Washington Post column on Arnold Schwarzenegger & U.S. English
Schwarzenegger Is No One-Dimensional Character
August 13, 2003
By Terry M. Neal
The picture of Arnold Schwarzeneger, an Austrian immigrant turned California
gubernatorial candidate, is beginning to come into focus, and it's a complicated
one. Schwarzenegger, like many Americans, is difficult to define politically. He
is apparently not strictly beholden to any hardline rightist or leftist
While media reports in recent days have focused on Schwarzenegger's support for
Proposition 187, the controversial 1994 referendum that denied government
benefits to illegal aliens, virtually nothing has been said about the
multi-millionaire actor's 15-year association with U.S. English, an organization
that seeks to establish English as the official language of the United States
and also has ties to right-wing nationalist movements that have stirred
controversy for other politicians such as Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent
It's been less than a week since Schwarzenegger announced on "The Tonight Show
with Jay Leno" that he would seek to replace Gov. Gray Davis as California's
chief executive. Yet, in today's hyper-political atmosphere, he is coming under
mounting fire for being vague about his stance on issues.
Hispanic and Asian voters, who could make up a fifth or more of those going to
the ballot box on Oct. 7, would likely take a dim view of Schwarzenegger's
involvement in U.S. English, as well as his support for Proposition 187.
At the same time, Schwarzeneger has come under attack from conservatives,
led by Rush Limbaugh, who have argued that the actor's support for abortion
rights and gay adoption make him unfit to carry the mantle of Ronald Reagan.
Already there are movements on the right to push for more conservative
candidates, such as Bill Simon.
Yet Schwarzenegger's position on some issues, particularly with regard to
immigration, appear to fall in line with conservative ideology and could leave
him vulnerable to attacks from the left.
Schwarzenegger, who enjoys a lead in the polls, has not been eager to clarify
the complicated image of him that emerges from his public association with
groups such as U.S. English. Schwarzenegger campaign officials did not respond
to three phone calls made this week for this column.
U.S. English's Tortured History
U.S. English has a long, controversial history, and its goals are opposed
by some of the nation's most influential minority advocacy
organizations. The group supports legislation on the national and state level
that would require almost all government business to be conducted in English.
In 1988, U.S. English found itself embroiled in an embarrassing flap. According
to James Lubinskas, a spokesman for the group, Schwarzenegger joined the
advisory board the previous year. With U.S. English-sponsored referenda pending
in three states, opponents of the referenda obtained and publicly released a
private memo written by the group's co-founder, John Tanton, which he intended
to share only among other leaders of the anti-immigration movement.
Tanton, a Michigan eye surgeon, is considered the modern-day godfather of the
anti-immigration movement. He has founded or helped fund at least 13
anti-immigration groups, three of which are listed as "hate groups" by the
Southern Poverty Law Center.
"In this society, will the present majority peaceably hand over its political
power to a group that is simply more fertile," Tanton wrote in
his 1988 memo. "Can homo contraceptives compete with horno progenitivo if our
borders aren't controlled. . . .Perhaps this is the first instance in which
those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants
down. As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will
they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion."
U.S. English was co-founded by former Republican senator Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa,
the son of Japanese immigrants. Its advisory board has included several
mainstream celebrities, ethnic minorities and politicians. But Tanton's memo set
the organization back significantly. Following its release, Linda Chavez, a
prominent Hispanic conservative who served in the Reagan administration,
resigned as president of U.S. English, and Walter Cronkite left the group's
Schwarzenegger's reaction to Tanton's comments are unclear at this point,
because the campaign isn't talking about it. Some media reports suggest
Schwarzenneger left the group. But it is unclear when he rejoined. What is clear
is that Schwarzenegger is still on the advisory board and an active member,
according to Lubinskas.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger is on our board of advisers," Lubinskas said on Monday.
"He joined in 1987. He was invited to join. He supports official English and he
supports U.S. English as an organization."
Lubinskas also said Schwarzenegger has donated money to the organization over
the years, but could not say how much.
The group fell into obscurity for some years after the Tanton memo incident
before it re-emerged in the 1990s under the new leadership of Chilean-born
businessman Mauro E. Mujica. Mujica was traveling in Mexico and referred all
questions to Lubinskas.
