I suppose the central question about Schwarzenegger has always been: is this guy actually smart? He came and spoke an hour ago about climate change and CA politics. The performance gave little new info about either of the two topics at hand but did provide some insight about how the Terminator managed to get major reforms pushed through the California legislature.
In short, the guy isn’t that smart, but he knows several things: 1) exactly what his priorites are (“I don’t want people to die and I don’t want to be dependent on countries that hate us”), 2) how to get people to work together (more on this later) and 3) that he will work harder than anyone else in the room.
Point 2) – that he’s able to get people to work together – is maybe the most remarkable. The man is able to simultaneously intimidate someone and convince them that he has good intentions. The result is an unbelievable ability to force people to work together. He described delivering a speech to a divided legislature in 2006, asking people to work together. Afterwards, he invited the legislators over to smoke his Cuban cigars. “They came down, we smoked cigars, we drank [Austrian] schnapps and we worked out a plan,” he said. He treated this as no big deal. In fact, it was.
That same ability came to light when he discussed passing a water infrastructure bill to create a peripheral canal. He said his breakthrough was getting each side to lower their expectations. Not so fast, said Susan Kennedy, his chief of staff. She had worked on the water issue for fifteen years with no progress. Only he was able to force something through the legislature – by refusing to sign any bill until a water bill came across his desk.
Point 3) is also pretty big. The guy sees life as a war and hates “giving up.” He used the word “battle” over ten times in the hour and a half talk. He talked about the “battle of Prop 23,” the “war here in California,” “all the battles” of CA politics. In these battles, he’s persistent. Redistricting failed five times before it passed. “I have great hopes,” he said. “I never give up.” That might just be the approach needed for California.