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Talk show host draws Schwarzenegger out on issues

Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Arnold Schwarzenegger for the first time laid out his positions on a wide variety of social issues Wednesday, offering a sketchy portrait of himself as a social moderate and fiscal conservative.

The Republican's appearance on a radio talk show revealed more about his positions than he did in his earlier press conferences and other public appearances combined. He previously sketched out his economic plans as a fiscal conservative in broad terms.

On the syndicated radio show, Schwarzenegger also responded to Gov. Gray Davis' attempts to portray the recall as a right-wing power grab, calling it an "insult to the people" because 1.6 million signed petitions and close to 60 percent have supported the recall in some polls.

"The recall is great because what it does is, it basically makes us the luckiest people on Earth," Schwarzenegger said on Sean Hannity's radio program. "We live in a state where we the people have the right to decide if the politicians are doing their job or not."

Hannity pinned Schwarzenegger down with a series of rapid-fire questions to get simple summaries of his positions, rather than detailed explanations.

Among his positions:

• Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants: He is against state legislation making it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. But on other services, he was less definitive, saying there needs to be a way to support people who have been working in the state for years. He said it is primarily a federal problem so as governor he would work with the federal government to address it.

"We have to deal with this because these are people that are working here, many of them have worked here for many, many years, and doing a great job, and so we have to figure out how we handle that."

• Abortion: He is pro-choice but opposes the late-term procedure which abortion opponents call "partial-birth" abortion. He supports parental notification, except in cases where there has been abuse in the home, in which case he said the courts could be involved.

• Gun control: He favors gun control, specifically the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban, and would close the loophole that makes it easier to obtain firearms at gun shows.

• Gay rights: He opposes gay marriage but supports "domestic partnerships."

• Offshore oil drilling: He opposes it off the California coast and would ask the federal and state governments to renegotiate oil company leases to stop the drilling.

• Marijuana: He supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but otherwise opposes legalization of drugs.

• Proposition 54: He does not yet have a position on the Oct. 7 ballot measure that would prevent the state from gathering racially based data. He also does not have a position yet on affirmative action.

• School vouchers: He supports them to a limited extent.

• Prayer in school: He supports it, but said it should be up to the individual schools.

His positions on abortion, gun control and offshore drilling tend to match Democratic positions, while on the school prayer, vouchers and driver's licenses issues he is in agreement with most Republicans.

Schwarzenegger's appearance on Hannity's show, and on Larry Elder's radio show later in the day, come as part of a recent barrage of call-in appearances on conservative radio shows throughout the state in the last week, following Republican businessman Bill Simon's withdrawal from the race.

Schwarzenegger started out aiming for the ideological middle in the campaign, but his recent appearances on conservative shows is seen as an attempt to stem recent gains made by conservative Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks.

McClintock trails Schwarzenegger in the polls, but has gained ground recently, and has said he is staying in to the end.

On the left, Democrats have been increasingly coalescing behind Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante despite his decision to buck the party's strategy of keeping major Democrats off the ballot.

Republican strategist Arnold Steinberg, who is not involved in the recall, said he sees the actor's statements as a move to the right. His more liberal positions on issues such as gun control and abortion were generally known, though not specifically discussed in this campaign, but Steinberg noted his opposition to partial-birth abortions, for example, was a concession to conservatives.

"I think what he's done today is basically stake out a politically correct conservative position," Steinberg said.

"Basically, conservatives are increasingly pragmatic. The fiscal issue is a key issue right now, and the Buffett appointment caused quite a stir. I think he's doing a good job to deal with skepticism toward him."

Schwarzenegger's appointment of billionaire Warren Buffett, a Democrat, as a chief economic adviser met with criticism from conservatives after Buffett suggested property taxes are too low in California.

Schwarzenegger disavowed those comments, saying he fully supports the tax-limiting measure Proposition 13, and kept Buffett on as an adviser.

Asked about Buffett by Hannity, Schwarzenegger said he likes to seek advice from both sides of an issue before making a decision.

McClintock contrasted himself with Schwarzenegger, emphasizing that he is conservative on social issues, including opposing abortion and supporting gun-owners' rights. He also said it appeared Schwarzenegger was shifting to the right as the campaign progressed.

"I've been in the public arena for 20 years. Positions I've taken have not changed in 20 years," McClintock said. "I am pro-life. I believe in the right of people to self-defense -- it's enshrined in the Second Amendment. And again, these are positions that people can count on."