Bush supports Schwarzenegger after ‘girlie men’ remark

By Les Kinsolving

The July 19 New York Times had on page A11 what the editors apparently regarded as a horror headline: “SCHWARZENEGGER CALLS BUDGET OPPONENTS ‘GIRLIE MEN'”

And the Times reported from Los Angeles:

With his frustration mounting this weekend over his inability to muscle a budget through the Legislature, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called his Democratic opponents “girlie men” and vowed to work to unseat them in November.

At an appearance on Saturday in Ontario, Calif., Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, criticized the leaders of the Democratic-dominated Legislature, saying they were part of a political system that was “out of shape, that is out of date, that is out of touch and that is definitely out of control in Sacramento.”

He said Democrats blocking his $103 billion proposal for the fiscal year that began July 1 were too weak to stand up to special interests like unions and trial lawyers who wanted changes in the budget.

“I call them girlie men,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said of the Democrats, as hundreds of shoppers who had gathered to hear him speak roared their approval at the Ontario Mills megamall, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. “They should get back to the table and they should finish the budget.”

The “girlie men” remark was a play on a Saturday Night Live skit with the fictional bodybuilders Hans and Franz, who parodied Mr. Schwarzenegger’s physique and accent, an aide to the governor said. But the comment resonated because of accusations that Mr. Schwarzenegger had repeatedly groped women during his Hollywood career and because of his occasionally demeaning remarks about women during his campaign for governor last fall, when his predecessor, Gray Davis, was recalled.

Rob Stutzman, Mr. Schwarzenegger’s spokesman, said the phrase was not intended to question the virility or sexual orientation of Democratic legislative leaders, who include some women. The governor was expressing his frustration with his opponents’ refusal to pass his version of the budget, Mr. Stutzman said.

“It’s his way of saying they’re wimps, they’re giving in to the special interests,” he said.

“It’s not just his frustration speaking,” Mr. Stutzman added. “It’s deliberate. It’s tactical. The Democrats are acting in a partisan manner. If they continue to do so, he’s going to take his case to the voters.”

My initial reaction to this unusual term “girlie men” is to wonder if anyone believes that California – especially San Francisco – is devoid of any men who either dress like, or act like, or otherwise try to perform like girls.

Then, from Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported furious Democratic reaction to the governor’s “girlie men” statement:

Democrats aren’t amused by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s use of the mocking term “girlie men” to describe some lawmakers, although a spokesman for the governor said no apology would be forthcoming.

Democrats said Schwarzenegger’s remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from budget negotiations. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl said the governor had resorted to “blatant homophobia.”

“It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it was supposed to be an insult. That’s very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership,” said Kuehl, one of five members of the Legislature’s five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman defended the governor’s use of the “girlie men” term because he said: “It’s a forceful way of making the point to regular Californians that legislators are wimps when they let special interests push them around. If they complain too much about this, I guess they’re making the governor’s point.”

But Assemblyman Mark Leno, San Francisco Democrat and chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Caucus charged that “girlie men” is as misogynist as it is anti-gay.

At the White House daily news briefing, WND asked presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan:

WND: The governor of California has refused demands that he retract his description of Democratic legislative budgetary obstructionists as, in his words, “girlie men.” And my first question: The president continues to be fully supportive of Republican National Convention principal speaker Schwarzenegger, doesn’t he?

McClellan: Les, I think that the Republican National Committee can talk to you more about who the speakers are at the convention …

WND: I want to know about the president. Does he support Schwarzenegger, or not?

McClellan: Does he support him? Yes, he supports Gov. Schwarzenegger.

WND: Good. Then my second question …

Another reporter: Are they girlie men? (Laughter.)