Recently, U.S. English has come under the scrutiny of watchdog groups such as
the Southern Poverty Law Center for its hiring of Lubinskas in March. Lubinskas
was listed as a contributing editor of the August 2003 issue of American
Renaissance magazine, which SPLC lists as a hate group. The magazine is
published by Jared Taylor, a leader of the white-supremacist group Council of
Conservative Citizens, which is also listed by SPLC as a hate group. Lubinskas
has long ties to right-wing nationalist groups, such as American Friends of the
British Nationalist Party. The Summer 2000 edition of the AFBNP newsletter
describes a meeting in which Lubinskas shared a stage with former Louisiana
Klansman David Duke.
Asked about his connection to AFBNP on Monday, Lubinskas declined to comment.
SPLC lists neither U.S. English nor the Federation of American Immigration
Reform (FAIR)-a Tanton organization that played a central role in support of
California's Proposition 187-as hate groups. While Schwarzenegger remains
quiet, his supporters point out that after discovering years ago that his father
had been a member of the Nazi party in Austria, he became active in Jewish
causes and has donated more than $1 million to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in
Los Angeles. He also has been active in health and educational causes, lending
his time and money to improving the lives of inner-city children.
Guilt By Association?
Should Schwarzenegger be considered guilty by association? No. He deserves a
chance to answer questions about his involvement with U.S. English-not because
he doesn't have a right to belong to whatever organizations he wants to belong
to, but because politicians are rightly judged by the company they keep.
Conservative activist David Horowitz, who is also on the advisory board of U.S.
English, described the board as essentially a symbolic entity of like-minded
people. He said he could not recall the last time there was a board meeting.
Horowitz, who has denounced Taylor and the CCC in print, said he did not know
about Lubinskas's association with American Renaissance and that such ties were
Sitting with Schwarzenegger on the board of U.S. English are other Hollywood
names - such as game show host Alex Trebek and Lee Majors, star of the 1980s
television series "The Fall Guy" - as well as Nobel laureate Saul Bellow and
1968 anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Eugene J. McCarthy.
Schwarzenegger should also talk about his association with Tanton. He should be
asked, as an advisory board member, if he knew anything about Lubinskas's hiring
by U.S. English. He should be asked if he played any behind-the-scenes role with
FAIR in the Proposition 187 fight.
Schwarzenegger, as well as all the other major candidates, should also be asked
to explain whether they support or oppose Ward Connerly's Racial Privacy
Initiative, a ballot measure on which Californians will cast votes the same day
as the recall election. Connerly's initiative would ban government from
collecting most kinds of racial and ethnic information.
Opponents of U.S. English's goals said Schwarzenegger's involvement with U.S.
English would likely hurt his chances among Asian and Hispanic voters.
"We are all for helping immigrants learn English," said Celia Munoz, vice
president of policy for the National Council of La Raza, one of the nation's
largest and most influential Hispanic advocacy organizations. "Having said that,
it doesn't make any sense to be making English the official language of the
United States. It doesn't accomplish anything. It doesn't help people learn
English, but it does hurt people. It's ugly and punitive and very harmful."
Karen K. Narasaki of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium
expressed a similar thought.
"While we certainly promote immigrants learning English, we also understand that
it takes some time," she said. "We think it makes sense for government to
communicate with people in the language they best understand. To not do so can
result in health and safety issues. If it's not sharing with them basic health
information for their children or regulations for business, its' not good for an
immigrant who is struggling to learn English."
Horowitz argues that Schwarzenegger's positions on Proposition 187 and U.S.
English would help him with the electorate. He characterized Schwarzenegger's
decision to hire as his campaign chairman Pete Wilson, the former Republican
governor who led the charge for 187, as a great idea that can help him win
conservatives and moderates and revive a moribund party.
Wilson has defended himself and Schwarzenegger in recent interviews, accusing
Democrats of playing "the race card."
The success of Proposition 187, Wilson said Sunday on ABC's "This Week", "was
directed against Washington's failure both to control the borders and then their
sticking California state taxpayers with the cost of federally mandated
services, that was note a vote against Latinos. It was a vote against illegal
immigration and what President Clinton even admitted was federal failure which
he said was, quote, 'unfair to California.'"
But Wilson misses several points:
1) The demographics of the state have changed
significantly in the last decade.
2) The level of political activism of that
changing demographic can be directly attributed to his actions.
These are not points Schwarzenegger can afford to miss -- or refuse to address
-- if he hopes to be elected governor.
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