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Gov.'s transcripts omit details

Printed copies of Schwarzenegger's taped talks with his staff leave out the names of key figures. An example: Clint Eastwood.

February 07, 2007|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A scene from the governor's office: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his chief of staff were clearly annoyed about a person who kept making appointments and canceling them.

"I said, 'Look, you can't go and tell my people five times you're coming, you're not coming, you're coming, you're not coming.' I said, 'What's that? Are you coming or not?' " Schwarzenegger says, according to transcripts of conversations that were recorded by the governor's staff last year.

But there is one important omission in the transcripts put out by Schwarzenegger's office this week: The person being discussed is Clint Eastwood.

In the actual recordings, the governor clearly mentions Eastwood's name. But the transcript simply leaves it out. There is not even a notation that what the governor said was inaudible.

In virtually all cases, the transcripts also omit the names of the powerful aides speaking to Schwarzenegger.

So no one reading the transcript would know that the governor's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, is the one who tells him that he has three "antelope" waiting to see him "in the other room," an apparent reference to three lawmakers. Elaborating, Kennedy describes them as "the weak and the ugly."

Asked Tuesday about that comment, Schwarzenegger press spokesman Aaron McLear said Kennedy did not recall making it. He also said the transcripts were prepared by a private service and there was no intentional effort to exclude any material.

The recordings were made by the governor's speechwriter, Gary Delsohn, in the first months of 2006. Audio files were then stored on Schwarzenegger's website, where security was lax.

Aides working for former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides copied the files from the site last summer. A six-minute excerpt was published by The Times in September, in which the governor described a Latina lawmaker as being "hot," a reference to her ethnicity. The Times recently obtained the remaining 3 1/2 hours of conversation.

In unguarded moments, the governor spoke critically of legislative leaders, who insist they aren't taking offense.

He described Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) as a "political operator coming from the union background."

On Tuesday, Nunez brushed it off, saying, "When I'm alone with my staff in my office, you should hear the things they say about me."

A glimpse into Schwarzenegger's world, the recordings show him immersed in freewheeling conversation with staff. Sitting in his office, he tells stories about his childhood and his eating habits as a young soldier in the Austrian military: "I worked at night in the kitchen so I could eat all the meat."

He described how director Ivan Reitman got the idea for the movie "Twins" by listening to Schwarzenegger banter with comedian Robin Williams one night in Aspen, Colo.

"It was out of just him finding something in me that he thought would be great for the screen," Schwarzenegger told aides. The governor added that it was his idea to cast Danny DeVito as his twin.

"You have to go the opposite," he said.

At other moments, Schwarzenegger was plainly grappling with issues that present no easy solution. Illegal immigration comes up repeatedly.

Schwarzenegger said that "now it is almost like in Africa in Zimbabwe with the squatters. They come and land and you can't get rid of them. Or like in the Gold Rush with [John] Sutter. They had his land, the people digging for gold, and he couldn't get rid of them anymore after a certain amount of time, because they became part of the picture.

"So now you can't go anymore -- now it's almost odd to throw them out, because you say, 'Wait a minute, their kids are born here. You can't split up families.' "

Schwarzenegger spoke of frustrations on the job. "Thinking time" is crucial, he said. After a trip to Washington last year, he met with President Bush's former chief of staff, Andy Card, who told him "the most important thing for him ... is to guard Bush's time, that Bush loves to have thinking time."

Schwarzenegger added: "You need thinking time. You need to go and start sitting here by yourself or just with someone, and to go through all the things about the strategic growth plan. Why are we doing this this way?"

Press coverage is another sore spot. He said he sees too little substance. San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge repairs have tripled in cost over initial estimates, he said, yet "the press never writes about it."

Delsohn, a former reporter for the Sacramento Bee, commiserates.

"Well, they're hard stories to write, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be done," Delsohn said. The speechwriter added, "You'll have to do all that in your book.... That's why I'm asking you these questions. People have no idea of all the crap that goes on here.''

Not that the governor is suffering.

"I have my schnapps in there, my stogies," he said at the end of one meeting. "I have good food. Any time I want food, any time I say I don't want to work the next hour, I can walk away. It's embarrassing, but I could do it."

*

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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