LOS ANGELES – Actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) will be sworn in as governor of the Golden State Monday and experts say the state should prepare itself for a leader willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how flashy, to pump up California politics.
But where show and glitz earns respect in Tinseltown, the top-drawing action hero may have to tone it down for the stuffier state politics crowd. Friends and associates say that shouldn't be a problem -- Schwarzenegger easily adapts to his surroundings and plays to expectations in order to get what he wants.
For instance, the governor-elect is taking the oath of office Monday in a low-key ceremony. California Supreme Court Justice Ronald George will administer the oath while incoming first lady Maria Shriver holds the Bible.
After brief remarks, Schwarzenegger is expected to attend three luncheons -- for federal and state officials, for friends and family and a third hosted by the state Chamber of Commerce. Not on the agenda, any glamorous inaugural balls or glitzy parties.
Aides say the actor wanted to avoid a Hollywood-style celebration since the state is facing considerable fiscal problems and a bitterness that lingers from the first successful recall election in the state.
But that doesn't mean pomp and circumstance will be altogether absent. Nearly 650 journalists from around the world, including Japan, Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Austria have sought press credentials -- about the same number that would request passes to a presidential inauguration.
"Sacramento has never seen anything like this before -- it is astonishing," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at the University of Southern California. "There has never been this kind of intense media attention on the governor at any time in the state."
"I think that people who just show up downtown hoping to watch will be badly disappointed," said California Highway Patrol spokesman Steve Kohler, who added that security will be tight and the inaugural ceremonies will be held in a fenced-off location behind blocked city streets where about 50 satellite TV trucks will be parked.
"You'd be better off staying home and watching it on TV," Kohler said.
And although the California Highway Patrol will chauffeur Schwarzenegger around and provide security after he becomes governor, the action-film hero will also maintain a private security detail, in line with his Hollywood status.
Based on the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger's blow-'em-up movie image, some say it's not hard to imagine "The Terminator" star roaring one of his Hummers up the steps of the state Capitol clad in Armani with an expensive cigar clenched between his teeth to mingle and make policy with the rumpled suits of the state Legislature.
But others suggest that Schwarzenegger shouldn't rely on his Hollywood career for guidance on how to do his job as the No. 1 elected leader in the state.
"I think his background doesn't really prepare him well for dealing with the budget crisis, which is maybe $10 billion or more," said David Corn, editor of the Nation. "If he's done a $10 billion budget movie in six weeks, then maybe he'd be prepared for what's about to hit him."
The budget deficit may be closer to $25 billion, Schwarzenegger's newly appointed chief financial deputy projected over the weekend. The governor-elect is bound by the state constitution to offer a budget by Jan. 1.
Schwarzenegger is expected to confront some issues immediately after entering office -- as soon as Monday afternoon. Going to work after his luncheons, Schwarzenegger could sign an executive order repealing the car tax hike that went into effect earlier this year. He also plans to call a special session of the Legislature. He could make that call on Tuesday.
During his campaign, Schwarzenegger said he wanted state lawmakers to deal with a variety of issues, including midyear budget cuts, reform of the state's worker compensation system and a repeal of a new law that lets undocumented workers get driver's licenses.
Schwarzenegger has gotten a head start by appointing aides to top positions, including Cabinet seats for health and human services, food and agriculture and correctional agencies, among others. All require state Senate confirmation. Longtime adviser and friend, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, is taking over as secretary of education. Deputy campaign manager Patricia Clarey will be his chief of staff. Rob Stutzman, who also worked on Schwarzenegger's campaign, was named the governor's new communications director.
Donna Arduin, who has worked for several Republican governors, most recently as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's director of policy and budget, has been nominated as director of finance, a position that also requires confirmation from the state Senate. Arduin has already submitted an independent audit of the state's treasury, currently under review by a bipartisan committee.
"In all administrations, the rubber hits the road when it comes to appointments, and who [he] puts in the jobs close to him and throughout the executive branch of California," Corn said. "I would be encouraged if he appointed some environmentalists, some folks who aren't draconian anti-government budget cutters, you know, people who do care about after-school programs like he does ... It's very, very hard to predict the type of administration, ideologically, politically, policy-wise, he's going to put together, but he clearly starts this with a lot of popular good will."
Using Style to Tackle Substance
Balancing the budget is likely to be the toughest challenge for the new chief executive.
Luckily, Schwarzenegger does have some experience dealing with big-ticket accounting. The former Mr. Olympia has used his movie earnings as capital to invest in real estate, technology companies and a mall in Columbus, Ohio, where he has an annual fitness exposition.
The governor-elect also owns a mansion in Brentwood; a ski lodge in Sun Valley, Idaho; a Boeing 747 that he leases to Singapore Air; and a small fleet of road-squeezing Hummers, to name a few of the more extravagant items.
"Arnold learned very early that in America, particularly the America of the '70s and '80s, ... there was a new era and it was about strength, health, wealth, narcissism and power. Arnold got that," said George Butler, the filmmaker whose 1977 bodybuilding documentary, "Pumping Iron," helped make Schwarzenegger a Hollywood icon. "He got right from the very start that money was the root of power."
If compromise is the mark of a good politician, environmentalists may want to consider their opposition to Schwarzenegger's love of the Hummer, the military-designed sport utility vehicle that Schwarzenegger helped popularize. Schwarzenegger's collection of Hummers includes five of the original designs and one new model Hummer H2. When environmental groups decried his use of the gas-guzzlers during his campaign, Schwarzenegger promised to retrofit one to run on cleaner-burning hydrogen fuel instead of gasoline.
But Schwarzenegger isn't just offering a lot of hot air. He has managed to get Hummer as a national sponsor of the After School All Stars, the newly named, eight-year-running, after-school program that Schwarzenegger created to help endangered inner-city youth turn to sports rather than drugs, gangs and violence. The program provides programs year-round to over 250,000 kids.
Using his Hollywood credentials, Schwarzenegger also knows how to raise money. He auctioned off two specially designed Indian Chief motorcycles used in last summer's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines." The $80,000 helped pay for a ballot initiative for an after-school program the actor spearheaded.
He also is deeply involved in activities that bare his trademark. Schwarzenegger was apparently very involved in the design of 400 yellow gold Audemars Piguet watches that included his signature -- all of which retail for $36,200.
"You cannot do anything with Arnold without getting his input. He wants to be involved from A to Z," said Francois-Henry Bennahmias, president of Audemars Piguet's North American division.
But Schwarzenegger is not over the top, say observers.
"He's definitely not the most decadent," said Michael Hirschorn, an executive producer of VH1's "The Fabulous Life of ..." series, which has produced specials about Schwarzenegger and celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.
Hirschorn said Schwarzenegger balances his appetite for luxury with wise money-management.
Schwarzenegger also has a head start when it comes to foreign relations. The incoming governor once convinced the Austrian government to track down a buried M47 tank Schwarzenegger drove as part of the Austrian military in the 1960s.
The government agreed and later shipped the tank to the United States, where Schwarzenegger placed it on display as a loan to the Motts Military Museum in Groveport, Ohio, where he visits it at least once a year.
Fox News' Sharon Kehnemui and The Associated Press contributed to this report.