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Arnold: It’d be easier if you’d just do what I say.

Though building support for the special-election budget reform agenda was his main goal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger touched on other topics in a Q&A session with the Bay Area Council on Thursday in San Francisco – and one of those topics is how hard it is when people disagree with him.

The governor went on a bit of a tirade against dissent, first talking smack about U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger’s 2007 order reducing the operation of pumps in the Delta to protect the endangered Delta Smelt, then about a three-federal-judge panel’s moves toward ordering the release of certain inmates to reduce California’s chronic and unconstitutional prison overcrowding, and then about Clark Kelso, the receiver empowered by a federal judge to demand $8 billion from the state to correct unconstitutional, decades-long underfunding of prison health care.

“It’s not productive for the state to have so many chefs in the kitchen,” the governor grumped. “Those are the kinds of things that make it very difficult.”

But his ire wasn’t just directed at the federal courts. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, he said, opposes him on fiscal policy at every turn, he said: “He’s running for Congress now, so that’s good.”

And he cited state Controller John Chiang’s and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s opposition to his plans to cut state salaries last year. “How does a coach win a basketball game when all of the players are running off in different directions?” Schwarzenegger asked.

Maybe that’s why he’s so hot for Proposition 1A, which would give the governor new authority to unilaterally reduce some spending for state operations and capital outlay and eliminate some cost-of-living increases, all without legislative approval – shoo, you pesky compromises; begone, consensus! Also, maybe he’s forgetting that these federal judges’ job is to hold California to its obligations under federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and that the Democratic statewide elected officials he’s knocking are with this state’s majority party while he’s in the minority.

More, after the jump…

On other topics, Schwarzenegger said California’s failure to invest in its water infrastructure over the past few decades while its population has exploded has been another example of the “self-inflicted wounds” the state tends to bear. After the May 19 special election, he said, he intends to work with the Legislature on a bipartisan, long-term solution to the state’s water problem: “I think it’s going to get done … Everyone in in sync on this.”

Schwarzenegger also said he’s “really impressed” with President Barack Obama, whom he praised as a visionary who’s “extremely smart, well-informed about all the different issues.” The governor said the President has kept all his promises to California so far, from $85 billion in economic recovery benefits ($35 billion in tax benefits and $50 billion in spending) to support and praise for California’s leadership in areas such as high-speed rail and energy conservation.

All of this is a far cry from what he said just six months ago while stumping for Republican presidential nominee John McCain:

“I want to invite Mr. Obama, he needs to do something about those skinny legs. We’re going to make him do some squats and some biceps curls to beef up those scrawny little arms. If only we could put some meat on his ideas.”

And Schwarzenegger said Thursday that calling a constitutional convention to shake up how California governs itself is “a brilliant idea, … I think this is the way to go” given the fact that “the status quo is unacceptable” in Sacramento.

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.