Arnold's California Action Movie

Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger takes a question from a reporter during a post-election press conference at a Los Angeles hotel, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2003.
Weekly commentary by Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

Jim Baker ran campaigns for Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush, and he didn't like debates much because he said they froze the campaign for two weeks. The week before nothing happened while the candidate prepped for the debate. The week after nothing happened while everyone answered questions about the debate.

I was reminded of that watching Arnold's California action movie. No, he did not debate much, but he took so much of the spotlight that he froze everything else. Democrats running for president were frozen in the dark. They would have had a better chance at getting on television if they'd stood in the window of one of those morning TV shows.

Even the president got crowded off center stage. Presidents generally don't like that, but with top administration figures in open revolt and trashing each other with nasty leaks, with Iraq getting worse, the deficit soaring and the tax revenues shrinking, you got the feeling the president didn't mind being out of the spotlight this time.

That won't last, of course. Those problems are just too serious. But as goofy as the California story got, it still deserved the attention it got. Not because having a movie star governor is cool, as some of Arnold's supporters said, but because California is just too big a chunk of the American economy to ignore.

How big is it? Every time five American manufacturing workers lose their jobs, one of them lives in California. We hate to admit it, but when California sneezes, the rest of us have to worry about warding off a cold. And that was the reason for the coverage.

By Bob Schieffer