Top Billing at Nixon Library for the Governor-Elect

Out -- the King. In -- the Guv.

The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda is expecting that tchotchkes -- key rings, mugs, magnets and T-shirts -- of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nixon will outsell even souvenirs of the Elvis-Nixon matchup.

The former president had wanted to meet the actor, and they got to shake hands in Yorba Linda on Nov. 5, 1991, just hours after both showed up in Simi Valley for the dedication of the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.

Bob Hope and Schwarzenegger joined Nixon at his library for a reception for workers and volunteers. Nixon spoke, Hope delivered some punch lines, and Schwarzenegger, said a library spokesman, told the group "how he came to America as an immigrant without money or work and heard Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon as they campaigned for president in 1968," and he decided right then to become a Republican.

That account tiptoes around the other Schwarzenegger version of the same epiphany. At the GOP national convention in 2000, Schwarzenegger told an interviewer that in 1968, he "was sitting in front of the television set, and I watched a debate between Humphrey and Nixon.... " He said the same thing in a May 2001 TV interview with Fox talk host Bill O'Reilly.

So? So ... there was no 1968 presidential debate. A spokesman said in August that what Schwarzenegger recalled was hearing the two candidates talking on TV, and asking a friend to translate for him. But less than a month later, Schwarzenegger was telling the debate story again in a speech to the state's Republican convention in Los Angeles.

"The Day Arnold Met Nixon" product line at the Nixon Library now joins the perennially popular "The Day Nixon Met Elvis." Notice that Schwarzenegger gets billing above Nixon, which Elvis does not -- but the governor-elect has a long way to go to match the merchandising power of Elvis/Nixon playing cards, watches, mouse pads and blankets.

Patt Morrison

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