Original URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A53646-2003Aug13.html

Washington Post column on Arnold Schwarzenegger & U.S. English
Schwarzenegger Is No One-Dimensional Character
Washington Post
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 ideology.

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 Lott.

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 advisory board.

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 "not good."

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.

2003 Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive