Mr. Governor, should we conduct this interview in German or English?
Better in English.
You are endorsing Senator John McCain for the Presidency. Why so? Other people in your family support Barack Obama.
Actually, the Kennedy family is split. Three of the family members have endorsed Obama and three have endorsed Hillary. For me it is a given that I will endorse a Republican. So that is not a shocker. The shocker is that the Kennedy family for the first time in history is not united in their support.
But what about your family? Your wife Maria? Your children?
My wife has always been a Democrat and she will endorse Obama or Hillary, I have no idea. (Note: in the meantime, Maria hat taken Obama's part) She likes both. I liked both Rudy Giuliani and McCain - both are big friends of mine, both are somewhat in the center though not as much in the center as I am. So with Giuliani dropping out, it was an easy decision for McCain.
Do you understand that people are thrilled to see a woman and an African-American running for President, that there is so much enthusiasm surrounding those two?
It is terrific. It shows that America has made a huge step forward. It sends a really great message to the world how far we have come. It would have been unheard of just ten years ago. But if one of them can win in the end is another question.
Do you really think the Republicans have a chance in November against a highly motivated Democratic Party?
The Republicans have a really good chance of winning.
It looks like McCain is going to be the candidate and more and more Democrats come up to me and say: If Hillary wins I now have a good reason not to vote for her. They feel more comfortable with McCain because of his position on Iran and being inclusive. He has always reached out to Democrats, he has been in partnership with Teddy Kennedy for example on the Immigration bill. He is in action where Obama only talks about it. Obama has never reached across the aisle. He speaks about it and could be genuine about it but I have not seen it yet and I don't think anybody else has seen it. But McCain has. And he is a great family man and a great war hero. At the end, when you make that decision in the voting booth, I think McCain will score really high.
You will never be able to run for President since you were not born in the US. Don't you despair over it?
Of course, I regret that my mother didn't come over here in 1937 to deliver her baby and then go back. I do regret it, yes.
But is it not an issue anymore?
It never was an issue. I am an optimist. I look at all the things I was able to do by coming to America rather than looking at the one thing I am not able to do. This is crazy. Of course there is something inside when you look at the debates that says: What kind of answers are those? I want to be in there. I mean I would clean house right away. Of course, that is in me. But the constitution bars me from running, so be it. You could change the constitution. Nothing would change. When you have a potential candidate like me the other party would say: "This guy could take us out. I am not gonna go for that." You need two thirds of the votes in every one of the states.
What about your wife Maria? A Kennedy. She could run.
She can run whenever she wants. I don't think she has an interest in being in office. It is too tedious. She loves campaigns, she is very bright with strategies but I don't think she has the patience to sit there in meeting after meeting with 20 people like me. I just had the health care people here in my office - we lost our health care package in the Senate - and you have to pump them up not to give up. There are very few people who have the patience for all this stuff.
And you have the patience?
I normally have no patience but for me it is all about the vision I have in front of me. I am a very visual person. I always visualize very clearly the end goal. It becomes very inspirational, it sucks you in, that's why I never give up.
Let's talk about your state. California is clearly on the forefront in many sectors, biotech, green tech, Web 2.0. What makes California so unique?
Georgraphy is number one. Some countries are blessed, some people are blessed. We are just in the right place. We have a nice ocean, we have perfect weather, we have 300 days of sunshine, you can't produce that. One year we had 312 days of sunshine so I took credit and said: See how a Republican administration is changing the weather. It makes people come from all over the world, so we have the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the smartest, most innovative people. You can literally go waterskiing in the ocean in the morning and snowskiing in the mountains at noon and have a romatic dinner in the desert. And in the last 100 years a very diversified industry has developed. That's our strength. So even when the housing market goes down, we still have an increase in overall revenues because of our other sectors. That makes California a very hot place.
Still, bad news are dominating. Tax revenues are down, unemployment is rising, your health care reform collapsed. These are not good times for you.
When you look at history, every five years the economy spikes and then the revenues flatten out. You see that roller coaster ride every five years no matter if you are Democrat or Republican, if you are in Iowa or California or Germany. That's just the way it is. What is bad is that we don't have a system in place where we put enough rainy day funds aside, so when revenues spike you put some of it aside. That's what we are trying to do this year. We have to fix the system. But the revenues are not going down. The economy is booming. Every year we have more revenues than the previous year. Next year 102 billion dollars.
