- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday punctuated a three-day media blitz in the nation’s capital — one in which he said he is open to running for the U.S. Senate — with a National Press Club speech on how his “post-partisan” approach can fix the immigration problem.

“It is time that we reintroduce the concept of the mainstream back into the American political life, and the place to start it is immigration,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, in town for the annual National Governors Association meeting, promoted his feel-good centrism on Sunday talk shows and in exclusive newspaper interviews over the weekend.

Then, at a lunchtime press club speech yesterday, minutes after leaving a meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office, Mr. Schwarzenegger said there is “a totally reasonable, centrist approach to the whole [immigration issue].”

The Austrian-born former film star said what Mr. Bush and many lawmakers have said: The U.S. should “secure our borders” and provide “a guest-worker program and [give] everyone citizenship who is already in the country and meet a certain criteria.”

Mr. Bush reiterated his position on immigration yesterday, with an emphasis on securing the border, during a speech to nearly all the country’s governors in the White House State Dining Room. Mr. Bush has previously said he supports a guest-worker program. Congress is set to take up the issue this spring.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s proposal, while not original, is part of his carefully crafted message of “post-partisanship” that appears aimed at a national audience, and dependent on the stratospheric fame and name recognition of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion and star of the “Terminator” film series.

The governor is also receiving national attention for a recently approved energy plan and is working on reforming California’s health care policies.

Mr. Schwarzenegger might be laying the groundwork for a run at national office in the future, although he is disqualified from running for president because the Constitution limits the office to U.S.-born citizens.

In an interview with the Politico published online Saturday, Mr. Schwarzenegger indicated that he is open to running for the U.S. Senate or for mayor of Los Angeles, after his second term as governor expires in 2011.

Republican hopefuls for president in 2008 — Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — have also courted Mr. Schwarzenegger, in the hopes that the action hero’s appeal might help them win a state that traditionally tilts Democratic.

In his speech, Mr. Schwarzenegger dispatched advice to Democrats and Republicans in Congress and to Mr. Bush, on how to handle the current Iraq war debate.

“To the Democrats, I say stop running down the president, and just tell the people what you would do. And to the Republicans, I say stop questioning the motives of the Democrats on the war and accept their right to believe in what they want,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said.

Then, Mr. Schwarzenegger — who has erected what he called a “politically incorrect smoking tent,” where Democrats and Republicans “schmooze” together at the governor’s mansion in Sacramento — recommended that Mr. Bush follow his example.

“And to the president I say, get yourself a smoking tent,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said to laughter in the packed ballroom.

White House spokesman Tony Snow did not respond to a request for comment on the likelihood of a White House smoking tent.

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