Arnold lobbies Bush, pushes ‘post-partisanship’

ap-photo-haraz-n-ghanbari.jpgGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Washington, D.C., for the National Governors Association conference, visited President Bush at the White House today along with other Western governors, and delivered a letter describing his disappointment at Bush’s proposed budget cuts for California’s education, labor, Medicare and Medicaid, children’s health insurance, state and local emergency workers and incarceration of illegal immigrant criminals.

Schwarzenegger also spoke today at the National Press Club, making a plea for extending his “post-partisanship” philiosophy to the nation’s capital. In doing so, he ate some crow for 2005’s disastrous special election…

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t claim to be Gandhi. In 2005, I contributed to the polarization. I tried to push through some initiatives the wrong way — us versus them. I’m not a person to get all introspective about my failures, but I do know when something doesn’t work. Dividing people does not work.

…and he also framed his philosophy as a prescription for what ails Washington, perhaps fueling the fire of rumors that he might challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in 2010

Someone must start rebuilding trust and relationships in this town. There are very simple ways to begin. To the Democrats, I say stop running down the President, and just tell the people what you would do. To the Republicans, I say stop questioning the motives of the Democrats on the war and accept their right to believe what they want. To the president, I say get yourself a smoking tent. And to all, I would say remember that the majority of people in this country are in the center.

Read the speech in its entirety, after the jump…

Most people love speaking at the National Press Club to follow in the footsteps of Roosevelt, Churchill or Mandela. Me, I just want one of those windbreakers you give speakers. So thank you for inviting me.

After I spoke about post-partisanship in my inaugural address, it was amazing. It made news stories around the world. There is such political division out there, that when someone simply talks about working together, it’s newsworthy.

Certainly the voters in California like the idea of their elected representatives working together. 91% of Republicans and a huge number of Democrats voted for me. Two-thirds of Californians now say the state is going in the right direction. For the first time in ten years, the approval rating of California’s legislature is higher than its disapproval rating.

Here in Washington, it’s just the opposite.

Last year in California — in spite of it being an election year — we reformed prescription drug costs, passed the world’s most comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases and began rebuilding the state’s infrastructure. We did this working together.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t claim to be Gandhi. In 2005, I contributed to the polarization. I tried to push through some initiatives the wrong way — us versus them. I’m not a person to get all introspective about my failures, but I do know when something doesn’t work. Dividing people does not work.

But division is what Washington has come to represent. For too long, this town has been about divide and conquer. Find an issue that splits the country in half, then crack it just enough so you can come out ahead. I get 51 percent, you get 49. I win, you lose.

But something larger gets lost in the process — the public’s trust, the public’s respect, the public’s faith in government. After an initial flurry of hope, it doesn’t look like anything has changed here in Washington. The same things are happening all over again.

What is the point of stirring up bitterness over non-binding resolutions? What is the point of each side preventing the other side from conducting a vote? The point, of course, is political advantage. It’s certainly not to the people’s advantage.

All this energy being spent on bitterness, all this effort spent on maneuvering-imagine if that same energy were put into working together to build a consensus. The wings of each party say-but we have our principles! Why is being principled reserved for extremists?

The left and the right don’t have a monopoly on conscience. We should not let them get away with that. You can be centrist and be principled. You can seek a consensus and retain your convictions. What is more principled than giving up some part of your position to advance the greater good of the people? That is how we arrived at a constitution in this country. Our Founding Fathers would still be meeting at the Holiday Inn in Philadelphia if they hadn’t compromised. Why can’t our political leaders today?

Some people say, “Arnold, haven’t you sold out and become an independent?” No, I am still a proud Republican and I support the guiding principles of the Republican party — lower taxes, a strong defense, free markets and a belief in the power of the individual. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you don’t have to give up your principles.

But isn’t the ultimate principle to represent the people? We’re elected as public servants, not party servants.

When I talk about working together and centrism and post-partisanship, some people dismiss it saying, “Yea, yea, that’s just some lightweight, idealistic idea Schwarzenegger has.”

Yes, Schwarzenegger — and Edmund Burke and John Kennedy and others.

Edmund Burke said, “All government-indeed every human benefit and enjoyment… every virtue and every prudent act-is founded on compromise.”

John Kennedy called compromise “the art essential to keeping our nation united and enabling our government to function.”

Politics is about compromise. It is about give-and-take. Doesn’t anyone here in Washington remember that chapter from their civics book?

Post-partisanship, however, is not simply Republicans and Democrats each bringing proposals to the table and then working out differences. Post-partisanship is the new concept of Republicans and Democrats giving birth to new ideas together.