But you haven't solved the health care crisis, fixed education, your budget is in turmoil, all the things you wanted to solve. Don't you think your legacy is at stake?
What do you think? That I get up in the morning and think about my legacy? I get up in the morning and feel the joy that I can serve 38 million people. The legacy always comes automatically. If you do a good job the people will look back and say: That guy kicked some ass.
So you don't see it as the beginning of a recession - in California, in America, the world?
Even if there were a recession, that's nothing new. We have seen it many times over.
But this could be a very serious one with the subprime mortgage crisis, the credit debt crisis, rising oil prizes.
The lenders have given money too freely without checking the credit background. With half of the lenders here we have made a deal but the other half has already sold the papers to Europe and somewhere else. It is a crisis we will go through. It is a crisis that has its benefits. The housing prices are coming down. People are complaining that the real estate value is coming down. That's when I say: Wait a minute. When the oil prizes come down we are all happy. When the cars cost less we are happy. Every time we are happy and now we worry about the housing crisis? It benefits millions of people in America because finally they can afford a house because the prize comes down 20 percent. One guy has to move out, he is losing his house - but somebody else is taking over the house so it is not all bad. It is good for some and bad for others. This will correct itself, trust me. In two years we will be over this.
The green tech industry is booming in California, something you have promoted rigorously. But how much of an environmentalist are you really as the owner of two Hummers and a few houses?
We do recycling and I turned my Hummers into a biofuel and hydrogen Hummer. Our house and swimming pool run on solar, so we use only part of the grid. The children are becoming more and more environmentally conscious. My daughter Christina who is sixteen wants to have a hybrid car. So this thinking is becoming part of their system.
Is it true that you don't let your children take a shower for more than five minutes?
Yes, it's true. I told them I used to work out in gymnasiums in Europe where you put coins in the shower. And I said that's the way we are going to do it now. You leave the shower after five minutes to put more coins in it. They would probably be nuts enough to do it because kids have this habit of putting a chair in the shower and taking a shower for 15 minutes which drives me nuts. I come from a different upbringing growing up after the Second World War. Everything was about turning off the lights. We had no running water anyway, you safe water right away if you have to carry it for 200 meters from the wells to the house which is what I had to do. We had no flushing toilets. But the kids have been really good and my wife is also very conscious about it.
You are known to be a straight talker. Hasn't this administration failed dramatically when it comes to the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, America's image in the world?
The war has been very tough on America. There are a lot of people who are against the war and don't understand the danger of the Middle East. It has caused conflicts and animosity and America is flexing its muscles too much, you are absolutely correct. It is important now that we rebuild these relationships. I think once we see some success in Iraq and the first troops are coming back everything will normalize. And I just hope that the situation in Iran doesn't replace Iraq because that could be the beginning of a major war. Russia would be involved, Iran, Israel, and if they bomb Israel, America without any doubt has to be there just like when England was in trouble in the Second World War. I think this could be the beginning of a world war. As drastic as it sounds, but it is really a very dangerous situation.
A World War?
Yes, there are too many of the major powers involved and if that happens you don't know who will be able to control that. So this is a concern not only I have but the President, the Israelis and the Russians, any of these things can set something off. I think it is very dangerous for Iran to develop nuclear power because it can easily be transferred from regular use to military use. I think the UN and America are doing everything to find a way out of this crisis. They have done a good job with North Korea. And they are working hard and go beyond their egos and sit down with the little guys and work it out. This administration had their act together when it comes to national security, not that it all went according to the plan or the reasons why - don't misunderstand me, but we have had great stability as far as homeland security is concerned.
At your 60th birthday you said your favorite t-shirt is one with the Stars and Stripes and the motto: Life is good. What does that mean to you?
Life is good? Yes. Look at me. A picture says more than a thousand words. I am having a great time. I have always done exactly what I want. I find great joy in everything I do. When it was bodybuilding, working out five hours a day in a sweaty gym - I found great joy. That's why I became the champion. I had fun doing it. I had great joy in acting, it was unbelievable travelling around the world. I have great joy in the job now, getting up every morning and thinking how can I make life better for almost 40 million people. I am very unfortunate that I have a spectacular family. My wife is God's gift. Someone who is so smart, so stimulating, so strong, a typical scorpion, scorpions and leos are always supposed to be - crack - at each other, which we like. So there is fire in the family. We have wonderful children that are smart and athletic and good-looking and healthy. I mean it is like, wait a minute - unbelievable.
