After all the back-and-forth between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and President George W. Bush on sending California National Guard troops to augment the role of the Border Patrol in the so far fruitless attempt to secure California’s border against illegal immigration from Mexico, there is some rare good news. Major General William Wade, commander of the California National Guard, says that the deployment of troops is “well ahead of schedule.”
Wade says he will soon have 750 troops in place of the 1,000 ultimately being sent to assist the Border Patrol by performing support functions allowing agents to work in the field. As of yesterday, there were 722 National Guard troops on orders for Southwest Border duty. Of those, 384 had reported for training. They expect to have 900 troops on orders by Friday. The goal, set by the National Guard Bureau, was to have 500 on orders by Friday, so that is already exceeded.
Meanwhile, there is a certain level of confusion in some press and political circles, both about the nature of Schwarzenegger’s refusal of a request for more troops from Bush and about the likelihood that the refusal was a political ploy.
A number of media outlets, especially on cable TV, have been confusing the issue. Schwarzenegger didn’t refuse to send more troops to the California border, he refused to send more troops to other states, namely Arizona and New Mexico.
General Wade, a highly decorated infantry officer, and others say California was called on by the Bush Administration because only a few other states were prepared enough to send troops and California was already in the process of gearing up for border duty.
Schwarzenegger and Wade’s deployment plan, which focuses on volunteers, differs from the original Bush plan, which called for putting Guardsmen on border duty instead of performing their annual two to three-week training exercises. Schwarzenegger said that arrangement would have created major problems in logistics and morale.
Some Democrats, perhaps frustrated by Schwarzenegger’s refusal to fall into the hoped for partisan stereotype of being a Bush acolyte in mostly blue state California, are saying that Schwarzenegger’s refusal of the president’s request is a put-up job, a political play hatched with the White House and the nefarious mastermind Karl Rove to make the governor look more independent than he really is. Phil Angelides for Governor senior advisor Bob Mulholland sent a missive to reporters saying as much.
Wade says that Washington requested California National Guard troops because they had a higher level of readiness than most other states, pointing to the relatively swift deployment that is underway now. Why not help out the other Southwestern states with California Guard members?
“I may have to send troops to Nevada to help with the fires there,” Wade says. “We could easily have crises here. We can’t afford to be deploying our troops to Arizona and New Mexico.”
Mulholland and some others say Bush knew Schwarzenegger would refuse, which is why he made the request. Politicians are certainly not above such kabuki plays.
However, there’s never been much warmth between this governor and this White House. Schwarzenegger was quite friendly with the first President Bush, who appointed him chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. But the spark of friendship has never flared with the current President Bush. And the governor’s relationship with Rove has seemed frosty.
Indeed, Rove favored not Schwarzenegger as the Republican gubernatorial hopeful in California, but Condi Rice, the longtime Bush foreign policy advisor and former Stanford provost who is now Bush’s secretary of state. In 2000, Rove moved to block Schwarzenegger from a substantial speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, pushing him for a celebrity role instead.
When Schwarzenegger ran for governor in the 2003 recall, he made a point of naming liberal investment icon Warren Buffett as his chief economic advisor on the eve of a Bush visit to California. The move not so subtly differentiated Schwarzenegger from Bush. But it backfired when Buffett famously mused to the Wall Street Journal on what he saw as the need to rework Proposition 13.