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Western governors push for bipartisanship

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D-WY) and Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO) joined Tom Brokaw on "Meet the Press," to talk about the issues dominating the Western landscape, in particular, the importance of bipartisanship.

Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Tom Brokaw’s first as interim moderator, featured three Western governors stressing the importance of reaching across the aisle. Originating from Jackson Hole, Wyo., the site of the Western Governor’s Association Annual Meeting, Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Dave Freudenthal (D-WY) and Bill Ritter, Jr. (D-CO) stressed the need for national bipartisanship, offering their states as prime examples of its promise.

Emphasizing key Western issues such as energy policy, gun control, immigration and the housing crisis, the governors expressed disappointment with federal government supervision. All called for a reality check in Washington, and showed a willingness to accept or at least live with, outsider views on long-held party beliefs. Gov. Ritter, a practicing Catholic and abortion opponent, said that in the West such a minority stance among Democrats was not a “litmus test” for voters.

Gov. Freudenthal stressed that while he chose to support Barack Obama as a candidate, he was entitled to disagree with him on issues. “I endorsed Barack Obama, but I’m not taking him on my income taxes as a dependent,” he joked. Stating that independent views were a stalwart of Western identity, he added, “I joined the Democratic National Party, they didn’t pick me.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger, in a separate interview taped earlier in the week, acknowledged the fact that compromise is a key component of his governing agenda. The governor cited the willingness on the parts of Democrats and Republicans to work together as a major success of his administration, even in the face of a faltering economy. Grilled by Brokaw on his approval ratings (down about 20 percentage points since December), and his business-style approach to politics, Schwarzenegger defended his bipartisan actions as good for the long term but caught up in the bad timing of a larger national economic crisis. 

Schwarzenegger remained true to his maverick sensibilities, dismissing the Bush administration’s “lack of leadership” on environmental issues, and joking about his spirited debates with his Democratic wife, Maria Shriver.

The most pressing issue for all three governors was the lack of leadership in defining a national energy policy. Gov. Schwarzenegger praised George Bush as a president, but at the same time admitted that California couldn’t afford to pay attention to federal policy on the issue.

Gov. Freudenthal criticized presumed Republican nominee John McCain’s recent reversal for the need for offshore drilling to counterbalance rising gas prices. Calling his new policy directives a “one-legged stool”, Freudenthal claimed that McCain knows that offshore drilling would have no effect on the price of gasoline, that it is merely a capitulation to current administration policy, “whose solution for everything is drill, drill, drill.” Freudenthal claimed that the average citizen in Wyoming was looking at a 70 percent increase in their utility bill by the fall and that it was crucial to develop a “diverse energy portfolio” to stabilize the economy and long term fortunes of the country.

Gov. Ritter also emphasized the stark need to develop a long-term energy policy. The states are talking to each other on these crucial issues, he claimed, but with concerns like land conservation and wildlife preservation, the states are handcuffed by federal indifference. “The only resource they want to maximize is the production of oil and gas,” Ritter argued.