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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Arianna Huffington

Aired July 28, 2003 - 20:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace California Governor Gray Davis, is leaning against getting into that race.
But that isn't to say the recall election won't be on. Politics makes some very strange bedfellows and former bed fellows and occasionally former bedfellows. Former Republican Congressman Michael Huffington is himself deciding whether to run. And there are a number of published reports suggesting his former wife, political columnist Arianna Huffington, may run as a Democrat.

She joins thus evening from Aspen, Colorado. Arianna, welcome.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, COLUMNIST: Hello, Paula.

ZAHN: So what is the deal? Do you plan it run for governor of California?

HUFFINGTON: Well, first of all, it would never be both Michael and myself running because as a mother you would understand that I would never put my children through this.

When I got back through Ireland, where I was on vacation with the children, this Web site had been put up by activists in San Francisco, "Run, Arianna, Run." And a lot of the thousands of the names pouring into the Web site are basically asking whether the Democratic strategy of serving the wagons around Gray Davis and not fielding an alternative to the Republicans is possible given what state the state is in and how dangerous it would be to allow a Republican to take over in Sacramento at a time when the last thing we need is more tax cuts and more spending cuts.

ZAHN: Well, let me ask you this, if you don't want to put your children through this, help us read the tea leaves here. Your ex- husband, Michael Huffington, took out nominating papers last Friday to run for governor and his spokesperson declared your plans as irrelevant to anything he would do. So you're basically saying if your ex-husband runs, you won't?

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. I would be -- I would have to be the responsible parent. And I would never do that.

But the question remains whether it is a very risky strategy, really playing Russian roulette with the state to not field a Progressive alternative to Darrell Issa and Bill Simon and whoever else runs on the Republican side. Incidentally, Paula, if I run -- and I haven't made that decision -- it would be as an Independent, not as a Democrat. That's what I'm registered as. And also because I believe that's what it's going to take to move beyond the special interest politics that has dominated the state and that is largely responsible for the $38 billion deficit, which is very much a sanction of paybacks to special interests as well as a disastrous policies from Washington, the tax cuts, the unfunded mandates that have plagued California.

ZAHN: So, Arianna I want to make sure I'm understanding what you're saying. You will only run, then, if your ex-husband doesn't. Is that what you're saying?

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. And I will only run if at the end of this week, after meeting as I did over the weekend and when I get back to Los Angeles when this conference here that "Fortune" magazine is having ends, continuing to meet with activists, with Latino leaders, with other community leaders to see if we can put together a coalition of groups working on the issues that I've been writing about over the last six years -- you know, like campaign finance reform and fixing the criminal justice system in California, which is out of control. We're now No. 1 in spending on incarceration and No. 42 in spending on education, the environment, and, of course, tax policy and economic justice.

ZAHN: You sound like a candidate.

One final question for you -- you got 10 seconds left -- do you think the Terminator really is out? That is what our reporting tonight has indicated, that he's leaning in the direction of not running.

HUFFINGTON: Yes. I hear that he is out. So the question is if he's out, is the career done in? We don't know.

ZAHN: All right. We'll be calling you in the days to come to figure this all out. Arianna Huffington, thanks for joining us tonight.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Paula.

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