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Schwarzenegger Discusses Reaching Across Party Lines

June 22, 2007 at 6:25 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Since before he ran for and won re-election in 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has changed his originally confrontational approach to politics. He’s gained national attention for the issues he’s pushing and for taking a more bipartisan approach.

Near the top of his agenda: reducing greenhouse gases in California. He pushed through state legislation to reduce carbon emissions 25 percent by the year 2020.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), California: We are going to change the dynamic on greenhouse gas and on carbon emissions. We are taking actions ourselves. We are not waiting for the federal government.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The governor has gone further, battling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over whether the state should be allowed to implement tougher rules on auto emissions. Schwarzenegger’s also grabbed headlines for his work on other issues, including his push for universal health care coverage in the state.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: We want to really reform the system and fix the broken system once and for all.

Solving problems at the state level

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
[S]tates have traditionally always been the ones in the grassroots operations and the ideas that come from local government are really the ones that then spread and get to Washington.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He's also compromised more with his Democratic colleagues this second term. I caught up with Governor Schwarzenegger a couple of days ago, along with other leading state and local politicians, at a conference in Los Angeles on bridging the political divide.

Governor Schwarzenegger, thank you very much for talking with us. You are saying more and more lately that it's up to state and local governments to solve problems, that you can't wait for the federal government. Why is that necessary?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that the states have traditionally always been the ones in the grassroots operations and the ideas that come from local government are really the ones that then spread and get to Washington. And then finally Washington is responding to it. And I think the same thing, you know, is the other way around.

I mean, if Washington, for instance, has been talking about health care reform and immigration reform, which are things that ought to be done from Washington, but they haven't been able to do it. So if we as a state can inspire them, or if we can show them the way, and show that we can, for instance, reform health care, and here's the way to do it, then they can copy it. It makes it easier for them. So we are more than happy to provide that kind of leadership.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In a state like California, you're a Republican. The state is mostly Democratic. That means moving to compromise with the other side. You came into office not necessarily doing that. You didn't do that early on, but you changed. Was that because the original method was failing?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: When it comes to working together with the other side, I think, as I've said earlier, that I have learned my lessons in 2005, and I have learned it the hard way, because we had some great initiatives, and we went out and went about the wrong way.

It was not an inclusive approach. It was kind of like setting a deadline, saying, "If you don't work with us in two months from now, we're going to go directly to the people." And it became kind of us versus them. And that's the wrong approach.

The approach that we always have to take is to be inclusive and to bring all the stakeholders in, which we are doing, for instance, this year with health care. We bring all the stakeholders in. And this is why there have been no fights. There have been no attacks. I mean, no name calling or anything like this. So I think that I've learned from that, and I'm a quick learner.

Taking on environmental issues

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
So we can prove -- and we have proven already -- that you can have, you know, taking care of the environment and taking care of the economy at the same time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about the environment. Traditionally the Republican, the business point of view, has been anything you do to make standards stricter is going to hurt economic growth, business growth. You don't believe that; why don't you believe it?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: When you make changes environmentally that would immediately create new technology in order to make those caps, so if you set a certain cap and say, "You cannot release more greenhouse gases by this time," then immediately everyone looks for the technology and how to change the engines of off-road vehicles in construction or how to make the engines of regular passenger vehicles, SUVs and everything, airplane engines, how do we make them more efficient?

So there's all kinds of new industries that are created. This is the fastest booming business. As a matter of fact, the Wall Street Journal called this the new Gold Rush, because in California we have so many companies, you know, thousands and thousands of companies that are developing new products in order to comply with those kind of standards.

So I think it is huge. So we can prove -- and we have proven already -- that you can have, you know, taking care of the environment and taking care of the economy at the same time. Where there's a will, there's a way. You don't have to choose one versus the other.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You are going your own way, challenging the EPA. You and others, like Mayor Bloomberg, are not waiting for the federal government. But ultimately, Governor Schwarzenegger, is it really going to make a difference, if a city here and a state there does something, if you don't have the federal government going along and you don't have the federal government leading the way globally on this?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: The best scenario is if the federal government of each country goes along with it, and signs a treaty, and commits to roll back the greenhouse gases, and to fight global warming. That's the ideal situation, but that is not reality. We can't always have exactly what is the ideal situation, especially not in politics.

So what we are doing is the states -- we're saying, OK, while the federal government is doing their studies for another two years, let us go and show leadership. So that's why we in California passed strict laws last year, and said, "We're going to roll back our greenhouse gases to the 1990 level," which is a reduction of 25 percent, and then we made a commitment to roll it back another 80 percent by the year 2050.

