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Schwarzenegger seeks new era of centrist politics

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who once taunted Democrats as ‘girlie men’, called on Friday for an end to partisan bickering and a focus on innovative centrist policies.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks during his inauguration Ceremony at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, January 5, 2007. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

In a elaborately staged inaugural that included singers breaking into choruses of “Hallelujah” right after he took the oath of office, Schwarzenegger said California could serve as a model to the rest of the country and larger world.

“At one time, the greatest public policy innovations came from liberals, such as during the New Deal,” the Republican celebrity said. “Then the most innovative ideas came from conservatives, such as Ronald Reagan.

“It is time we combined the best of both ideologies into a new creative center. This is a dynamic center that is not held captive by either the left or the right or the past,” he said after arriving on crutches with a leg broken while skiing.

The former Mr. Olympia and Hollywood “Terminator” came to office in 2003 following an election recall in which voters fired his Democratic predecessor.

But by 2005, voters had tired of his competitive style and rejected a package of government overhaul initiatives in a special election he had called.

Since then, Schwarzenegger has embraced bipartisanship in a state where Democrats dominate the legislature, and he easily won re-election in November.

“In the 2005 special election, I took the wrong approach in trying to do these things. But in my failure, I rediscovered my original purpose,” he said. “I saw that people, not just in California, but across the nation, were hungry for a new kind of politics.”

Schwarzenegger cited a pioneering California law last year aimed at curtailing greenhouse gas emissions as a model of what he called “post-partisanship.”

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Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, an occasional advisor to Schwarzenegger, said that, as in diplomacy, the often bickering two parties could forge policy together.

“You see things when they are first put out that seem a little bit odd,” he said before the inaugural. “You argue it out and let it sink in.”

“To a certain extent it happened last year,” he said.


Schwarzenegger, 59, has surrounded himself with powerful Democratic women, of whom the most influential is wife Maria Shriver, niece of President John F. Kennedy. She organized the inaugural that included upbeat song, dance and celebrities such as actors Rob Lowe and Tom Arnold.

And in one of many inaugural scenes worthy of Hollywood, she gave a speech, and then clung to Schwarzenegger’s left arm as he took the oath of office.

His mother-in-law is Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Kennedy’s brother, whom he has often said peppers him with advice.

“I think the (parties) are going to work together. If you look back in history ... it worked,” she told Reuters, adding even those as far apart as America and the Soviet Union had worked together to bridge differences.

Schwarzenegger’s call for political centrism signaled an effort to influence national politics -- and maybe take a more prominent role -- even though as a foreign-born American he cannot run for president.

But he can run for Congress.

“I’m going to encourage Arnold to run for senate or Congress,” Joe Weider, a legendary bodybuilding publisher who brought Schwarzenegger to the United States in 1969, told Reuters.