Politics & Policy

Dreier’s Drive

A conservative stumps for Arnold.

Last weekend, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his opinion of Ward Connerly’s Proposition 54 — the Racial Privacy Initiative — and took a jab at conservatives. “I’m against it,” he said, “And if the right-wing crazies have a problem with that, so be it.”

Many conservatives — i.e., “the right-wing crazies” — are looking for a reason to support Schwarzenegger for governor. They believe he represents the GOP’s best chance of winning next month’s recall election, but they also want evidence that his victory will advance the interests of conservatism at least a little bit. They’re leery of his social liberalism and his refusal to make a “no new taxes” promise. And when Schwarzenegger starts whacking them for the simple offense of thinking their state government should quit asking people about the color of their skin, he drives them in the arms of fellow Republican Tom McClintock, a committed and principled conservative.

That’s why Congressman David Dreier is so important to Schwarzenegger. He’s co-chairman of Schwarzenegger’s campaign — and also a crucial envoy to “right-wing crazies” who are wary of the Terminator.

“Arnold’s absolutely a conservative — he’s a conservative on the issues that led to the recall,” says Dreier. “If being pro-choice on abortion means you’re not conservative, then he’s not conservative. But he’s not running on these issues. He’s running fiscal management, the size and scope of government, and the need for leadership.”

There’s no question about Dreier’s conservatism. His lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is 93 percent. When he stumps for Schwarzenegger — as he has done tirelessly in recent weeks — a lot of Golden State conservatives are probably telling themselves that if Arnold is good enough for Dreier, then he’s good enough for me.

“He won’t raise taxes,” says Dreier. “He is unalterably opposed to raising taxes.”

So why won’t Schwarzenegger sign a pledge not to raise them?

“I suppose you never say never. I just don’t believe he’ll do it.”

Dreier first met Schwarzenegger in 1991, when the actor was serving on President Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness. “He’s been very supportive of Republican candidates over the years,” says Dreier. “He decided that he was a Republican in 1968, when he listened to Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey. He said, ‘If that’s what Democrats stand for, then I’m a Republican.’”

During an interview with NRO on Monday, Dreier said that he hadn’t heard about Schwarzenegger opposing Proposition 54. “I suspect I’ll be voting for it,” he says. “Schwarzenegger’s opposition doesn’t concern me. He’s okay on the whole issue of affirmative action.”

A new Field Poll shows Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante holding a slim lead over Schwarzenegger, 30 percent to 25 percent. State senator McClintock is in third place with 13 percent. Former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth is in fourth place with 5 percent — but he dropped out of the race yesterday.

Now McClintock will face added pressure to quit from Republicans who think support from his base would push Schwarzenegger past Bustamante.

“I think Tom McClintock is a great guy, but this is a two-man race,” says Dreier. He means that only Bustamante and Schwarzenegger have a real chance of winning. In reality, of course, there’s a two-man race within the two-man race, with Republicans splitting their support between Schwarzenegger and McClintock. Will the failure of one of these candidates to get out of the other’s way cede the election to Bustamante?

“My hope is that we can be united behind Schwarzenegger,” says Dreier. “I am convinced that in the end Republicans will be united.”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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