Yesterday’s talk by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Commonwealth Club was billed as an address on foreign trade. The governor’s 16-minute speech was focused on selling California goods and services abroad and getting foreign companies to set up California outlets.
But, his selling went beyond foreign trade missions. He gave the audience 45 minutes to ask questions — far more than the typical speaker — and came up with answers I liked much more than I expected. He did a good sales job on me.
redozdachs and I had heard that his appearances were Hollywood-like and scripted for the sound-bites. I expected that when he came on stage at the Herbst Theater they’d play the them from Rocky or something similar. (Do the Terminator movies have recognizable music?)
Our experience with Governor Schwarzenegger was not at all glitzy. He came on stage with little fanfare and no camera mugging. He was well prepared and had ideas and responses to the unpredictable topics thrown at him.
He was humorous at times, and yet he also avoided equivocation when touching on subjects the San Francisco audience was likely to disagree with him about.
- The Governor gushed over Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth.
“Gushed!” I said!
Schwarzenegger said he thought the movie was excellent, interesting every minute, and that “He [Al Gore] got it right.”
I wish I had been prepared to write down all the positive comments — they’re better than most movie reviewers’ opinions.
- Schwarzenegger spent considerable time talking about education, how we need to spend more money (and how he’s paying back the education funds), how he and the legislature canceled college fee increases when the state budget showed more money available, and how important early childhood education is for all people. He quoted his father-in-law, and seemed to have a depth of knowledge and passion on the topic.
- He talked about the special legislative session on prisons which he’s called for August. He talked about the need to train and rehabilitate people in prison to reduce the recidivism rate. (He gave details how different coalitions are blocking building more prisons and simultaneously stopping early release for non-violent offenders. This stand-off, he said, is one of the causes of the current prison over-crowding which makes finding physical space in prisons for adequate health care and education/training difficult. The system is at 170% of capacity, and there’s insufficient space in the current facilities to keep the inmates safe, healthy, and trained.)
While his arguments on the details may (or may not) be off, I sat there stunned. This was a Republican politician talking about prisons without once mentioning “punishment”. He brought up the need for training, education, and providing living skills.
- The Governor said flat out that President Bush was wrong to veto the stem cell research bill. No waffling, mitigating words, or ya-da ya-da-isms. He said the veto was wrong and mentioned that he had sent President Bush a public letter against the veto before it was made.
Unlike Christie Todd Whitman, Schwarzenegger wasn’t even the type of Republican I grew up to hate. He was more like Nelson Rockefeller, who my yellow-dog Democrat mother voted for while she lived in New York. She was convinced that Rockefeller just didn’t know what party he belonged in.
I think Schwarzenegger knows what party he is in, and he supports that wrong party. I don’t share his views on a number of issues (vetoing the legislative-passed marriage equality bill last year, for example). But, even when I think he’s wrong, at least he’s not horrible and wrong. (When asked about his veto of the marriage-equality bill, he came out for equal rights and non-discrimination. He said the only reason for his veto was that the voters had recently passed an initiative disallowing same-sex marriage, and he thought that only the courts or another vote of the people should overturn the voters’ decision. He’s wrong, in my opinion, but it’s a non-horrible, defensible position.)
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to like Schwarzenegger . But, I did.