And so we formed partnerships with other Western states, with Northeastern states, with other countries in Europe, with provinces in Canada. And when this is spreading like wildfire, it is amazing of how much people are interested in protecting the environment and fighting global warming.

Carbon offsets as tax incentive

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
Two years ago at the car show in Los Angeles, there were three vehicles with alternative fuel. The last car show, there were 17 vehicles. This year, there will be 30 or 40 different companies that will be displaying.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One other side of the coin, Governor, has been pointed out that you support the so-called carbon offsets, where people pay some money if they do use carbon. In the end, are you sort of letting people off the hook, if they're not really cutting carbon consumption?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: No, this is kind of -- you have to think of it as a tax incentive. It should inspire companies and people that are leading businesses to go and do it actually faster.

So if I know that I can trade with someone that cannot make it, then I will make sure that my factory and my business, it comes down with the greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, because now I'm below the standards where they ask me to be, and now I can trade with someone, and I can make money. So it's actually a way of inspiring businesses to act faster and to make the changes quicker.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of inspiration and setting an example, you make no secret you still fly your jet. What, how many Hummers? And I guess a couple of them have been converted to biofuels. In some ways, are you trying to have your cake and eat it, too? I mean, I've read some commentary here in California that you yourself could be setting a better example.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Oh, I'm setting a good example. That's why it is very important, when you lead in this, that you set an example, and that's why we have changed, for instance, the Hummers. As a matter of fact, we have now three Hummers that are changed over to being really very, very efficient. And the one we are working on right now, we have a reduction of greenhouse gases by 80 percent.

I mean, this is all-new technology developed here in California, also the hydrogen Hummer and so on, and biofuel Hummer. So that is what we're working on, and we are inspiring everyone. And there's all kinds of incredible things that are coming out.

Two years ago at the car show in Los Angeles, there were three vehicles with alternative fuel. The last car show, there were 17 vehicles. This year, there will be 30 or 40 different companies that will be displaying. So it is going like this. We are very happy how quickly the world is moving forward in fighting global warming.

Bringing political parties together

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
Democrats take positions I disagree with; the Republicans make decisions that I disagree with. I feel very comfortable in the Republican tent. It's a big tent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor, on a range of issues, from immigration, stem cell research, climate change, you are out of sync with the principal contenders for the Republican nomination for president, John McCain probably the exception. Are you troubled by the direction the Republican Party nationally is going in?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I hope that both of the parties come more to the center. And it is not their fault, may I remind you. It is not the Republicans' fault; it's not the Democrats' fault.

Our redistricting is horrible. It's a fixed system. It's not competitive. And this is why we're working very hard in California to redo it, to have redistricting done by the people that are independent of the legislature, rather than the legislatures doing it, because the way it is right now -- I mean, look at this. In the last two election cycles in California, it was almost like 500 seats that were up for grabs, only four or so changed seats. I mean, there was a bigger turnover in the Hapsburg monarchy than there was here with that system, so, I mean, it's crazy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But do you feel at home in this Republican Party, when you hear the leaders of your party taking the positions they take?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, yeah. The Democrats take positions I disagree with; the Republicans make decisions that I disagree with. I feel very comfortable in the Republican tent. It's a big tent. It goes all the way from the right, all the way crossing the center line. And that's exactly where I want to be.

The more we cross over to the center line, the more we can go and open up and solve bigger problems. I am all for working with everyone together, and we have been very, very successful in California by bringing both of the parties together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor, I subscribe to all the news bulletins that come out of your office. I get the e-mails every day. And it seems to me that several times a day I see a statement on the death of a California soldier or Marine in Iraq. What are you thinking right now about the war?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I think, no matter what war it is, I always hate to see anyone die or anyone getting injured. I mean, it is really sad, especially when you visit those hospitals. I go to the Walter Reed and to the Bethesda Hospital and visit hospitals here in California, up and down the state, to visit our men and women, and to see those injuries, and to then walk out and think about their lives that they're going to lead from then on, the impact it has on their families and all this. When you lose someone, it's horrible.

But that does not mean that one's opinion of why we are in a war should change, because we know we are fighting terrorism. We know that we don't want to have terrorism come over here and follow us over here. I think that this is a very, very good cause, and this is why I was for the idea of giving it all this year, going all out, and then have a deadline and a certain time, a timeline that when we should bring our troops back.

We should not make it an open-ended situation, but I think that we have to bring this to an end. We owe this to the American people, because then we can go and use this money, finally, for things that we need in this country, because we need to rebuild this country.

We need to redo our education system, our infrastructure. There are so many things, health care, there are so many issues that we need to address. Right now, a lot of this money is going outside the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor Schwarzenegger, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you.