California's Wild and Wooly Politics

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, August 8, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The wild and woolly politics in California may have sealed the state's reputation as a haven for left coast lunacy. This is my home state.

Heather Nauert takes a hard look at a state where sometimes folks are considered a bit, oh, I can't believe I'm saying this, soft in the head. Hi, Heather.


Well, joining me now have is the former lieutenant governor of California Mike Curb (search). And that's today's big question. Does California deserve its crazy reputation, Mike?

MIKE CURB (R) FMR. LT. GOV. OF CALIFORNIA: Well, first of all, California is like a microcosm of our entire nation. I mean, when you're in Orange County, Orange County has very little in common with San Francisco. The central part of the state is an agricultural area.

NAUERT: Come on, Mike, though, you have got to admit from an outsider's point of view, the people there look a little bit loony right now.

CURB: Well, I think Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) is one of the most well-disciplined human beings I ever met. He campaigned for me when I ran for lieutenant governor. He is one of the most outstanding human beings that I've ever met and I think he is a business person. I sound like I'm plugging him, but I really believe that Arnold is the answer for California.

NAUERT: Okay. But Arnold Schwarzenegger aside, people like Gary Coleman (search), a former childhood actor, porn people, Larry Flynt, etc., when you hear about these types of people getting in on the race — you were lieutenant governor in California a Nixon protege, you were up to your ears yourself in California politics — when you hear about these kind of candidates in the race now, do you scratch your head and say, “What the heck is going on?”

CURB: Well, there are a lot of people in the governor's race who should not be in that race. But I don't think we should let that take away from the great candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger because, I mean, I think Arnold could go up there and take that state out of the hands of the special interests, where it's been for so long and really clean house and turn the state around.

NAUERT: You eventually made the decision to get out of California politics yourself. You're now in Nashville. Did things ever just get a little too nutty for you there? Did you ever think, “Let's get to a different place?”

CURB: Yes. I moved from California about 12 years ago, and during the time that I was in political office, I used to say that we're driving people out of the state. And if you look at the statistics, people have left the state, businesses have left the state. The state is in the hands of special interests. And if Arnold can turn that around and put it back to where it was when Ronald Reagan was governor, when the state had stature, we had great bond ratings, and our state was looked up to around the nation, and I think that's going to happen with Arnold.

NAUERT: As lieutenant governor, you worked closely with Jerry Brown, who was governor at the time, but also with Gray Davis (search) when he was the chief of staff. You know his strengths and weaknesses. How do you think he is handling this right now?

CURB: Well, Gray Davis has always been brilliant at getting elected. You know, if you look at his history in the assembly, running for state controller, lieutenant governor and then governor, he is a great analytical, political type. But I don't believe that he is the right person to run the state because he's never had any practical business experience.

NAUERT: How do you think, then, that Arnold Schwarzenegger can kind of get over that impression that people have of him? The fact is he just doesn't have political experience. How is he supposed to get over that, then?

CURB: Well, first of all, I think the political experience issue is not an issue for Arnold. I think people probably want an outsider right now, like Arnold, who can go in there and change the place. I mean, the state is in the hands of the special interests. And Arnold will go in there, Arnold doesn't need any money. He is a businessman. He's been successful in his own businesses. He has been successful in every aspect of his career. He's the best-disciplined person I've ever met in my lifetime and I think he'll go in there. And his lack of experience will be a benefit because we don't want anything similar to what we have now.

NAUERT: All right. Mike Curb, I think you answered the question for us as to see whether Californians are a little bit nutty. Thank you very much for joining us, Mike Curb.

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