Will Arnold Be Back After '06?


April 23, 2006 — -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., celebrated Earth Day by issuing a global warming warning, extolling the virtues of fuel-efficient vehicles and blasting "outrageous" oil prices at the pumps in an exclusive interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"The science is in," the actor-turned-politician claimed. "The facts are there that we have created, man has, a self-inflicted wound that man has created through global warming."

As to the government's role in combating global warming, Schwarzenegger continued, "I think that the federal government is doing things. But I think that they are not aggressive enough. And I think that the whole world is not aggressive enough."

Schwarzenegger encouraged buying fuel-efficient vehicles and pointed to California's policies as an example for the nation, saying, "We want to inspire people that desire cars that are fuel efficient and also drive less, do more carpooling and so on. Because remember, the oil price is all based on supply and demand."

Regarding the issue of rising gas prices at the pump, Schwarzenegger said, "I think that's absolutely outrageous. And believe me, I am all for profit. I love when businesses are booming. But there is a certain point when you have a product that everyone needs and that everyone is relying on because of the situation that you have created. … We've got to protect the people."

Schwarzenegger did not overtly support a windfall profit tax, but did not rule it out entirely, choosing instead to focus first on combating "gouging" at the pumps.

In a wide-ranging interview with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, the governor rebuked some of his fellow Republicans for their stance on immigration reform. Schwarzenegger strongly rejected the idea of building a "wall" along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border, an idea advocated by a number of prominent House Republicans.

"I think that it will be ludicrous to limit yourself to just building a wall," he said. "We're going back to the stone ages here. I mean, we are landing men on the moon and in outer space using all these great things. I think that other technology really can secure the borders.

"If I say, 'Yes, let's build the wall,' what would prevent you from building a tunnel?" he added. "How many tunnels have been built in the last ten years? I mean, we've detected tunnels left and right that people can drive trucks through. And they have air conditioning systems in these tunnels and water flowing and fuel supply and everything. I think that it is crazy to think that a wall alone will do it."

Schwarzenegger embraced "earned citizenship", a position espoused by numerous Senate Republicans, and dismissed any suggestion of amnesty. He also pushed back calls for mass deportation.

"How do you do this logistically?" he asked. "How does that work? You send 12 million people back. It would cost $500 billion. Who's going to pay for that? I mean, this is ludicrous to think this way."

On another federal-state issue, Schwarzenegger also had tough words on protecting California's levees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"I think the federal government has not learned these lessons," he said. "I think that they have failed terribly with Katrina. And I think there is a great potential there that they make the same mistake with California. I've been asking the federal government. I said, 'Look at the levees. They are soaked right now. They are so vulnerable. The only thing that keeps us from disaster right now are sandbags.' "

Schwarzenegger left no doubt as to whether the government is responsible for protecting the levees and, through them, the people and property in the state he governs.

"I think it is the number one responsibility of government … to protect the people," he said. "We have an earthquake-prone state. We have a state that is prone to all kinds of disasters. We have had the hugest fires, mud slides, rains, earthquakes. We have everything, levee breaks we've had in the past. We've got to protect the people."

But, come November, the people of California may no longer desire Schwarzenegger's protection. As both the governor and President Bush experience personal record lows in their approval ratings, Schwarzenegger told Stephanopoulos that he doubts the president would seek his advice. But the red Governor in a decidedly blue state refused to distance himself from the Republican president.

"He is making decisions based on what he thinks is best for the country," Schwarzenegger said of Bush. "That doesn't mean that it is in sync with my opinion. That doesn't mean it's in sync with your opinion or with someone else's. But I am sure he is doing his best job."

As for his own fate, the first-term governor expressed confidence and rejected the polls.

"You know something?" he said. "I don't really care about that at all. I don't look at it where a president's approval ratings are when I meet with a president and also, you know, when I lead. I mean, the people will judge me in November based on what is my performance, what I have done."

At the moment, a recurring role in Sacramento may be a tough sell even in Schwarzenegger's own home. The governor dismissed the notion that Maria Schriver, his wife and a member of the famed Kennedy political family, would ever run for office and admitted his Democratic partner might not love his current job.

"She grew up in a political family," he said. "I think that she is not as much into this whole thing. She loves serving the people. She loves being first lady. But for her, the most important thing is to raise the children and for us to be together as a family. She doesn't like the job that I have now. She doesn't like the idea that I'm running again. [But] she's supportive."

When asked by Stephanopoulos whether or not Schriver had asked him not to run again in 2006, the former actor cautiously chose his lines.

"I wouldn't say that she said I shouldn't run," Schwarzenegger said. "I think that she maybe is very clear that she would rather have me at home. She didn't say, 'Don't run'. She puts it in a different way. She would just say, 'I need you to be at home. I love you to be at home.'"

But, Schwarzenegger explained, duty calls.

"I told her I cannot walk away from this job," he said, "not because I need the job, but I am a person that likes when I start something, I want to finish it."