President Bush met behind closed doors with Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), the actor-turned governor-elect of California, on Thursday during a swing through the Golden State.
Bush and Schwarzenegger met privately in the president's hotel suite in rural Dinuba before they both headed for nearby San Bernardino (search), where Bush gave a speech designed to set the stage for his upcoming Pacific trip.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be standing here as the governor-elect of California and introducing the president of the United States," the action hero said as he introduced Bush, calling him "the greatest ally this golden state has in Washington."
Bush said he was glad to have met Schwarzenegger, then joked about "how much we have in common." Both "married well," said Bush, and "some accuse both of us of not being able to speak the language."
Bush added a third shared item: "big biceps." After the laughter died down, he said, "two out of three isn't bad."
Schwarzenegger's win in last week's recall election likely will help Bush in his re-election campaign. Bush was in California to raise more campaign money and to give speeches on the economy.
Bush's address was much the same as other recent speeches. He defended the administration's national and foreign policies, emphasized that Congress needed to act on economic legislation and said the U.S. was well on its way to defeating terrorism.
"We're meeting the tests of history. We're defeating the enemies of freedom. Every test of America has revealed the character of America," Bush said.
Bush has often said that he doesn't look at polls, but at the mission.
"I took this office to make a difference, not to mark time," Bush said Thursday, adding that he would address problems directly, and not pass them on to future generations or presidents.
Bush once again defended his "first-strike doctrine," (search) which says the United States will take the offensive against threats.
"America will not wait to be attacked," Bush said. "We're striking our enemies before they can strike us again. Americans are not the running kind."
He also repeated that the United States and allied countries in the war on terror were "striking at the heart" of terrorists.
Pointing out that he inherited a downward-spiraling economy from his predecessor, Bill Clinton, Bush said Congress needed to act on a series of issues to get the U.S. economy back on its feet.
Among other things, Bush said, there should be limits on frivolous lawsuits, an establishment of a national energy policy less dependent on foreign sources of oil and more free-trade agreements.
"Expanded trade will help businesses large and small," Bush said.
Building a Foundation
Answering questions after the meeting, Schwarzenegger said it wasn't an opportunity to give Bush a laundry list of items for California, but more of an introductory get-together to "build a foundation."
"It is important we form a relationship with the White House and with President Bush. ... They want to help and they will help," the governor-elect said. "I will make sure that from now on we have a good relationship with the White House and a good relationship with the federal government."
The two men discussed, among other things, the actor's relationship with George H.W. Bush, who in 1990 appointed the Austrian-born immigrant to the chairmanship of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, which he held until 1993.
After saying little during the California recall campaign, Bush embraced Schwarzenegger Wednesday, setting the stage for an alliance that could reap a rich windfall for Republicans in Nov. 2004. California holds 55 of the 270 electoral votes needed for presidential-election victory.
Both Bush and Schwarzenegger brought their own agendas to the meeting, but Bush said ahead of time that he was "optimistic" about the future of California and the country as a whole.
Schwarzenegger campaigned as a Republican who could work with the White House and pledged to make demands of the federal government. He vowed to recover "more than $50 billion" from the federal government, saying the state pays more money to Washington than it gets back.
"By the time I'm through with this whole thing, I will not be known as the Terminator — I will be known as the Collectinator," Schwarzenegger said while campaigning.
Schwarzenegger also said he would ask the federal government to stem illegal immigration, get Washington to buy back California's offshore oil leases and tap federal money to finance his plan for a network of hydrogen-car fuel stations (search).
Bush's Future in California
The state has undergone a period of extreme political turbulence between Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' 2002 re-election following a bloody Republican primary battle, and Davis' recall less than a year later.
California Republicans and Bush re-election officials say Schwarzenegger's victory last week could only help the president win California's 55 electoral votes next year. Bush lost the state to Al Gore by more than 1.2 million votes in 2000.
It was a "big deal for Bush … because it puts California in play" for Republicans in 2004, Democratic strategist Joe Cerrell told Fox News on Thursday. "He's going to raise some more money because of Arnold."
Schwarzenegger's win drove up Republican registrations and political contributions, said Ken Khachigian, a former White House aide who helped Presidents Nixon, Reagan and the first President Bush carry California.
Bush came to Republican-leaning inland California for a pair of fund-raisers expected to bring in $1.5 million. Bush netted some $1.75 million with a fund-raising luncheon in Fresno and a dinner fund-raiser, bringing his overall re-election war chest to roughly $84 million.
Bush's speech was his last event in California before leaving on a six-country trip to Asia and Australia, stopping first in Japan. The trip is anchored around the Oct. 20-21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (search) forum in Bangkok, Thailand.
He stops in Japan on Friday and Saturday, the Philippines on Saturday, Thailand through Oct. 21, Singapore and Indonesia on Oct. 22 and Australia on Oct. 22-23.
Fox News' Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.