MARGARET WARNER: And for historical perspective on tonight's two featured speakers-- Governor Schwarzenegger and the first lady-- I'm joined by: Presidential historian Michael Beschloss; Richard Norton Smith, director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library; and Meena Bose, a professor of American politics at West Point.
As we just saw in Spencer's piece, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican governor who is not afraid to spend the social programs even if the money isn't there to pay for it. Michael, what strand of the Republican Party does he represent?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: He ain't no Ronald Reagan as we just saw in that piece. Probably the classic post war California Republican before the 60s was Earl Warren, long-time California governor, so liberal in 1946 he ran both the Democratic and Republican primaries, won both, won the election unopposed -- was Democratic and Republican.
In the 1960s Ronald Reagan was elected governor, and also there was a senator named Thomas Kegell who was the Republican whip in the Senate of the United States, also a liberal, he lost, that began moving Republican politics rightward. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a throwback almost to the Earl Warren period, two reasons.
One is he's so popular he's not going to let Republicans win, the other is - we saw that libertarianism -- a lot of liberals are libertarian.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you call him a throwback? What historical precedence to see for him?
MEENA BOSE: I agree with Michael that obviously Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't Ronald Reagan. But there are some parallels, not policy-wise, but of course they both came from Hollywood. Swartz neglecter business the same age that Ronald Reagan was when he became governor of California.
Now Arnold Schwarzenegger can't run for president, as he pointed out there. But so his role in the party will be different from Reagan's. Perhaps more like a William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, who wanted to redirect in many ways the Libertarian Republican. To redirect the Republican Party in certain areas.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you say, Richard, that he's in that classic moderate wing or tradition of the party, or does he represent some sort of trans-mutation?
RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Mutation is a good word. He is the sense that he's a pragmatist -- he's a problem solver, in a lot of ways he's post ideological. This is a party that, both parties are wrapped up in ideological crusades these days. He transcends party labels in a lot of ways, he's pro environment, he's pro business.
He's seen as a reformer, he's seen as an outsider. He does have Reagan's ability to get away with saying things, like girly men, that other politicians might not say. He also reaches across party lines. And to make things work. And to the ideologues that's heresy. And to most voters that's common sense.
MARGARET WARNER: Meena, his speech tonight we're told is going to take his own immigrant past and weave that together and explain also why he embraced Republicans, and obviously, or maybe the overt message is going to be why the Republican Party should be chosen by today's immigrants. What's the history of the Republican Party and immigrant? It hasn't been the party of immigrant before, has it?
MEENA BOSE: Well, no, but the Republican Party of course is the party of Lincoln, so the party that originally imposed slavery -- opposed slavery.
And I think what Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to do is recast the Republican Party as the so called the big tent, to welcome all Americans, and to bring people with pasts similar to his.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think he also has a little more of a future than was suggested because if the Constitution is amended some day and if the Republican Party does feel it wants to move back to the center, he's in a perfect position.
MARGARET WARNER: What about the question about Republican Party and immigrant.
RICHARD NORTON SMITH: One built of irony. This is a governor sponsored by Pete Wilson. And Pete Wilson, former boss of mine, great guy, but someone who got in a very deep hole for Republicans in California by supporting propositions in the mid 90s that came to be seen as hostile to immigrants.
And ironically a decade later it is Arnold Schwarzenegger who offers the Republican Party a credible opportunity to put that chapter behind them.
MARGARET WARNER: Certainly in the early 20th screen try, wouldn't you say Michael the new immigrant torment the Democratic Party.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes.
MARGARET WARNER: The Irish, the Italians.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Early on, and many of them of course later on became Reagan Democrats. But the reason why Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn't been able to do this is largely because California conservative Republicans don't think they'll win any other way.
MARGARET WARNER: A quick question on the first lady because she's going to speak tonight. And we saw her interview with Jim. At what point, Richard, did political handlers recognize that first ladies could be a political asset by doing more than just gazing adoringly at their husbands?
RICHARD NORTON SMITH: I would say they stumbled into it in 1976. Betty Ford goes on "60 Minutes", does an interview in which she says she wouldn't be surprised if her children tried marijuana, wouldn't be surprised if her daughter had an affair, she was pro ERA, she was pro abortion, and the suits in the White House went berserk, and they thought Gerald Ford is being challenged by Ronald Reagan and social conservatives are going to hate this, and then low and behold the polls were take except to their amazement they discovered people like what Mrs. Ford said and better than that a lot of women, a lot of some soccer moms, suburban voters, they like the fact that Mrs. Ford said she had pillow talk - she had already persuaded the president to put a woman in the cabinet and was working on the Supreme Court and by 1976 there were there were buttons all over the country that read Betty's husband for president.
MARGARET WARNER: What other precedents would you point to in terms of first lady candidates - or first ladies who actually burnish or enhance or soften their husband's image?
MEENA BOSE: I think a logical choice would be Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the first first lady to actually speak at a national convention, in 1940, came to the convention to make the case for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's running mate, for Henry Wallace.
And then also was the first first lady to testify before Congress. More recently and more recent years, Jackie Kennedy was not active in the 1960 campaign, but what she did present a certain number of campaign ads in Spanish that obviously appealed to some voters that John F. Kennedy had not reached directly.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: One very specific thing, for instance, Laura Bush speaks rarely on politics, so when she speaks people listen. One of the things she said early on was I am pro-choice, that is like what her mother-in-law Barbara Bush did to the administration of the elder George Bush, and little things like that are not at the center of politics, but they telegraph to people who may be worried about a president's views that perhaps there's someone else with different views who has his ear.
MARGARET WARNER: The White House made very clear that everyone knew Richard that he had, that she had said what, for instance George Bush said I want Osama bin Laden dead or alive, that she told him, that's enough Bushy.
RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Absolutely; a lot of people find it reassuring to think that someone that close to the president, maybe shares some of the concerns -- they may have about a certain braggadocio.
MARGARET WARNER: Any other historical examples?
RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Lady Bird Johnson. Mrs. Johnson managed to straddle the divide between a traditionalist and activist. The environment, head start. And also a lot of people have a sympathy factor for Lady Bird.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Anyone who could stick with him.
MARGARET WARNER: Thank you all three and we'll see you on the convention show. Thanks.