Athlete. Actor. Authority Figure. Author. Debate coach?
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood action star who successfully transitioned into politics by becoming governor of California, discussed on Tuesday night not only his own carefully documented personal and political shortcomings, but also those of the presiding political parties during a book signing organized by Washington Post Live at the Hamilton.
Schwarzenegger has hit the road to hawk his new book, “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story,” a 650+ page autobiography chronicling everything from his youth in Austria to the dissolution of his marriage to journalist Maria Shriver following revelations that he fathered a son with their one-time housekeeper.
With the first presidential debate set to go off at 9 p.m. in Denver, Schwarzenegger urged President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney to forget about winning any popularity contest and carve out firm positions on pressing societal ills — tagging energy policy, crumbling infrastructure and the stagnant economy as his top-tier concerns.
“Nothing is getting done in Washington. It’s the most frozen place I’ve ever seen,” he griped.
A lifelong Republican, Schwarzenegger shared stories of being captivated by President Richard Nixon’s rhetoric (he was energized by his free-trade, pro-military messaging) and mesmerized by President Ronald Reagan’s charisma (his first wall art was an image of the Gipper culled from some Western flick).
But the part-time Kennedy also heaped praise on his dearly departed mother-in-law, suggesting that if she’d been born just 50 years later, Eunice Shriver would undoubtedly have led the field of female presidential contenders.
“She had a great vision,” he said.
To wit, the socially liberal solon told attendees he has no problem separating GOP orthodoxy from real-world problem solving.
“I know the difference between the Republican platform and what Republican legislators really feel about this,” he counseled one questioner who pressed him about energy issues. Schwarzenegger urged Republicans to reconsider several controversial topics and tossed out stem cell research, renewable energy and immigration reform as electoral plums ripe for the plucking.
“Those are the things that we need to discuss and create a policy that is coherent,” Schwarzenegger counseled.
Along the way, Schwarzenegger made sure to plug his various side projects, including his new think tank (Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California) and his decade-old after-school program (After-School All-Stars).
Although he addresses past dalliances in the book, Schwarzenegger freely admitted that he’s omitted some of the particulars out of deference to his family. “I don’t really go into minute details because I know my children are listening,” he suggested.
But in the end, it seems as if the book and the promotional tour are really his penance for cheating on Maria.
“She always was an extraordinary woman and a great partner,” he said of his now-estranged wife.
Whether they were there for a political pep talk (we’re looking at you, impeccably coiffed gents in designer suits) or merely to fawn over a sci-fi legend (that’s you, professional slacker in the oversized “Dude Abides” T-shirt), audience members seemed thrilled to just be in the towering giant’s orbit.
“I don’t even know how to address you. You’ve been my hero since I was a little boy,” one severely star-struck fanboy blurted out during the abbreviated question-and-answer period.
“I know he was governor of California. But, in my eyes, he will always be ‘The Terminator,’” an '80s action flick buff told HOH.
“I wanted to ask him how much he bench-pressed,” one unfulfilled attendee groused.
“Come to Maryland. We need you. It’s too liberal,” pleaded one fan who wants desperately for Schwarzenegger to move east.
Whether the Governator would even consider another run for office remains an open question. But he did go out of his way to note that while he appreciates the original intent of the Founding Fathers’ prerequisite that every U.S. president be native born, he believes the country has evolved beyond that narrowly tailored worldview.
“I think today it doesn’t make any sense,” the Austrian ex-pat proclaimed of what some believe may be the only hurdle blocking him from one day inhabiting the Oval Office.