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Schwarzenegger making some scenes before making his exit

It doesn’t seem to bother Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that many Californians would prefer he just fade away.

Instead, with his days in office numbered and the limelight shifting to his newly elected successor, the former film star seems to be doing everything he can to keep the spotlight on himself.

He’s made news jousting with Sarah Palin on Twitter. He settled into the big chair on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” to brag about signing a law downgrading smoking pot to the seriousness of a traffic ticket. And he’s apparently abandoned political correctness, dropping a raw if colorful reference to male anatomy into an official condolence statement on the death of a Hollywood luminary.

Those who have tuned out Schwarzenegger in the sunset of his administration risk missing a good show. The governor’s penchant for shooting from the hip has always been entertaining. Now he seems determined to go out with a blast or two, trying to make news with his mischief.

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Schwarzenegger has made it clear he intends to be a presence until his very last day in office. “I don’t buy into the lame-duck thing,” he said recently.

Not all Californians are supportive of that plan.

The day after the Nov. 2 election, Schwarzenegger stopped by the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victory parade. Hours later, he sat courtside to watch the Los Angeles Lakers play the Sacramento Kings. At both events, the crowd showered him with boos.

The governor appears undaunted.

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Take the recently concluded race to choose his successor that Schwarzenegger just couldn’t seem to stay away from.

In October, he waded into a controversy after an unidentified person in Jerry Brown’s entourage was caught on tape referring to Meg Whitman as a “whore” for wooing a police union endorsement. Chiding Whitman’s political maneuvering, Schwarzenegger tweeted that “it’s appalling when anyone sells out.”

Moments later, he rebuked the Brown campaign for using crude language. “That word is unacceptable,” he scolded.

Not that Schwarzenegger is above using earthy language himself. In mid-November, Schwarzenegger issued a condolence statement after the death of Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis.

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“Dino always said you need three things in life: brains, heart and balls, and I hope I’ve exemplified that advice,” the statement said.

Not your typical official government release.

But it’s Twitter that has become a favorite medium. The governor has posted a photo of himself explaining the state budget to his dog, and shared a picture of him and his staff as they readied themselves to gulp shots of liquor.

He has also used tweets to mock Palin. En route to Asia for a trade mission, Schwarzenegger needled the former Republican vice presidential nominee for her comments during the 2008 campaign about Alaska’s proximity to Russia. “Over Anchorage, AK. Looking everywhere but can’t see Russia from here,” he tweeted.

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Palin tweeted back: “Arnold should have landed; I could have explained our multi-billion dollar state surplus.”

As Schwarzenegger’s time in office wanes, his jabs at fellow Republicans have intensified. When other GOP governors gathered in San Diego to celebrate their national success in the recent election and lay out an agenda for reducing the size of government, Schwarzenegger skipped the meeting. Instead, he sent out an apparent potshot from Sacramento.

“It is with a certain sense of astonishment that we note recent announcements from some of our gubernatorial colleagues that they are uninterested in federal contributions to their high-speed rail systems,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Raymond LaHood that was made public. “You are more than welcome to redirect that money to California.”

A few weeks earlier, he had called out — by name — a handful of GOP legislators for being “in bed” with the prison guards union. During an all-night legislative session, the Republicans had refused to vote for his pension overhaul plan.

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“Since most Democrats are in bed with labor, I expected them to oppose me…,” Schwarzenegger said in his weekly radio address. “But what I was surprised to see was Republicans also in bed with the same unions, only hidden under the sheets....Maybe these Republicans sold out simply because they got campaign contributions from the state prison guards union.”

Just in case anyone missed the radio address, Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear e-mailed the transcript to Capitol journalists with this note: “Governor makes some news here.”

Lawmakers have pulled no punches in return, either.

“It was very impressive to see that he was actually able to name six Republicans currently serving in the Assembly,” Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), one of the lawmakers called out in the radio address, said in a statement.

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Now, just as the governor was expected to make a quiet exit, he’s declaring a fiscal emergency and dragging lawmakers back to Sacramento for a special session. Some observers have questioned if there is any point other than to allow Schwarzenegger to keep attention on himself. Brown is already working on his own budget plan with legislators, who are scheduled to be back in session in early January.

In a statement the day of the governor’s announcement, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said he’d just as soon wait until Brown takes office.

“I am not sure his calling a special session is a serious solution,” Perez said.

shane.goldmacher@latimes.com


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