Citing the "clear and present danger" of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arianna Huffington has sounded the alarm on the Republican threat to what remains of democracy in California. By withdrawing her own candidacy to work against the gubernatorial recall, she's done it with class and savvy.

Gone are the days when activists can dismiss a Hollywood macho man as a mere side show. That lesson has been driven home by the "compassionate conservatism" of the "Texas lightweight" now in the White House.

In 2000, the United States was an apparently stable democracy. The government was fiscally sound. The Bill of Rights was still in tact. Eight years of relative peace and prosperity lulled much of the nation, including the left, into complacency. After all, it had removed Nixon and survived Reagan/Bush I, albeit at great cost. But there had been light at the end of the tunnel.

No more. There is no visible life after Bush-Cheney-Rove. The Bill of Rights is shredded. The economy is shot. The ecology is under total attack. From rigged voting machines to manipulated voter rolls to ghastly detention camps and a Soviet media, America today evokes images of Germany in 1934.

Arnold is just another panzer in the Bush blitzkrieg. A bought media fawns over his every move. His total lack of preparation for running an actual government is stunning. His recent call to abolish California Environmental Protection Agency shows exactly where he's headed. So does his chief advisor, ex-Gov. Pete Wilson, prime author of the electric deregulation bill that devastated California's economy and is at the root of its budget crisis.

Most amazing is the hype that Schwarzenegger's recent debate performance was somehow passable. While spewing scripted movie lines as if they were actual policy pronouncements, Schwarzenegger assaulted Huffington in base, sexist terms. Had Bill Clinton said anything vaguely similar he'd've been utterly gutted by the Foxist media.

By telling Huffington he had "a part for her" in his next movie, Schwarzenegger recalled films in which he stuffed a woman's head in a toilet while, backstage, he allegedly groped a co-star married to the film's director.

Huffington was right to take offense, and to now focus on terminating this Manchurian candidate. Schwarzenegger has been programmed by Karl Rove and the Bush White House to further destabilize California, to strip its voter rolls of suspected Democrats and to deliver the state to the Republicans in 2004. He would govern from Sacramento exactly as Bush governs from Washington.

There are signs the juggernaut is crumbling. The charges that Karl Rove committed a felony and national security breach by outing the CIA agent wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson are extremely serious. The Ashcroft "Justice" Department will clearly whitewash the case, and has already given Rove time to destroy key documents. But the heinous, sloppy crime bodes ill for the man who serves as Bush's brain. The Rove-DeLay coup aimed at gutting the Texas Congressional delegation is also running into trouble at the besieged state legislature, and among outraged Texas taxpayers being stuck with yet another big tab for a Bush fiasco.

But make no mistake: the Republican assault on American democracy would get a huge boost by taking the California state house. Their latest media front man's truest talent is making a deadly serious political assault seem like a circus side show.

Lets hope Arianna Huffington's outing of Arnold helps terminate his political career before another Reichstag goes up in flames.

HARVEY WASSERMAN is author of HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES and co-author (with Bob Fitrakis) of THE SUPER-POWER OF PEACE v. BUSH ET. AL., soon available via