Bush, Schwarzenegger stage political lovefest
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Looking to each other for political support, President Bush embraced Arnold Schwarzenegger as “a fine and strong leader” Thursday and the governor-elect returned the compliment by saying California has no greater ally in Washington.
The political lovefest, on a stage with a huge American flag as backdrop, followed a half-hour of private talks in Bush’s hotel suite and then in his limousine as they rode together to a speech where Schwarzenegger introduced the president.
After trading compliments, Bush delivered an address setting the stage for his trip to Asia and Australia, a journey focusing on trade and the war on terror.
Planning to raise complaints that China and Japan are reaping unfair trade advantages by intervening in currency markets, Bush said, “We need a level playing field when it comes to trade. And a level playing field will help us create jobs here in America.”
Immediately after his speech, Bush boarded Air Force One and headed for Tokyo, his first stop.
The president left with a diplomatic triumph in hand: In New York, the United Nations Security Council had unanimously approved a resolution intended to encourage countries to contribute money and troops to stabilize Iraq.
Bush said the United States is pursuing an orderly plan to bring democracy to Iraq.
“We want the process to go as quickly as possible, yet it must be done right,” Bush said. “The free institutions of Iraq must stand the test of time.”
Schwarzenegger, coming into office facing a budget deficit of at least $8 billion and possibly as much as $20 billion, is looking to Bush for federal help to bail out California.
Bush, in turn, is hoping the new Republican governor will flex his political muscle to help the president carry California in next year’s White House race.
Bush lost the state by more than 1.2 million votes in 2000.
Standing alongside Bush, Schwarzenegger said California is “facing right now some serious challenges. But after speaking with the president this morning at great length about the problems of California, I can tell you one thing: that there is no greater ally that this golden state has in Washington than our president, my dear friend, President George W. Bush.”
For his part, Bush said, “Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to be a fine and strong leader for California. I’m proud to call him friend.”
Waiting off stage before they spoke, Bush and Schwarzenegger were overheard joking about how neither knew how to pronounce the southern California city of Rancho Cucamonga. Laughing, they both tried to say the city’s name. Bush kept up the lighthearted remarks on stage, saying that he and Schwarzenegger had a lot in common.
“We both married well,” Bush said. “Some accuse us of not being able to speak the language. We both have big biceps.” As the audience laughed, Bush added, “Well, two out of three isn’t bad.”
Talking to reporters later, Schwarzenegger said he had tried to use their meeting to “create a great relationship with the White House” rather than ask Bush for specific favors. “It was not the right time to do that,” he said at a news conference.
He also said they did not talk about politics or next year’s campaign.
Bush, in his speech, touched on California’s problems on the heels of recession, stock market declines, corporate scandals and terrorist attacks.
“The country has been hit hard during these times, and so has the great state of California,” Bush said. “Declines in investment have hurt the tech sector. You lost manufacturing jobs. Farmers are wondering whether they’ll be able to sell their products overseas. Unemployment in this important state is too high.”
California’s unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, compared with 6.1 percent nationally.