Corporations say that the more diverse the team the more creative and better the solution. The same creative approach should be the goal in politics. Should we not have new ways of working to reflect the new iPod world?

It all starts with something very basic-establishing relationships. I read where the president asked a senator about his son who is in Iraq. The senator’s dismissive reply was not in the spirit of the question. How did that reply advance the public good?

In the courtyard of the State Capitol, I have a politically-incorrect smoking tent. People come by, light up a stogie and schmooze.

How come Republicans and Democrats out here don’t schmooze with each other? You can’t catch a socially transmitted disease by sitting down with people who hold ideas different from yours.

My parents-in-law-the Shrivers-would have Republicans over for dinner. They would talk about the Peace Corps or Special Olympics, but it was also bridge to other ideas they could agree on, or not agree on.

But you can disagree with your opponent and still maintain respect.

When I spoke to the Republican convention in 2004, I told how I became a Republican because of Richard Nixon. Some people were angry. They thought that by mentioning this president who had resigned in disgrace that I had in some small way rehabilitated him. And let me tell you a story related to that.

In 1977 over the Christmas holiday, Senator Hubert Humphrey, as he lay on his death bed at home in Minnesota, began calling old friends and colleagues-supposedly to wish them happy holidays but really to say goodbye.

On Christmas Eve, he called Richard Nixon, the man who had defeated him for the presidency. He found both of the Nixons ill and depressed in San Clemente. Senator Humphrey was so troubled by this, he called Nixon back the next morning. He said he didn’t have long to live. And he’d already made funeral arrangements, which included lying-in-state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. He invited Nixon to attend the ceremony as an honored guest, befitting the rank of a former president.

At the time, Nixon was still the object of great animosity and had not returned to Washington since his resignation three years earlier. According to an eyewitness, many people gasped when Nixon came in and took his place. In the photos you can see him with President Carter there in the front row before the flag-draped coffin. What political grace and human compassion Humphrey showed.

Where has that world gone? How do we get it back? What bridge can we take to return there? I believe we can start by simply talking to each other and working with each other. After years of sharp divisions in California, we are consciously trying a new approach to our problems.

The smoking tent is very busy. One big issue we’re trying to address is health care. The problem is so pressing we got together and said, “We can’t wait for the federal government anymore. Let’s do it ourselves.”

We’re in the middle of that process right now. Here are the politics of the situation.

Part of the plan that I put on the table provides coverage for children of undocumented immigrants. My fellow Republicans oppose this, and I totally understand their opposition. After all, doesn’t it encourage people to come here illegally and stick Californians with their medical bills?

The fact is: we have no choice about paying the medical bills of people who are in California illegally. Federal law requires us to treat anyone who shows up at an emergency room in need of care. We have no choice. None.

So the real question is, do we treat them in emergency rooms at three or four times the cost of a doctor’s office or health clinic? Or do we treat them more efficiently? I say, let’s recognize the reality of the situation and deal with it practically. My Republican colleagues are having real trouble with this.

Now, here’s what the Democrats don’t like about my plan. It provides individual mandates, which require personal responsibility. I believe part of the health care answer is mandatory medical insurance, just like you have mandatory car insurance.

A lot of Democrats say that individual mandates are unfair. My position is that people who don’t take responsibility for themselves end up costing everyone else money. Not everyone can afford healthcare and government should help.

So, these are the kinds of things we’re trying to work out and I’m confident that we will. So far, everyone has maintained a good attitude. No one is calling each other names. That itself is progress.

But this is the dynamic I’m trying to encourage in California on a range of issues — the environment, health care, infrastructure, prison reform, energy and water supply and so forth.

In the interests of time, let me mention one final area where Republicans and Democrats must work together — immigration.

We in California cannot do this by ourselves — or else we would. The nation’s borders are a federal responsibility. One side says, send all illegal immigrants back and build a fence. The other side says, forget about it and give everyone amnesty.

Hey, I have an idea. What about being realistic and actually solving the problem? There is a totally reasonable, centrist approach to the issue. It is this: secure our borders while at the same time recognizing economic and social reality by providing a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for those already here and meet a certain criteria. That is a mainstream solution.

It is time we reintroduced the concept of the mainstream back into American political life-and the place to start is with immigration.

Here in the nation’s capital, I ask the federal government to come together and pass comprehensive immigration reform. The votes are there. Is the willingness to work together for the good of the country there? For the sake of the country, I hope it is.

Someone must start rebuilding trust and relationships in this town. There are very simple ways to begin. To the Democrats, I say stop running down the President, and just tell the people what you would do. To the Republicans, I say stop questioning the motives of the Democrats on the war and accept their right to believe what they want. To the president, I say get yourself a smoking tent. And to all, I would say remember that the majority of people in this country are in the center.

Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, let me tell you what I have told the citizens of California. I believe the political way forward is this: Look to the future. Look to the center. And look to the dreams of the people.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • jskdn

    Arnold proposes a massive amnesty and calls it mainstream. Well it may be mainstream among the elites but it isn’t among majority of American voters. It’s also mainstream among the elites to lie about what they are doing and Arnold is doing just that. “A path to citizenship” is amnesty for illegal immigrants, rewarding them by choosing them among all the billions who would like to immigrate, because they are here in violation of the law. Arnold even backed away from the common useful caveat designed to obscure the truth that the amnestied that he used in his prepared text ” meet a certain criteria.” In a followup question he said don’t make amnesty too complicated because the Department of Homeland Security can’t even handle their current load; in other words, just hand out amnesty to anyone who asks. Massive fraud was part of the last amnesty and will be part of this one if it’s passed. The centrist thing to do is to say if the agency can’t handle it present duties, don’t pile on 10 to 20 million amnesty applications. What Arnold proposes isn’t reform. Rather it’s more of the same mass immigration, legal or not agenda of the elites.

    By the way this is coming from man who won’t accept Cedillo’s driver’s licenses for illegals bill. That bill now includes what Cedillo had formerly compared to tattooing Jews in Germany, the distinctions that Arnold had demanded as conditions to accepting the bill. So Arnold won’t give them differentiated licenses because he knows what the polls have shown on the issue (it helped his get elected in the recall) but he thinks they should be given the whole enchilada, to use the phrase Mexico’s former foreign minister gave to his amnesty demands. What a hypocrite and a liar.

  • Do you remember the turn out of Hispanic people in the streets of LA – the demonstration was to show, (and did indeed do an effective job it), that without the Hispanics working in LA things would come to a grinding halt.
    Look around LA and other big cities and you will see a lot of Hispanics doing a lot of work; and much of the work is work that the average American doesn’t want to do.

    Do you really think that we should ‘send “them” all back?’ Why not encourage the hispanics to obtain legal status and then they too will be able to contribute to the tax pool? And here is a relevant quote for you:

    “…This is most plainly stated in that most antique of complaints, that immigration adds to unemployment. If there are just so many jobs to go round, it is reasoned, and if a certain number of workers are added to the labour force, unemployment will rise in like measure. The premise, that there is a fixed amount of work to be done and no more, is known to economists as “the lump of labour fallacy.” That is to say, there is no natural limit to the demand for labour, a) because consumer wants are potentially infinite, and b) because each person is both a producer and a consumer. As the economist Herbert Grubel puts it, every immigrant “brings along hands and a mouth.” The money they earn at their jobs fuels the consumption that creates them.


  • jskdn

    Monica argues out of both sides of her mouth. She argues first that Hispanics (she doesn’t use the term immigrants or more accurately illegal immigrants thereby revealing what is probably an ethnic agenda) are doing jobs that, without their presence in those jobs, the economy would collapse. Then she argues (or more accurately cut and pastes) against “the lump of labour fallacy.” Duh! Who thought otherwise? But if illegal immigrants are creating aggregate demand in the economy and also filling jobs that help supply that demand, removing them and restricting further illegal immigration also works on both sides of that equation. The notion that an economy can’t function without an ever-increasing supply of people is ridiculous. The current prediction puts California’s population to grow from 35 million to about 50 million in very short time horizon of 4 decades due to immigration and births stemming from that immigration. Think about what endless population growth means.

    But just because the economy isn’t zero-sum game doesn’t mean that there aren’t supply and demand effects and that those effects don’t effect people differently. If Monica’s first notion of essential jobs were true, then just like any commodity in a market, the price of labor for those jobs would have to rise if there is a shortage of people to do them. And given the disproportionately low education demographic of the illegal immigrant population, that would predict wage suppression of that group relative to others in the economy. And that is just what we’ve seen. In fact the sub-group of that demographic most hurt is immigrants. So stopping illegal immigration most helps the labor market power of legal immigrants.

    But demand by immigrants isn’t just what they choose to buy. It is all consumption that stems from their presence including government, i.e. taxpayer provided services. The National Research Council study on the effect of immigrants put the average tax cost on native California households at almost $1200 a year. The lead author of that 1997 study said last month that he thinks that cost has undoubtedly grown with the growth of the immigrant population.

    Those costs mean jobs for government employees which is why the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (a sponsor of the marches you mention) and the other big government union, the SEIU are big supporters of mass immigration. They are of course people not subject to the negative labor market forces of mass immigration. Rather they are a essentially labor trust that operates within a monopoly and the abusive power of that status is very evident.