Among those on hand for the swearing in of Gov. Gavin Newsom was Arnold Schwarzenegger. CapRadio's Ben Adler caught up with the former California governor and actor after Newsom's speech to talk about the new governor, the future of the Republican Party in California, and the challenges of leading the state.
On what inauguration day is like
I had Gov. [Gray] Davis, and Gov. [Pete] Wilson come up to me on the day when I was sworn in and they say, "Enjoy the day, Arnold." I said, "Why do you say that?" And they say, "Because it's gonna be the only day when you're really going to be happy. From now on, it goes downhill.’ I had no idea. I said, "These guys are so negative." I mean one Democrat, one Republican, you can't even believe how negative people can be.
But it's true enough, and I got into office, and I realized what they were talking about, because you do step into this office and the overwhelming amount of problems and challenges — challenges from the past, challenges in the present, challenges that are coming up in the future, and stuff like that. And to me I always looked at those challenges in a very enthusiastic way because I felt like anything is possible.
On Jerry Brown’s time in office
Well I think that he did a terrific job as governor. And I think that he was very fortunate that the economy was in his favor and that for eight years we didn't have a recession, because some politicians are fortunate to do that — very few. And others are not as fortunate.
As you know, when you have a shortfall because of a recession of $20 billion and half of your budget is education, that means you have to take that from education, $10 billion. And then you have to dig from other social programs, the other $10 billion. So it is really a struggle. So we have gone through a major, major struggle.
I hope that the state will put together a much larger rainy day fund. But I think that Gov. Newsom is a visionary. He's a terrific guy. He has a lot of energy and what he said today at the inaugural address was right on the money.
On whether he’s concerned about partisanship
As you know I'm not a politician that is looking at left, right, middle and all this kind of stuff. I think it's all nonsense. I think what really is important is that you have a public servant. Newsom — doesn't matter what his approach is — let's leave this up to him. You know he's a Democrat ... so he's going to govern, but the key thing is that he governs for the people.
On the potential of a new political party
I'm not asking for a new way of starting a new party, but just a new way. Let's go back to the basics in the old style with, you know, Teddy Roosevelt was protecting the environment. Ronald Reagan was creating the Air Resources Board in California and wanted to get rid of smog. He was a Republican. Doesn't mean many Republicans shouldn't be, you know, for having a clean environment. I mean there's a natural thing. So I want them to get back to the normal way and to reach across the aisle to work together.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.