By Steven Harmon MEDIANEWS SACRAMENTO BUREAU SACRAMENTO – In a last-minute veto, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied voters an opportunity at the ballot box to express their views on the war in Iraq – and in doing so carefully continued to keep his own views on the war to himself. As expected, Schwarzenegger – just before a midnight deadline – rejected SB 924, which would have allowed voters to call for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Schwarzenegger called the war a federal issue and also cited his opposition to non-binding advisory legislation. The measure would have appeared on the Feb. 5 ballot with the presidential primaries. “Placing a non-binding resolution on Iraq on the same ballot,” Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message, “when it carries no weight or authority, would only further divide voters and shift attention from other critical issues that must be addressed.” Schwarzenegger had a dozen days to decide the fate of the bill but waited until the midnight deadline to veto the legislation – in an apparent attempt to minimize fallout from the decision. It came on the same day he announced the deaths of four California-based soldiers. The author of the bill, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, scoffed at the notion that Schwarzenegger was worried about further dividing voters on the war. “It’s ironic that the governor’s message said that it would be too divisive,” Perata said. “He’s obviously not paying attention to the effect Iraq is having on this country. “We had an opportunity today,” Perata added, “to let Californians speak out on what I don’t think is even arguably the most important issue today, and he denied them that opportunity. That’s too bad.” Other critics said Schwarzenegger’s veto showed a fear that Californians’ opposition to the war would put him in an awkward position with President Bush. The veto came on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and in the same week that the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the top U.S. diplomat there presented their appraisals of the war to Congress. “He’s a unique governor who is not afraid to make his own decisions,” said Ron Nehring, the chairman of the state Republican Party. “This would have been such a brazenly political and cynical stunt that … certainly it was a proper decision that recognizes that conducting foreign policy by state initiative is not the way the world’s super power should conduct its foreign affairs and defense policy.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!