Inauguration puts Governor Arnie in toughest role

There will be no red-carpet reception or fancy champagne after-party for Arnold Schwarzenegger - who knows a thing or two about splashy, publicity-grabbing premieres - at his inauguration as governor of California today.

Instead, the watchword will be parsimony. It is a reflection of the grim budgetary problems the action star-turned-politician will have to address as soon as the hour-long ceremony is over.

Mr Schwarzenegger will take the oath of office and deliver a short address, and that will be it. Access to the event will be strictly by invitation only. It is expected to be attended by more than 7,500 friends, associates and political insiders as well as several hundred journalists and television crews.

The new Republican governor's handlers have clearly understood that his celebrity can be a liability, as well as the tremendous asset that propelled him to power in the first place. Hence their drumbeat emphasis in the weeks since his election on 7 October on work, work, work - finding ways to wipe out the state's multi-billion dollar budget deficit, reforming the burdensome workers' compensation system, and repealing a measure allowing undocumented immigrants to hold California driving licences.

The film world's publicity-minded sales machinery clearly remains a major influence on the fledgling administration.

Just last week, Mr Schwarzenegger was promoting the release of two new DVDs - Terminator 3 and a re-release of the old body-building documentary Pumping Iron, both of which are reporting stellar sales thanks to the canny timing on the eve of his elevation to high political office. As promised, Mr Schwarzenegger seems intent to govern as a conservative on fiscal issues and as a moderate on everything else.

His budget director, Donna Arduin, is an old friend of the Bush family known for her slash-and-burn approach to public spending. But some of his other appointments - on the environment, for example - are much more liberal.

Nobody is underestimating the enormity of the task facing the new governor, not least because expectations are sky-high that he can break the gridlock in a highly polarised state legislature and get away from a style of politics dictated by lobbyists, not the public interest. Already, the criticisms have begun - over a plan to overcome the immediate budgetary problems with a $20bn (£11.8bn) bond issue, and over a lavish fundraiser in just two weeks' time to pay back campaign debts.

The bond issue is controversial because it is the the sort of one-off accounting gimmick that Mr Schwarzenegger's camp spent much of the election campaign denouncing.

The fundraiser is expected to raise as much as $7m.

It comeson the eve of crucial budget negotiations in which many of his contributors will have a stake, and looks like rank hypocrisy from a candidate who said at every turn that he would not be financially beholden to anybody.

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