Schwarzenegger dismisses Limbaugh as 'irrelevant'
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh "irrelevant" in an interview that aired Tuesday, prompting the conservative Republican icon to accuse the governor of selling out his principles.
The Republican governor angered conservatives earlier this year when he proposed a $12 billion health care plan that requires doctors, hospitals and some small employers to pay into a state fund for the uninsured.
In an interview with NBC's "Today" show that aired Tuesday and was taped earlier at the Stanford Mansion, Schwarzenegger was asked how he felt about those Republicans, including Limbaugh, who say he is only pretending to be a Republican.
"All irrelevant," Schwarzenegger said. "Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant. I'm not his servant. I am the people's servant of California. What they call me, if it's a Democrat or a Republican or in the center or I changed or this or that, that's not my bottom line. This is for them to talk about."
Limbaugh used the comments to tee off on Schwarzenegger during his morning radio show Tuesday. The talk-show host also posted a graphic of an altered Schwarzenegger movie poster, changing the words "Total Recall" to "Total Sellout."
"Now here's the truth of the matter," Limbaugh said Tuesday, according to a transcript of his show. "Arnold Schwarzenegger has done the typical sellout move. He has sold out, and there are too many conservatives selling out these days."
The talk-show host interspersed his criticisms with niceties, calling Schwarzenegger "an engaging, friendly, nice guy" and "a good guy, but he's not a conservative."
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor was not bashing Limbaugh or his listeners.
"It was in no means an individual criticism of Rush Limbaugh," McLear said. "It was not a criticism of folks who listen to Rush Limbaugh. It was simply answering a question. These types of criticism don't have any bearing on what he knows to be the right course of action for California."
Schwarzenegger in his inaugural address said he hoped to usher in an era of "post-partisanship," in which Democrats and Republicans focus on working together rather than remaining loyal to their parties.
The governor last year signed bills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut prescription drug prices and increase the minimum wage, all without support from Republicans in the Legislature.
But the governor's health care plan drew the harshest criticism this year, as some Republican lawmakers charged that Schwarzenegger's proposal reneges on a campaign promise not to raise taxes.
Limbaugh used his radio show to rip Schwarzenegger in January after the governor told The Sacramento Bee that his health care plan "is not a tax, just a loan, because it does not go for general (expenditures). It goes back to health care."
National media subsequently have asked the governor his feelings about such criticism, mentioning Limbaugh because of his icon status. Schwarzenegger in February changed the subject in his interview with CBS News.
In a January appearance on ABC News, the governor said, "Well, at least we still like to smoke stogies together. So at least we have something in common." He also said he doesn't try to please conservatives or liberals - though he did not refer to Limbaugh as "irrelevant."
"Rush Limbaugh's audience is no small amount of people," said Mike Spence, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly. "As the governor continues to distance himself from Republican values, the further away he gets from the kinds of people who voted for him."