With a nonchalance that no doubt will elicit a collective groan from some California Republican faithful, Governor Schwarzenegger told a national TV audience today that it doesn't matter what your party affiliation is.
"Who cares if you're a Republican or a Democrat?," the governor said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous. "We are public servants, not party servants."
It may have been a comment to highlight the need for unity, but it also reinforced the notion of a broad gap between Schwarzenegger and the party faithful who wrap up their convention today here in Sacramento.
Later, on CNN, Schwarzenegger said he would've been at the convention, had it not been for the national meeting of governors in D.C. It's probably a lucky break, with the party faithful so up in arms over last week's budget deal that there's actually a nostalgia for the guy Schwarzenegger helped kick out of office more than five years ago.
But back to this morning's talkfest. Schwarzenegger knew he was going to get the 'Didn't you break your pledge against taxes?' question, and thus gave a well-rehearsed answer to both interviewers -- essentially that he always left himself wiggle room in the event of an emergency.
And he defended the overall budget deal as a good one. "We got huge reforms out of that," he said in referencing the spending cap proposal and others.
On ABC, the guv was asked to comment on the fact that some Republican governors, especially Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, have balked at the federal stimulus money coming their way.
"I'm more than happy to take his money," quipped Schwarzenegger, "or any other governor in this country that doesn't want to take this money."
One other observation from both one-on-one interviews (an audience he rarely gives to California reporters): Schwarzenegger provided yet another candid contrast to a man he once helped elect president, George W. Bush.
Bush was a frequent critic of politicians who read polls, once calling it a game of "chasing your tail" when it came to leadership. Contrast that with Schwarzenegger this morning, who quoted poll numbers supporting a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to solve the state's deficit problem. The governor told Stephanopolous that an effective leader must "listen to the people."
And in non-governor news, he confirmed an interest in a cameo appearance in an upcoming Sylvester Stallone flick, picked Mickey Rourke to win an Oscar, and said The Candidate was his favorite political flick. That movie is an interesting choice, given it's about a candidate who's so focused on winning -- rather than governing-- that after his victory famously says: "What do we do now?"