The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 18, 2003
Schwarzenegger takes charge in Calif.
A low-key swearing-in, then a
popular move: Axing the car-tax hike.
Schwarzenegger sworn in as governor
-- 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
"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."