Schwarzenegger Praising Bush’s Character

Erica Werner, AP, Mlive.com, Aug. 31

NEW YORK (AP)—California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to put his star power to work for President Bush on Tuesday, praising him for “perseverance, character and leadership” in a time of war and terror.

The Austrian bodybuilder-turned-Hollywood star and politician was to draw heavily on his own unique immigrant story to cast the GOP as a party of opportunity. “I want other people to get the same chances I did, the same opportunities,” he says in excerpts of his prime-time speech to the Republican convention.

“And I believe they can. That’s why I believe in this country, that’s why I believe in this party and what’s why I believe in this president,” Schwarzenegger says.

“America is back,” he says, a line reminiscent of his slogan from the “Terminator” movies: “I’ll be back.”

Schwarzenegger was trying to reintroduce himself as a politician to a country that might still see him as a movie star. The prime-time convention appearance is his first chance to give a purely political speech to a national television audience since taking office in California last November.

He was to use the opportunity to tell the country about his own experience as an immigrant, and to welcome other immigrants into a party that is eager for their votes.

“To my fellow immigrants listening tonight, I want you to know how welcome you are in this party. We Republicans admire your ambition. We encourage your dreams. We believe in your future,” he says.

Despite Schwarzenegger’s welcoming words, the Republicans are torn about the face they show to immigrants. The party platform endorses President Bush’s call for temporary legal status for illegal workers, but conservatives hate that plan while Hispanic groups complain it doesn’t go far enough.

Schwarzenegger supports Bush’s proposal but is expected to veto a bill that would give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. He also was criticized during last fall’s recall campaign for supporting Proposition 187, the controversial 1994 California measure that would have denied services to illegal immigrants.

He also praises the nation’s compassion. “We’re the America that send out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children . . . And we’re the America that fights not for imperialism but for human rights and democracy,” Schwarzenegger says.

Schwarzenegger’s wife, Kennedy relative and Democrat Maria Shriver, planned to watch from the convention floor with the couple’s four children, aged 6-14. Her father, Sargent Shriver, was founding director of the Peace Corps.

Despite Schwarzenegger’s praise of Bush, he’s been cautious so far in promoting the president’s re-election. The two have appeared together in California but Schwarzenegger has sent mixed signals about campaigning for Bush outside California.

Schwarzenegger’s popularity in Democrat-leaning California rests in part on his bipartisan, moderate image—an image that could be tarnished if he embraces Bush too closely, analysts say.

Bush’s approval rating stood at 40 percent in California in an August poll, compared with 65 percent for Schwarzenegger. The two disagree on issues including abortion rights, which Schwarzenegger supports, and amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage, which he opposes.

And despite Schwarzenegger’s welcoming words, the GOP is torn about the face it reveals to immigrants. The new party platform endorses President Bush’s request to give temporary legal status to illegal workers, but conservatives hate that plan, and Hispanic groups complain it doesn’t go far enough.

Schwarzenegger supports Bush’s proposal but is expected to veto a bill that just landed on his desk that would give drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. He also was criticized during last fall’s recall campaign for supporting Proposition 187, the 1994 California measure that would have denied state services to illegal immigrants.

And while the speech was showcasing Schwarzenegger as a political leader, it’s not clear what his political future might hold. As a foreign-born citizen he could not run for president unless the Constitution were amended.

Schwarzenegger became governor after California voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat.

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