SACRAMENTO, Calif. In a scathing speech heavy with mockery and sarcasm, Arnold Schwarzenegger warned voters Thursday not to believe the platitudes and stump speeches of presidential candidates.
"Don't buy into their big lines," the Republican governor of California told a luncheon audience at a politics and policy conference here. "They can't just come and give us a resume and a nice line."
Schwarzenegger said that every presidential candidate since Teddy Roosevelt has promised universal health care.
"And where is it?" Schwarzenegger said, noting that politicians give people a "song and dance" and "kabuki" when it comes to health care.
Then, his voice dripping with sarcasm, Schwarzenegger also said when it comes to the environment, presidential candidates say: "'We've got to leave this place to our children better than we inherited it.' They all say that!
"They say: 'Fight global warming.' How? The United States is not even in the game right now when it comes to global warming.
"Do they believe in offshore oil drilling? I want to know that. They can't escape that!
"They say: 'On immigration, we should be firm but compassionate.' What does that really mean? Does it mean we should build a border fence? Does it mean we should send millions of people back? And what if they have children who are citizens?"
Schwarzenegger was speaking at a conference that, in part, was exploring whether, by moving up its presidential primary from June to Feb. 5 next year, California will increase its influence.
I had concluded California probably would not, and said so at the conference, where I was on a panel.
Also, since California will have another primary in June for non-presidential contests, the extra cost to taxpayers for the Feb. 5 primary will be a staggering $60 million or so.
I suggested at the conference that $60 million was a lot of money to pay to give California an ego boost.
Schwarzenegger utterly rejected that in his speech, saying that moving up the primary would more than pay for itself by forcing presidential candidates to promise to give more tax dollars to California if they are elected. "Why is it we only get 79 cents back (in federal spending) on the dollar (that Californians pay in taxes)?" Schwarzenegger said. "We used to get 95 cents."
Schwarzenegger said California should get at least 90 cents back on every dollar and that presidential candidates should pledge to do that. "We can turn this (early primary) into billions and billions of dollars," he said.
He said that when it comes to the presidential contenders, the question for Californians is: "What are they going to do for us?"
"This is the greatest investment we can make," he said of the early primary. "California is the greatest place in the world. But we can be better off."
Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria, is forbidden by the Constitution from running for president, though he would almost certainly like to. He has been turning his energies to other issues, including getting California to redistrict along nonpartisan lines because so few seats actually change hands in the state.
"We have less turnover here than in the Hapsburg monarchy," Schwarzenegger said Thursday.
Schwarzenegger also said the United States has to reduce its dependency on foreign oil "so we won't have to shvitz every time the Middle East coughs."
For those whose background is not as culturally diverse as Schwarzenegger's, "shvitz" is Yiddish for sweat.