You had three very different careers in bodybuilding, acting, politics - what is next?
I don‘t know. I didn't even know what I would say at the Tonight Night Show where I declared my candidacy for Governor. I could have gone against it, my wife didn't want me to run, my kids didn't want me to run. I was not clear even though in my heart I thought I have to take this opportunity. God had laid it out for me. There was a recall. I knew I am too much in the center for the Republicans to nominate me as their candidate. But this was a recall and not a primary where I don't have to pay much attention to the Republicans but to all the people. So it was perfectly laid out for someone like me and a quick European style campaign, just six weeks long. I had just finished my Terminator 3 promotion and here was the recall. I always thought it would be good to go into politics some day but I didn't have a plan. And I don't have a plan now either. I just know somewhere this life is going to take me. I will always fight for some of the issues I have been fighting for, environmental issues, education, after-school-programs.
Aren't you too ambitious for that kind of quiet post-political life? Don't you want to be the alpha male in everything you do?
My energy will go somewhere. But it's like a movie: Let's not worry about the next script. Let's worry about this movie and make it perfect. Then everyone offers you the scripts anyway. If I do this job very well and keep some of the promises that I have made and if the people look back and say: That guy was really good - it will open up all the doors and opportunities, things we don't even think about now. I am not worried at all. I believe in the "no schwitzing" principle.
What is your relationship with Austria these days? Do you ever go back?
I have no time in this job. I only have one week of vacation. Everytime I try to leave something happens. The last time in Europe I was so happy. Going to Austria for ten hours with my daughter Kathryn and visiting my father's and mother's grave. The next morning we left for France and visited Sarkozy. The next day we visited London and Tony Blair and then I got a phone call that California is on fire. 256 homes burned. I said we gotta move on. So there it was: Two and a half days in Europe.
The first story we found about you in our stern files dates back to 1977. At the end of the story was a quote from you: "So you are the best, what do you do then? Maybe have power. You start a career in politics, you become Governor or President or something like that." Remember that line?
There was a spark already there. It is amazing.
Were you really dreaming of the presidency then?
I don't know why but people always told me: You would be a great Governor or President. I don't know why. It was always there. And then, of course, I met Maria and married into a political family and spent more and more time with the Kennedys and pumped in information and learned a lot. I was fascinated by it. Then I was counsellor on fitness for the older Bush and hung out with him in Camp David. I loved that. To be the CEO. And run something. Acting slowly became less important and it started feeling silly jumping over a car and someone says you have to put this wig on now, you have to fly upside down. I wanted a new challenge. Acting and showbusiness came out of focus and something like this came in focus. Then I confronted Maria for the first time. I was sitting in the jacuzzi and said: Maria, I am thinking about running for Governor. She had tears coming down her eyes and was freaking out. I never knew psychologically what impact the political life had on her as a child. All of this came out and she had never shared that with me. You are married for a long time and still don't know the person. Nor did she know about me and this desire to go into politics. We never talked about this. So all of this came out and it looked to me like I could never do this. It will destroy the marriage. It will destroy the family. So I took it off the table. Then Eunice - Maria's mother - found out about it. She comes from the Kennedy family where you have this motto: You never stop the boys. So she talked to Maria and said: I could have told you this. This is in his gut. I knew that Arnold would be the one, blablabla, Eunice is very smart, with good instincts. She could have been President if she had been a man. So she convinced Maria and Maria came to me the day I went on the Tonight Show and said: "Just to let you know. I can live with whatever decision you make." I was totally confused now. I was battling the whole afternoon. Then on the Tonight Show, of course, I said I am going to run. And when I came home she was again back in tears, totally freaked out. I said: "Maria you told me that it's okay" and she said: "Yes, but I didn't think you would be doing this."
Clearly, it was difficult for her to grow up in a political family. Do you ever think about your own children? They are in a similar position now.
