SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, usually a darling of the national media, found himself being told by the host of NBC's "Meet the Press" that if he ran a private company the way he has run the state, he might have been fired by now.
Tom Brokaw, who will be moderating the program through the presidential election, put a series of confrontational questions to the governor in an interview taped in California and aired this morning.
"When you ran for governor in 2003, you ran as a fiscal conservative who would change the system, who would bring business-like techniques," Brokaw said. "Now, you are facing a $15-billion deficit here in California. Unemployment is running at about 6.8%; you've got the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. If you were the CEO of a public company, the board would probably say, 'It is time to go.' "
Schwarzenegger joked: "Are you always this positive?"
He defended his record, saying that he has brought Republicans and Democrats together to fix the state's workers' compensation system and build public-works projects, among other accomplishments.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, July 04, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Schwarzenegger on TV: An article in Monday's California section about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appearance on "Meet the Press" said the program aired that morning. It was broadcast on Sunday.
"That doesn't mean when you are doing a good job the economy doesn't go down eventually," Schwarzenegger said. "What goes up must come down. We see that nationwide. We see that other states are struggling. The country is struggling. People are struggling, and I think we see that all over the world."
"Before you came in, governor, you said the spending was out of control," he said. "Your rate of increase in spending is about the same as your predecessor, Gov. Gray Davis. It has grown at about, what, 34% since you took office."
Schwarzenegger, who in the 2003 recall campaign repeatedly cited spending growth under Davis, responded:
"You've been around long enough to know that the numbers are misleading. We have paid off a lot of debt. . . . I am very proud that we paid off a lot of debt and that we got the economy going again."
That claim has been challenged by Schwarzenegger's critics, who note that under his leadership the state has actually rung up as much debt as it ever has -- or more. Much of the debt is for public-works projects, which the governor says will ultimately pay for themselves by helping to stimulate the economy.
Brokaw reminded the governor that his approval rating was plunging.
"It appears the people have some real questions about your leadership," Brokaw said. "Your approval rating has gone from what, 60% in December down to about 40% recently. It is tough to govern under those circumstances."
Said the governor: "Not at all. I'm having a great time."
The discussion turned to national politics, humorously at times. Brokaw asked how Schwarzenegger, a Republican, felt about his wife, Maria Shriver, supporting Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for president. The governor has endorsed Republican Sen. John McCain.
"Sometimes she pulls in the cutouts of Obama or whoever candidate she is for, and is putting it right next to my breakfast table," Schwarzenegger said. ". . . . When he screws up in one way or the other, the kids carry out the cutout, and he has to be outside the house for a while."