By E.J. Kessler

Published August 15, 2003, issue of August 15, 2003.
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Agnostic About Arnold: California’s top Republican brass is decidedly agnostic about the gubernatorial bid of moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite the media frenzy it touched off and polls showing the actor to be the leading candidate. Basically, they’re waiting to see whether he will survive whatever dirt comes out in the press — such as the old photo that surfaced from Schwarzenegger’s body-building days, showing a topless woman riding on his shoulders.

“I was in Crawford [Texas] with the top state people, and the analysis was, let’s see how he does in the next two to four weeks,” said the president of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s southern California region, Bruce Bialosky, referring to President Bush’s summer White House, where there was a shindig for major donors last week. “I personally believe he’s going to survive” the media scrutiny, Bialosky added. “He’s tougher than many give him credit for.”

One question the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger apparently will not have to address is his family’s Nazi past: He had the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which hosts the Museum of Tolerance, research his father’s Nazi ties a decade ago, and the center’s head, Rabbi Marvin Hier, has been vouching for the actor’s philosemitism to whichever reporter has asked. Interestingly, California’s beleaguered Democratic governor, Gray Davis, whose recall “The Terminator” is trying to effectuate, also has turned to the Wiesenthal Center as a koshering agent. Recently, Jewish Democrats and community leaders held a press conference in support of Davis at the Museum of Tolerance, hailing the governor for promoting tolerance and noting the millions of state dollars he has lavished on the center.

A spokesman for the California Democratic Party told the Forward that the Democrats would not be digging for any dirt on Schwarzenegger — not because they’re against the idea, but because it would not be an economical division of labor. “We’re leaving it to the Republicans and the tabloids,” Democratic campaign adviser Bob Mulholland said, referring to the other Republicans who have placed their names on the recall ballot. “They’ve got the resources.”

* * *

Ragin’ Rebecca?: Rebecca Lieberman is singing backup for her dad Joe’s drive to energize the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party.

In her first major address of the campaign, she will tell 600 folks gathered August 15 at the Young Democrats of America national convention in Buffalo, N.Y., why they should support the presidential bid of the passionately centrist Connecticut senator. “I’m excited by his New Democrat vision for how government can do things such as cure diseases, get the economy going again and move toward energy independence,” she told the Forward, sounding very “on message.” “I share his belief that big-government solutions are not right at this time and not what created the Clinton-Gore prosperity.”

Lieberman conceded that she might see some anti-Iraq-war sentiment at the conference, and that her father’s stand in support of the war might be controversial. “It’s easier to rile people up in an anti-war way than it is to get them to see what government could do under new leadership,” she said. But she said she would “talk about the war as an example of my father’s independence,” and how he makes his decisions based on what he believes is right, regardless of how they play on the left or right.

On a personal note, Lieberman insisted that she has gotten beyond the story about the $100,000 salary she was getting until recently as one of her father’s campaign fundraisers, which raised eyebrows when it hit the press last month. The story “had different lives in different newspapers,” she said, but “it’s past. All is well.”

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