WASHINGTON – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger accused Washington leaders Monday of divisiveness and partisanship, chiding them to learn the lessons of his state and start to cooperate.
"Politics is about compromise. It is about give-and-take. Doesn't anyone here in Washington remember that chapter from their civics book?" the Republican governor said in a speech to the National Press Club.
"How come Republicans and Democrats out here don't schmooze with each other?" he asked.
"You can't catch a socially transmitted disease by sitting down with people who hold ideas different from yours," said Schwarzenegger, a moderate who has frequently split from his party.
Schwarzenegger offered President Bush a suggestion: set up a cigar smoking tent like the one he's rigged at the State Capitol in Sacramento, where he mingles with lawmakers of both parties.
"To the president, I say get yourself a smoking tent," he said.
Schwarzenegger, in town for a National Governors Association meeting, has urged setting timelines for bringing troops home from Iraq, an approach favored by many congressional Democrats. Without mentioning either party by name, he implicitly criticized the approach of both parties during Congress' recent debates on the Iraq war.
"What is the point of stirring up bitterness over nonbinding resolutions? What is the point of each side preventing the other side from conducting a vote?" he asked. "The point is, of course, political advantage, because it's definitely not to the public's advantage."
Majority Democrats in the House and Senate have advanced nonbinding resolutions to oppose President Bush's troop increase plan for Iraq. The resolution passed the House this month, but failed to reach a vote in the Senate when Republicans blocked an end to debate.
Shortly after the November election that gave Democrats control of Congress, Schwarzenegger was sounding optimistic, telling reporters: "I think this is good that we have new blood coming to Washington." On Monday he appeared to have lost that optimism.
"After an initial flurry of hope, it doesn't look like anything has changed here in Washington. The same things are happening all over again," he said.