- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in yesterday as the 38th governor of California, completing a meteoric rise from bodybuilder and action hero to leader of the nation’s most populated state in a historic recall election.

The 56-year-old Austrian immigrant took the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol before an audience of 7,500 dignitaries and supporters — as millions more around the world watched the event live on television.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, held the Bible while California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George administered the oath.

“I am humbled, I am honored, and I am moved beyond words to be your governor,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said after being sworn in.

In a nod to his wife’s uncle, Mr. Schwarzenegger added: “In the words of President Kennedy, ‘I am an idealist without illusions.’”

Although he had no experience as an elected official, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was swept into office in the Oct. 7 election that ousted Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, who was reviled by the voters for his handling of the state’s ailing economy.

“Perhaps some think this is fanciful or poetic, but to an immigrant like me — who, as a boy saw 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,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said.

The ceremony, while steeped in tradition, was void of the pageantry often associated with California inaugurations.

Bitterness over the divisive recall vote and the state’s financial troubles prompted Mr. Schwarzenegger to put a damper on livelier festivities — although plenty of celebrities and journalists were on hand. Former Miss America Vanessa Williams, who appeared with Mr. Schwarzenegger in the 1996 film “Eraser,” sang the national anthem.

Nearly 740 journalists were expected to cover the ceremony — numbers similar to a presidential inauguration. Fifteen dignitaries from 13 countries were in attendance, including representatives from Canada, Egypt, Austria and Mexico.

The new governor was surrounded by his four children, who had remained out of public view during much of the recall campaign.

Mr. Schwarzenegger was to attend three events: a luncheon inside the Capitol rotunda for state and federal officials, a private family gathering across the street and an invitation-only reception sponsored by the state Chamber of Commerce.

He was scheduled to return to the Capitol by midafternoon to start running California’s government, a job that became more daunting over the weekend when his chief financial deputy pegged the state budget deficit at $25 billion — far more than other estimates.

An immigrant who arrived in the United States at 21 barely able to speak English, Mr. Schwarzenegger is a quick study who impressed even some of his critics with his raw political skills. But he nonetheless also has made many promises to voters that will be hard to keep, including repealing a big increase in the car tax on his first day in office. That move will add an estimated $4 billion to the deficit.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has said he will call the Legislature back into session, probably today, to deal with a range of issues including budget cuts, reform of the state’s worker-compensation system and a repeal of a new law that lets undocumented workers get driver’s licenses.

Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, have said that they will be willing to give the new governor a chance, but most observers agree that the political good will will not last, presenting the new governor with an even bigger challenge.

The recall movement was started in February by grass-roots activists angered over the state’s budget woes and the prospect of higher taxes. GOP Rep. Darrell Issa bankrolled the effort, spending $1.7 million of his fortune to get the measure on the ballot.

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