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Subjects of gov.'s taped jabs are not hitting back

February 06, 2007|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, a former high school teacher, has heard his share of insults.

So when Perata, a Democrat from Oakland, learned that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had called him a liar and a "very sick man" in a conversation with aides last year that was published by The Times on Sunday, he wasn't especially offended.

"I'd like to say I got up this morning and I was in a deep funk, but it's not true," Perata told reporters Monday. "I've been in this business a long time. As I said years ago -- when he called us girlie men -- I taught high school. I took better shots in homeroom than that."

That seemed to capture the mood in the Capitol as lawmakers chewed over the unguarded comments Schwarzenegger made behind closed doors in his office, chatting casually with his senior staff.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 07, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Audiotapes: In some copies of Tuesday's California section, a portion of the story about the reaction to Gov. Schwarzenegger's audio recordings was omitted. For the full story and to listen to the tapes, go to latimes.com/govreaction.

As a joke, someone stuck a big box of tissues on the Senate dais next to Perata on Monday as he addressed the chamber.

In the recordings, made in the first half of last year and recently obtained by The Times, Schwarzenegger also describes Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) as "a political operator."

Nunez declined to comment Monday.

The comments were taped by a Schwarzenegger speechwriter and stored on the governor's website.

Those attending the four recorded meetings included the speechwriter, Gary Delsohn; the governor's communications director, Adam Mendelsohn; Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy; and former aide Bonnie Reiss.

Aides working for former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides copied the files from the site last summer.

The Times published a short excerpt in September. Excerpts from 3 1/2 hours of additional audio files were published by The Times on its website, www.latimes.com, Sunday night and in the newspaper on Monday.

One point of disagreement in Sacramento on Monday was whether the governor had apologized to Perata. Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor's office had apologized; Perata's office said that has not happened.

Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for Perata, said that Kennedy once mentioned the recordings to Perata, but "it was brief and it was most definitely not an apology -- or even an explanation of what was said."

In the recordings, Kennedy also makes a few caustic comments. At one meeting, she urges Schwarzenegger to make a sarcastic remark to Assemblyman Guy Houston (R-Livermore) as punishment for a critical quote in a newspaper article.

A few words from Schwarzenegger, Kennedy says, would cause Houston to "pee his pants." Houston, in an interview, said his bladder control is better than Kennedy suspects.

"Susan Kennedy doesn't know me very well if she thinks the governor would just have to say 'boo' and I would do something like that," he said.

Republicans, too, are skewered in the governor's comments. Schwarzenegger says GOP lawmakers are not realistic about their minority status.

On Monday, Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), said the Republican governor might feel free to say that because he has, in effect, teamed up with the Democratic majority.

"We're watching spending grow much faster than under [former Democratic Gov.] Gray Davis, our deficit grow larger than it did under Gray Davis, and our debt burden double," McClintock said.

"You could say [Schwarzenegger] is governing like a Democrat, but that would be unfair to the Democrats."

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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