President Bush and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put aside their differences in a show of Republican solidarity Friday after Bush approved federal help to shore up the state's fragile levee system.
SAN JOSE, Calif. President Bush and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put aside their differences in a show of Republican solidarity Friday after Bush approved federal help to shore up the state's fragile levee system.
Often at odds over social issues like abortion and stem cell research, they did not meet the last two times Bush visited California but sat side-by-side during a panel discussion at high-tech giant Cisco Systems on U.S. competitiveness.
"He is a really interesting man," Bush said of his fellow Republican. "He didn't have to run for office, but chose to do so and I admire that in you, I admire somebody who doesn't always take the comfortable way in life."
Schwarzenegger, a millionaire movie actor and former body building champion facing a tough re-election campaign, ran for office on a promise to be the "Collectinator" when it came to wringing help out of a Republican administration in Washington.
But the "Terminator" star did not get everything he wanted, including an unusual pre-emptive federal disaster declaration.
Bush issued a directive clearing the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help with urgently needed repairs on 29 levees in northern California. The work is scheduled for completion by November.
"Today's announcement is a step in the right direction, however more work needs to be done if we are going to rebuild our levees as quickly as possible," Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said. "We look forward to seeing the details and language of the president's directive."
Experts worry that if a massive earthquake strikes the delta and demolishes scores of levees, farmlands would be flooded and salt water from the San Francisco Bay could be sucked upstream, threatening supplies of drinking water.
"This is an emergency situation," said James Connaughton, chief environmental adviser to the president. He spoke hours before Bush and Schwarzenegger appeared together in San Jose.
Neither man mentioned the White House action publicly. Schwarzenegger has complained that the Bush administration did not seem to grasp the seriousness of the threat to California's levees even after floodwaters inundated New Orleans last year in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
BUSH INITIATIVE PRAISED
Schwarzenegger said that California was rebounding economically, spoke of the necessity for the United States to remain competitive in a global economy and praised Bush's "brilliant" ideas for boosting research and development.
The president's plan would double government funding for basic research in the physical sciences, train thousands of new science and math teachers and extend a popular tax credit businesses can receive for investing in research and development at a 10-year price tag of $136 billion.
Bush planned a long weekend of policy speeches, fund raising and mountain-bike riding in California, a state he lost decisively in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections and where he remains deeply unpopular.
His official events are specifically pitched at issues of particular interest in the state -- technology, energy and the environment.
Bush tours the California Fuel Cell Partnership in West Sacramento on Saturday, coinciding with Earth Day and giving giving him an opportunity to talk about rising gas prices.
The cost at California pumps -- in some cases more than $3 a gallon -- is among the highest in the country.
"I know the folks here are suffering," Bush said. "I pledge to the people here in California, if we find any price gouging it will be dealt with firmly."