ARNOLD'S CELEBRITY WAITER
For the first time since becoming governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday conducted a day-long series of small-group interviews with newspaper reporters who cover the Capitol. There wasn't much news to be had although the San Francisco Chronicle, pursuing the mostly dormant story of Schwarzenegger's alleged history of groping and otherwise mistreating women did elicit the revelation that the governor voluntarily participated in sexual harassment awareness training one day in January that was mandatory for the rest of his staff.
Beyond that, Schwarzenegger offered only hints of things to come saying he was "very close" to reaching a revenue-sharing agreement with Indian gaming tribes that would yield a "shocking" amount of revenue for the state, promising that there will be action in the fall on an energy policy designed to restructure electricity markets, and waxing vague about whether he might or might not ask for a tax increase and whether he will or will not do much heavy lifting in the fall on behalf of President Bush's re-election campaign.
Schwarzenegger has demonstrated that everything he does publicly is for a purpose, so for those watching for a not-so-subtle agenda, there was this:
Well into crunch time in negotiations with legislative leaders over workers' compensation reform, there are signs that legislative Republicans who see potential political gain in having an initiative on the issue on the ballot in November are trying to hold up a potential deal. They are clearly concerned that Schwarzenegger will cut his own deal with Democratic leaders, a situation that would put them in an awkward situation since they would not want to be seen as roadblocks to a Republican governor's negotiated deal.
Throughout the interview sessions, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, the Legislature's top Democrat, wandered in and out of the governor's office, making his presence very visible to the press. During the session I attended, Burton, wearing a cream-colored Polynesian shirt and white slacks, came out to the governor's cigar-smoking tent in the courtyard and delivered Schwarzenegger a demitasse of espresso.
"Danke, mein Freund," Schwarzenegger replied in German. "Thank you, my friend."
Republican lawmakers reading about the interview sessions surely must have seen the message: Burton and Schwarzenegger are engaged, getting along and moving forward, so if they want to be part of the deal, it's time to negotiate rather than obstruct.