Transcript: Gray Davis Interview

In an interview on the eve of the recall election, California Governor Gray Davis told ABCNEWS' Peter Jennings that he is optimistic, and that his challenger Arnold Schwarzenegger needs to prove his leadership.

PETER JENNINGS: You yourself said in the plane, "Three days left." What can you change now?

DAVIS: I believe there are still people making up their minds. This is a serious election for California and I believe we still have an audience. We need to bring the Democrats home. If you bring the Democrats home there will not be a recall.

JENNINGS: So than what can you do in these days? What's the plan?

DAVIS: Today Senator (Dianne) Feinstein is with us and she will help reinforce that message. I believe a recall will breed another recall in retaliation that's not good for the state. It will discourage investment because people are looking for a stable political climate and it will make elected officials even more timid because they know if they do anything bold now that people don't like they can be recalled. Recall was meant for extraordinary incompetence, criminality or some kind of mental incompetence and obviously those factors don't exist. Now this is essentially a repeat of last November's election.

JENNINGS: It's quite fascinating to see you now being blamed for everything.

DAVIS: There was a cartoon in the LA Times which is my favorite cartoon. Two women are in the Pacific Ocean and one says to the other 'boy the water is cold today'. And the other one says 'Yes , I blame Gray Davis.'

JENNINGS: How did you get here? How did you get to this? Twice you've been elected for your leadership. How did you get to this point?

DAVIS: I got to this point because we won last year at a time when Republicans were winning across the country and local Republican activists were mad. They started gathering petitions within 30 days of when I was inaugurated. I barely had time for a cup of coffee, and they're saying we didn't like the results of last year's election; we want to have another one. Now they did tap into some genuine anger, but converting that anger into signatures was the brainchild of Republican activists that were ticked off that the voters turned away their candidate and allowed me to complete the task of governing this state.

JENNINGS: How frustrating is it to be currently losing to a man who appears to know little about the business of the state?

DAVIS: You know I'm always optimistic, I always see the bright side of life. Sharon and I are people of faith and we believe God never gives you more than you can handle so I'm going to make my case and I am going to make it earnestly I'm going to make it positively and I'm optimistic people will do the right thing on Tuesday.

JENNINGS: It seems to me that you have to say that. But you have to be hugely frustrated.

DAVIS: Actually I look on this kind of stoically. It reminds me of when I was in Vietnam many years ago. I saw a lot of inequities in life. There weren't too many Anglo Army captains that went to Stanford. A lot of minorities — it didn't seem fair to me. It seemed we were fighting a war, the whole country should bear the burden. I didn't know what I was going to do about it but it prepared me for some of the inequities of life. Life is not always fair. All you can do is make your case, make it with good grace. Do it with some force and have confidence the voters will make a good judgment at the end of the day.

JENNINGS: But you sir are on the verge of political oblivion, I can't believe you ever considered that.

DAVIS: (chuckle) That is your prediction I don't share it.

JENNINGS: No I don't make it as a prediction I just say you are on the verge of political oblivion, would you not agree?

DAVIS: I think life always there's always another chance in life. You're never totally out of things until you're in the grave and then obviously there are obviously religious implications there. We believe there is a life after this life, so I can't worry about all the drama and all the national attention. All I can do is make my case that we have moved this state forward. Five years of improving test scores, a million kids have health insurance that didn't have it, the environment is better, most pro-choice… most pro-choice state in American (garbled) and 900,000 more jobs than when I started. I'll put that record up against Mr. Schwarzenegger and we'll see what people say.

JENNINGS: Watching this campaign from afar you appear to be more religious than you were previously, more spiritual perhaps, or maybe more publicly religious and or spiritual. What is it?

DAVIS: My wife and I have been (garbled) faith for some time. She brought me back to the church, I carry several prayer cards with me everyday from different religions and I just believe strongly that there is a higher power. That we should recognize it and it's guiding our life.

JENNINGS: Has Mrs. Davis talked to you at all about what the future might be for a man whose been in politics all his life and is she the one who will get you through come what may?

DAVIS: She's a blessing there's no question about it. She brought me back to the church and she's always positive every morning and she gets me to see the positive things in life so whatever happens I know that we'll go about our lives and be positive and try and make a contribution any way God allows us to do it.

JENNINGS: Because you don't have much do you? You don't have much money, a small apartment,

DAVIS: Right

JENNINGS: You would lose all of the trappings of the Governor's office.

DAVIS: Yeah but I understood that going in that every time you run for office it's a leap of faith. And you just have to have faith that voters are fair-minded, will make good judgments. I think that at the end of the day they'll say this is a raw deal, this guy inherited a lot of these problems many of them are originated in Washington and he's done the best he could under difficult circumstances and given the choice, because now its Schwarzenegger or Davis that's the choice…(overlap)

JENNINGS: What drives you crazy about Schwarzenegger?

DAVIS: Nothing drives me crazy about Arnold Schwarzenegger. He happens to be the alternative, he's going to win question 2, and if people don't want him to be governor then the alternative is to allow me to complete the term, if you will, finish my tour of duty, to the term they elected me to last November.

JENNINGS: What does it say about California, what does it say about America that a movie actor businessman can emerge onto the scene with such power and put you in such jeopardy?

DAVIS: Well we all know the power of celebrity that's not a new phenomenon. Rob Reiner is a well-known celebrity, he may be politically active some day. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a well-known celebrity. But now he has to prove that he has the leadership skills to move this state forward and there are no plans, no details, and I think people will have to take a big leap of faith if they want to elect someone knew that's there right but I think at the end of the day they'll say Davis has actually gotten some good things done, many of our problems are getting solved. We have a balanced budget the lights stayed on when they went off on the east coast schools are improving, lets let him finish the job.

JENNINGS: It'll hurt to be rejected.

DAVIS: Rejection is never fun, trust me, I have endured a lot of rejection in my life. Just pick up the morning paper. Governing in these tough times involves accepting rejection.

JENNINGS: Thank you for your time.