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Schwarzenegger wants to rescue California

Bush says actor would be 'good governor'

Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "The people are very smart."

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Brawny actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the high-profile candidate in the California governor recall race, shrugged off questions Friday about his lack of political experience and said he can "clean house" and tell Gov. Gray Davis "hasta la vista."

"The people are very smart. They know who is sincere, who is honest, who is a strong character, who can go up there (Sacramento) and change things, " Schwarzenegger said in an interview on CNN's "American Morning." His trademark phrase "hasta la vista" (Spanish for "see you later") comes from his "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" movie.

The actor won some encouraging words from President Bush, who spoke with reporters gathered at his Crawford, Texas ranch. Asked about the recall race, Bush pronounced it "interesting" and said of Schwarzenegger, "I think he'd be a good governor."

The state's deepening budget and unemployment crises spurred the movement to unseat Davis. The October 7 ballot will first ask voters whether or not he should be recalled -- and if so, who they want to be governor.

Although Schwarzenegger is arguably the most well-known, many others have joined the free-for-all field of candidates hoping that voters will reject Davis and vote for them. Other hopefuls include columnist Arianna Huffington; Democratic California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Republican and prior gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon.

The relative ease of entry into the running -- a $3,500 fee and 65 signatures -- means hundreds have filed papers, including porn publisher Larry Flynt and former child star Gary Coleman, whose candidacy was engineered by a newspaper to protest the recall effort.

Even Coleman says he will vote for Schwarzenegger, who also told "American Morning" that he will "stay focused" and keep his "message straight" on the top issues -- the economy, jobs and education.

Schwarzenegger said Californians are game for a recall in a state that has had a sinking economy under Davis, with people losing jobs, businesses fleeing, the budget deficit growing and public education deteriorating.

"What they are basically saying is 'We are mad as hell and we won't take it anymore,' " Schwarzenegger said. "I think this is a great opportunity here. ... Great crises create great opportunities to have great solutions."

When asked what he knows about the range of state issues, such as water policy and air pollution, Schwarzenegger said Davis "has sold himself as being the man of experience. Look what happened with all of his experience."

Davis, Schwarzenegger said, took over a state with a $9 billion surplus and it now has a $38 billion deficit.

"It is not the experience, it is leadership that counts. It is bringing people together. People have said to me this can't be done. You don't have the qualifications and all those kind of things. I've been the chairman of the president's Council on Fitness.

"I've been the chairman of the after-school programs of the inner-city games and I led the initiative Proposition 49 where people said you have no experience about it and don't do it and we won 57 percent of the votes." Proposition 49 created funding for after-school programs.

Schwarzenegger said children should be a first priority. "We need to build more schools and have more teachers."

"We have to go after this political system up there," Schwarzenegger said, referring to state government in Sacramento.

"We have a disastrous situation. It should be public's interest first. What they have is self-interest and special interest first and we have to change all of it around."

The popular actor said he is above reproach ethically because he is "rich enough" to be unaffected by special interests, enabling him to render decisions in the people's interests.

Also, he is ready for intense media attention, saying he has been "in the public eye for so long" and both good and bad things have been written about him. "I can clean house up there and say hasta la vista to Gray Davis," he said.

Austrian-born Schwarzenegger is married to journalist Maria Shriver, who is taking a leave of absence from her job at NBC News. (Full story)

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