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Governor vows centrist approach in new term

Originally published: 1/6/07

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, braced by his wife while standing on his broken right leg, was sworn in Friday to his second term and promised Californians a new brand of centrism he called "post-partisanship."

The governor, a Republican, sounded the same themes he used throughout his successful campaign, defending centrism as the heart of American values while painting California as a rare "nation-state" where peace and prosperity thrive.

"Post-partisanship is not simply Republicans and Democrats each bringing their proposals to the table and working out the differences," Schwarzenegger said.

"Post-partisanship is Republicans and Democrats actively giving birth to new ideas together."

In his first public appearance since snapping his femur Dec. 23 in a skiing accident, Schwarzenegger used crutches to hobble on stage midway through the inaugural program in front of 3,000 invited guests and donors.

Wearing a charcoal gray suit and blue tie, he raised his right hand, placed his left hand on a family Bible from 1878 and was clutched by first lady Maria Shriver. He was sworn in by Ronald George, California's chief justice.

The governor stood alone to gave a 15-minute address portraying California as a utopian nation-state that should serve as a model for the world. He boasted of the state's cultural diversity and harmony while "bloodshed and hate" exist in the Middle East and genocide occurs in Darfur.

"I call California a nation-state because of the diversity of our people, the power of our economy and the reach of our dream," Schwarzenegger said. "Every race, every culture, every religion has been drawn to California."

Schwarzenegger highlighted independent voters, despite his own Republican registration. If their growth rate continues, he noted, they will outnumber the major parties in 20 years.

"And they rightly know that if you stick to just one party's proposals, you miss half of the good ideas," he said.

Schwarzenegger also thanked the Legislature for taking action last year, citing new minimum wage and prescription drug laws without noting they were opposed by Republicans.

The governor gave few specifics for his second term, instead making vague references to topics he intends to cover. He said "no one ideology" can solve the state's prison and immigration problems.

"The real question is, what are the needs of our people?" he asked. "We don't need Republican roads or Democratic roads. We need roads. We don't need Republican health care or Democratic health care. We need health care"

Republican leaders seemed to shrug off the governor's dismissal of party labels. They said they did not find his words surprising.

"I don't think it's a change in his philosophical tilt," said Duf Sundheim, chairman of the California Republican Party. "I mean, he clearly is for no new taxes. He clearly is for making our communities safe and strong. So those things have always been there. What he has always said is, 'I am a Republican but my goal is to work for all the people of California.' "

Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez looked giddy as Schwarzenegger rattled off his "post-partisanship" lines, at one point grabbing the hands of Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines and clapping them together to applaud.

In a written statement, Nunez said: "The governor is being sworn in today because he was able to tune out extreme hyper-partisan noise and listen to the voters. If more of our colleagues in the Legislature do the same, then we will be in great shape to find common ground and produce the results voters want on health care, education, the environment, and the other pressing issues we face."

The governor is scheduled to outline his specific agenda next week in three straight days of speeches and presentations. He is scheduled to unveil his health care proposal Monday, give his State of the State address Tuesday and announce his budget plan Wednesday.

Villines vaulted into his GOP leadership role in November after his Assembly caucus deemed predecessor George Plescia too weak-willed in his dealings with Schwarzenegger.

In a sign that legislative Republicans don't view centrism the same way as Schwarzenegger, Villines said Friday that health care for illegal immigrant children is not a centrist view in California, even if it is expected to be a cornerstone of the governor's health plan.

"Californians have been very open to the fact that they do not want to reward behavior that is illegal," Villines said.

Still, Schwarzenegger pressed on with the idea that all lawmakers can get along -- and then some. At a Capitol lunch attended by elected officials and donors, Schwarzenegger told legislative leaders there was so much bipartisanship at his inauguration that "I saw some of you making out together behind me."

Surrounded by Nunez, Villines, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman, the governor added, "This is the foreplay."

In his speech, Schwarzenegger reiterated he was wrong when he called a special election in 2005. He made a biblical reference: "Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I had an experience that opened my eyes."

The former movie star was a political neophyte when elected to his first office in the 2003 recall. John J. Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, said the governor has learned he has to work with Democrats if he wants to get anything done.

"It's a view that reality imposed on him," Pitney said. "There really isn't any other way for him to get things done because he has a strongly Democratic Legislature. He found out in 2004 that those numbers aren't going to change, and he found out in 2005 he isn't easily going to go over their heads on issues. When you can't change the Legislature or go around the Legislature, you work with the Legislature."

Schwarzenegger made a noticeably late entrance in the program, which had dramatic effect considering the public had not seen the governor since he broke his leg. But it also prevented the governor from sitting too long.

Spokeswoman Julie Soderlund declined to comment about whether the governor's mid-program entrance was designed to accommodate his broken leg.

Schwarzenegger appeared roughly 70 minutes after the scheduled 11 a.m. start, and about 30 minutes after dignitaries and his family walked on stage. He missed the invocation and family prayer. He was not on stage when acclaimed guitarist Jose Feliciano strummed the national anthem nor when schoolchildren from Holy Family School in Citrus Heights and Charles Peck Elementary School in Carmichael recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

After Shriver read an American Indian poem, she finally introduced her husband, who walked on stage to a standing ovation, smiling with crutches under his arms.

Later, the four Schwarzenegger children helped their father by holding his crutches. His mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, also sat nearby.

Also there were Schwarzenegger's two immediate predecessors, former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis, the leader he replaced in the historic recall three years ago. Also on stage were two Democratic mayors said to be eyeing Schwarzenegger's office in four years -- San Francisco's Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles' Antonio Villaraigosa -- as well as Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo. Celebrities included actors Tom Arnold and Rob Lowe.

The governor's speech was written by Landon Parvin, the speechwriter for President Reagan who also largely penned Schwarzenegger's 2003 inaugural address.

One hint of the governor's post-partisan inaugural message came last month when former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was named emcee. Brown once dubbed himself the "ayatollah of the Assembly" and ruled the lower house for nearly 15 years, a pre-term-limits run that rankled Republicans.

The inaugural set resembled something out of a Hollywood awards show, with large white columns as a backdrop and the state seal hanging in the middle, surrounded by the Memorial Auditorium's gilded stage frame. Two large television screens were overhead. The governor spoke from an oversized podium.

Inaugural organizers raised at least $2.7 million, based on the list of sponsors in the official program.

Brown, in his unique way, introduced Shriver as "foxy and sexy," adding that he could use such words "only because the governor can't catch me."

Schwarzenegger appeared for about 10 minutes at his inaugural ball with Shriver. He belted out two lines to "My Way" with Paul Anka, who wrote special lyrics to his classic song for the inaugural.

The governor, who ambled on and off the stage on crutches, briefly thanked his supporters and donors.

"Being a public servant, to serve the people of California, is the greatest honor, the greatest pleasure that anyone could ever have," Schwarzenegger said. "I'm really looking forward to working this year with legislators, as I said in my inaugural address, in a bipartisan way."

For coverage of the governor’s inauguration and the evening ball, including video clips, photo gallery and transcript of his speech, go to: www.sacbee.com/links

The Bee's Kevin Yamamura can be reached at (916) 326-5548 or kyamamura@sacbee.com.

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