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Tue Sep 09 2003 16:49:49 ET

NY TIMES critic Frank Rich is planning a controversial essay for Sunday's paper arguing how Arnold Schwarzenegger is a better "actor" than President Bush.

"At least Schwarzenegger is a show-business pro," Rich writes in his autumnal debut. An unauthorized early draft was obtained by DRUDGE.

Rich on storyline: "Schwarzenegger never would have signed on for a remake of "Top Gun" without first ensuring that it would have the same happy ending as the original."

Rich on casting: "Schwarzenegger never would have allowed himself to look as scared as the abandoned kid in "Home Alone" while begging the nation for cash and patience last Sunday night."

Rich on performance: "Only in America could a guy who struts in an action-hero's Hollywood costume and barks macho lines from a script pass for a plausible political leader. But if George W. Bush can get away with it, why should Arnold Schwarzenegger be pilloried for the same antics?"

Rich reviews: "As genre dialogue goes, "Hasta la vista, baby!" and "I'll be back!" are far snappier than "Dead or alive" and "Bring 'em on."


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