Andrew Maykuth Online
The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 18, 2003

Gov. Schwarzenegger takes charge in Calif.
A low-key swearing-in, then a popular move: Axing the car-tax hike.
Schwarzenegger sworn in as governor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in yesterday as California's governor, capping a storybook ascent from immigrant bodybuilder to Hollywood megastar to leader of America's most populous and eccentric state.

Schwarzenegger took the oath of office from California's chief justice on the west steps of the domed state Capitol while his wife, Maria Shriver, a television journalist and niece of President John F. Kennedy, held a 192-year-old Kennedy family Bible.

Proclaiming it a "new day in California," the 56-year-old Republican laced his 12-minute address with frequent populist references and pledged to mend the political divisions that contributed to the state's vexing budget crisis.

"It's no secret that I'm a newcomer to politics," said Schwarzenegger, who came to the United States at 21, when he was a star bodybuilder with ambitions that far exceeded the bounds of the arcane sport. "I realize I was elected on faith and hope. And I feel a great responsibility not to let the people down."

Schwarzenegger won his new post Oct. 7 in a special recall election in which Gov. Gray Davis, a colorless Democrat who was blamed for California's imploding budget, was voted out less than a year into his second term.

Schwarzenegger's star power easily eclipsed the 134 other candidates in the eight-week campaign, as he won nearly half the vote. It also did not hurt that he had millions of dollars of his own money to invest or that he inherited former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's well-motivated political operation.

The swearing-in was a dignified ceremony, with mercilessly few references to Schwarzenegger's action movies such as The Terminator, Predator and Total Recall. The new governor's staff members said they had designed the event as a low-key affair to avoid appearing to gloat. They deliberately did not refer to it as an inaugural.

Schwarzenegger's wife, who sat on the dais next to him and their four children, read a passage from a Maya Angelou poem. Her parents, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and former vice presidential nominee R. Sargent Shriver, sat behind them, along with four former governors and the leaders of the California legislature.

A few Hollywood personalities attended the ceremony, though the glamour seemed downplayed. Vanessa Williams sang the national anthem a cappella. Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny DeVito, Rob Lowe, Dennis Miller, Rob Reiner, Tom Arnold and Linda Hamilton also sat in the front rows of the audience.

Schwarzenegger said his first act as governor would be to repeal the highly unpopular 300 percent increase in the state's vehicle licensing fee - a declaration that drew a loud cheer from the thousands of invited guests who sat in folding chairs on a platform built over the statehouse lawn. He later followed through on the pledge with an executive order.

The move, though popular, will make the governor's job more difficult. The vehicle-fee increase would have generated $4.2 billion a year. Davis and the Democratic legislature had increased the fee to try to close California's deficit, which was estimated at $10 billion next year before the fee increase was cut.

Schwarzenegger, who wore a gray Prada suit and a healthy tan from a recent family vacation to Hawaii, invoked images of the American dream as well as of Presidents Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, another actor who occupied the statehouse, from 1967 to 1975. Schwarzenegger called himself, like JFK, "an idealist without illusions."

"Perhaps some think this is fanciful and poetic, but to an immigrant like me - who, as a boy, saw the Soviet tanks rolling through the streets of Austria - to someone like me who came here with absolutely nothing and gained absolutely everything, it is not fanciful to see this state as a golden dream," he said.

He also thanked the departing governor for easing the transition. Davis was the first person to shake the new governor's hand after the oath.

Schwarzenegger, who has called a special legislative session to deal with the budget shortfall, compared California's fiscal crisis with the "Miracle of Philadelphia," when the nation's founding fathers overcame their divisions in 1787 to draft a Constitution.

"Now," he said to much applause, "the members of the legislature and I must bring about the Miracle of Sacramento." home page   
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