Luckily, we have Maria. She has learned what the Kennedys did wrong. We correct it. This generation is correcting the mistakes. The Shrivers didn't know any better. The Kennedys didn't know any better how to deal with the kids. We are learning from the things Maria thought were wrong.
She didn't have a choice. There were always people around the house talking about policies. Religious leaders came to the house, spiritual leaders, environmental leaders, community leaders, there was all this madness around the house all the time. There was never really a calm family life. Everyone in the family had to be full of energy. They have to do something, they can't just be, can't relax, get off this madness. They want you to do public service and ask what do you do for your country and what have you done for someone else. She grew up with that. So we don't have meetings around the house. We don't have people over for barbeques and talk policies. Just friends. We really make it a home where people come over with their children and we show a movie. Of course, it will have an effect but hopefully a positive one. Of course, when I have lunch with President Bush I take my daughter along. How many kids have lunch with the President?
How was he?
Very charming. He has two daughters so he knows how to treat girls. One of my girls is saying: "I am for Obama", the other is saying: "I'm for Hillary" and another: "I am for Bush and he's so cute" and I say: "Oh there is madness going on in the house." It is funny. We just let the kids be. When I was on the Time Magazine cover, my wife put it away, under all the other magazines. So when I come home the discussion is: What did you kids do today instead of: Oh, Arnold, your are on the cover of Time. That's something else she learned. I certainly didn't know it. Where I come from nobody was ever on the cover of Time. I was making 1800 Schilling and had not enough money for food.
How did she take all the pressure?
It has a huge impact on her and on all the other cousins. That's why you see the tragedies in the family and the dramas. The people talk about the spoiled brats but that is nonsense. It is very tough for these kids to grow up under the circumstances that some of their fathers were being shot and murdered and you see these pictures over and over again. It is rough stuff. I have learned there are a lot of sides to this family.
You just showed us the picture of your beautiful teenage daughter with President Bush. What do you do to keep them off the streets and the party circuit in a city like Los Angeles?
Depending on the age they have a curfew when to come home. The 14 year old at ten, my 16 year old has to be home at eleven, and the other is older than 18, has no curfew and has never abused it. We were fortunate even though my kids go to schools where they do drugs, where they smoke marihuana, where kids get busted with cocaine and with other drugs. But we always talk about it at home and where this leads to. We haven't had any complaints of somebody having been drunk at a party or misusing the curfew. And they know: There would be even tougher curfews. I have a tendency of being more strict because I grew up very differently.
Are you very protective?
The fear was always that one day my daughter would be bringing home a boyfriend. Oh my God. All a sudden my daughter brought home a boy and he was a guy that I had seen playing football on a High School team and I liked the boy. He was a nice boy. So I said: I am supposed to be mad. Everyone always said you will be standing there in the Terminator outfit with a shotgun and all the weapons of the Terminator - but that was not the case. I didn't feel anything. I am glad she met someone that she wants to spend time with and talk. One time I watched a movie. And my daughter came over and said: Do you mind if Charlie stays an extra half an hour? It was already 11.30 and Maria and I were going to bed and I said: No I don't mind. And then in bed I thought: What did I just say? Don't mind? Let me just check it out, so I went sneaking around the house. So what does it mean? I trusted her. For me that is on-the-job-training as a father. We are also very fortunate to have the CHP, the California Highway Patrol. They are my protection. So when the kids go out, for security reasons the CHP is with them. So you can imagine that boys don't do any unusual moves if the CHP is at the party in the same room. So that is somewhat helpful.
Do you still work out?
Every day. I get up at 5.30 in the morning and I work out for 30-40 minutes on a life cycle. Then I go and read the papers and then I am the one in charge of waking everyone up at different times. Every day at 6.45 I bring my wife the coffee and wake her up gently. I am a slave in my own house. And then at night we end up in a jacuzzi.
How about lifting weights?
I do weights at night for half an hour. After heart surgery I stopped working out heavy, so now it is lighter weights and more repetition. I am not interested in making the muscles grow. I would just like to stay at a body weight of 95 kilos. And I feel great.
So the only vice left are your cigars?
Yes, a cigar once in a while and a Stamperl, a schnaps.
Interview: Christine Kruttschnitt, Thomas Osterkorn, Jan-Christoph Wiechmann