President Bush and California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger met privately Thursday, then praised each other in a joint appearance. The movie actor called Bush “the greatest ally this Golden State has in Washington.”
FOR HIS PART, Bush said he was glad to have met Schwarzenegger, then joked about “how much we have in common.”
Both of us “married well,” said Bush, and “some accuse both of us of not being able to speak the language.”
The president also joked that he and Schwarzenegger shared “big biceps.” When the laughter subsided, he said, “Two out of three isn’t bad.”
Bush and Schwarzenegger met privately in the president’s hotel suite on Thursday in Riverside before they rode together in the president’s limousine to nearby San Bernardino, where Bush gave a speech designed to set the stage for his Asia trip, which will focus on trade and the war on terror.
Later, Schwarzenegger said he tried to use their meeting to “create a great relationship with the White House” rather than ask Bush for specific favors. “It was not the right time to do that,” he said at a news conference after Bush departed. He also said they did not talk about politics or next year’s campaign.
Both the president and the California governor-elect drew tumultuous applause as they were introduced at an economic forum.
SCHWARZENEGGER INTRODUCES BUSH
“Thirty-five years ago, I never imagined I would be standing in front of you as governor of California introducing the president of the United States,” Schwarzenegger said.
California, Schwarzenegger said, is “a place where dreams come true” — though its staggering budget deficit made for “serious challenges.”
Bush said he was “confident about the future of our economy,” and noted that he had the responsibility to govern wisely from Washington while “Governor Schwarzenegger has the responsibility to set good policy in Sacramento.”
The state has undergone an extreme period of political turbulence between Bush’s 2000 loss here to Democrat Al Gore, and the recall earlier this month of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the election of Republican Schwarzenegger to replace him.
Bush is hoping that an alliance with Schwarzenegger will help him build re-election support in the state, with its huge prize of 55 of the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Bush netted some $1.75 million with a fund-raising luncheon in Fresno and a dinner fund-raiser here, bringing his overall re-election war chest to roughly $84 million.
While Bush came to talk about the economy and events in postwar Iraq, Mideast violence hung over his visit. Three Americans were killed in the bombing of a U.S. diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip.
VIOLENCE HANGS OVER VISIT
Since Sept. 11, 2001, “terrorists have taken lives in Casablanca, Mombasa, Jerusalem, Amman, Riyadh, Baghdad, Karachi, New Delhi, Bali, Jakarta,” Bush said in a speech Wednesday at a food processing company in the Central California town of Dinuba. “Today, Americans died as the result of a terrorist attack in Gaza.”
Warning that terrorists still pose a danger, Bush said: “They continue to plot. They continue to plan against our country and our people. America must not forget the lessons of Sept. 11.”
Bush’s speech was his last event in California before leaving on a six-country trip to Asia and Australia, stopping first in Japan.
He got some good news ahead of his visit to Tokyo — Japan’s pledge for $1.5 billion in the coming year for reconstruction projects in Iraq, and possibly as much as $5 billion over the next four years.
Bush said Japan’s commitment would provide aid for immediate reconstruction needs there.
“I applaud this bold step which will help mobilize international support for efforts to build a stable, peaceful and democratic Iraq,” he said. “Japan recognizes that this effort is critical to security and peace not only in Iraq and the Middle East, but also for Japan and throughout the world.”
Still, Japan’s pledge fell considerably short of its $13 billion contribution to help finance the 1991 Gulf War.
Bush was to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichuro Koizumi for private talks and a dinner.
Bush’s trip is anchored around the Oct. 20-21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok, Thailand.
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