California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger accused Washington leaders Monday of divisiveness and partisanship, chiding them to learn the lessons of his state and start to cooperate.
"Politics is about compromise. It is about give-and-take. Doesn't anyone here in Washington remember that chapter from their civics book?" the Republican governor said in a speech to the National Press Club.
"How come Republicans and Democrats out here don't schmooze with each other?" he asked in prepared remarks.
"You can't catch a socially transmitted disease by sitting down with people who hold ideas different from yours," said Schwarzenegger, a moderate who has frequently split from his party.
Questions approach on Iraq war debate
Schwarzenegger, in town for a National Governors Association meeting, has urged setting timelines for bringing troops home from Iraq, an approach favored by many congressional Democrats. Without mentioning either party by name, he implicitly criticized the approach of both parties during Congress' recent debates on the Iraq war.
"What is the point of stirring up bitterness over nonbinding resolutions? What is the point of each side preventing the other side from conducting a vote?" he asked. "The point, of course, is political advantage. It's certainly not to the people's advantage."
Majority Democrats in the House and Senate have advanced nonbinding resolutions to oppose President Bush's troop increase plan for Iraq. The resolution passed the House this month, but failed to reach a vote in the Senate when Republicans blocked an end to debate.
Schwarzenegger's popularity rebounded in California after he began working with Democratic legislative leaders in the wake of his disastrous attempt to pass his initiatives on a special election ballot in 2005.
"Division is what Washington has come to represent," Schwarzenegger said. "For too long, this town has been about divide and conquer. Find an issue that splits the country in half, then crack it just enough so you can come out ahead."