effect on the outcome.

He completely lost me when he asserted that the US had no "major enemy" left in the world. No major enemy left in the world? How did those gaping holes at the World Trade Center come to be? What about China, for crying out loud? What color is the sky in Nader's world, anyway? The very thought of someone this clueless in the White House is laughable as long as it's impossible. He was all over the place on Iraq, blaming Bush I for not invading Iraq proper in 1991 and Bush II for getting rid of Saddam, as he felt Bush I should have done.

Nader, oddly, spoke rather poorly, allowing his emotion to get the best of him when he excoriated the Democrats for not bragging about Social Security, Medicare, and environmental laws, and other social programs. He sounded close to shouting throughout most of his interview. For a man who litigated significant court cases and has been in the public eye for so long, he doesn't demonstrate any talent for public speaking; he comes across as an angry Ross Perot with better education, and not much more. That firebrand anger may appeal to the Howard Dean/Al Gore die-hard enthusiasts, but will turn off a lot of people ... and Nader, it would seem, can't really afford to lose one potential voter at all.

Ironically, the "amateur" came across far better than the experienced political veteran today. It may be a vignette of two political careers going in opposite directions.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 22, 2004 9:26 AM

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