Exclusive: Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to burnish his tarnished image with a new memoir, Total Recall. But the “Governator” forgets to include how a mix of Enron’s dirty tricks and their exploitation by Republican operatives brought him to power, writes Jim DiEugenio.
By Jim DiEugenio
On Jan. 3, 2011, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 38th governor of California, left office. But he also left behind many of the same problems of debt and economic malaise that had propelled him into office in 2003 by the unusual route of a gubernatorial recall.
Still, that this former-steroid-abusing-bodybuilder-turned-action-movie-star would have been regarded as a credible choice to head the U.S. state with the largest population and the eighth largest economy in the world is a testament to the craziness of that time.
It also is a comment on the Republican Party’s audacity in teaming up with like-minded corporate chieftains to sabotage Democratic administrations – or at least exploit challenges that they face – even if that means inflicting suffering on innocent Americans who become collateral damage of the GOP’s scorched-earth political warfare.
Thus, there are lessons from Schwarzenegger’s strange political career that are relevant to a broader understanding of modern U.S. politics, including the Nov. 6 presidential election which may turn on a similar Republican approach of undercutting President Barack Obama’s efforts to revive the national economy and to reap a bitter harvest from high unemployment and discontent over government debt.
Regrettably, Schwarzenegger’s memoir, Total Recall, sheds little new light on the key elements of the financial and political maneuvering – by the crooks at Enron Corp. and their GOP cronies – that doomed California Gov. Gray Davis’s once-promising career and catapulted Arnold into his starring role as the “Governator” with his stunning wife, Maria Shriver, at his side.
As it turned out, much of what the people of California saw – from Schwarzenegger’s uplifting persona to his happy marriage – was no more real than a Hollywood movie set. After Schwarzenegger left office, Shriver filed to divorce him amid a scandal that he had fathered a child with the family’s housekeeper, Mildred Baena.
But more significant to Californians and to American politics is the curious way that Gray Davis was taken out of and Arnold Schwarzenegger was pushed into the Governor’s Mansion.
The Real Total Recall
In 2003, California did something that had only happened once before in American history. It held a dual election in which the incumbent governor was removed and a new governor replaced him. Gray Davis was recalled, and Schwarzenegger became the new governor.
What Total Recall says about this infamous recall election typifies the selective allotment of facts in the book. And it is very difficult to believe that Schwarzenegger does not know better. In fact, as we will see, it’s impossible to believe it.
Schwarzenegger spends all of one page on the actual causes of the recall of Davis. (p. 465) Davis had won a strong victory to first attain the governorship in 1998. But due to the so-called “electricity crisis” of 2000-2001, his popularity plummeted. In addition to power blackouts in certain areas, the enormous amount of money the state had to pay for access to emergency energy caused a momentous budget deficit of over $35 billion, a state record.
Although Total Recall briefly notes most of this, Schwarzenegger does not go into any depth about the causes of the crisis – or the politics behind it all. Let us do so here.
The main culprit behind the phony crisis was Enron, the high-flying Houston-based energy-trading company which had been lobbying for a deregulated electricity market in California for years. In fact, in advance, Enron — which specialized in marketing natural gas – had purchased an electricity company on the West Coast, Portland Gas and Electric.
But the deregulation bill was not passed under Davis. It was passed under his predecessor, Republican Pete Wilson, a close friend and colleague of Schwarzenegger.
Very few people understood how a deregulated electricity market worked. But since Enron had helped engineer it, the company assigned an employee to find out how it could be rigged to make huge profits for out-of-state companies. The employee, Tim Belden, wrote a long memorandum, actually a pamphlet, on how to do so.
Enron chairman Ken Lay assigned Belden to lead Enron traders in California. At the same time, Lay was bragging to public energy authority David Freeman, an adviser to Davis, that no matter what California did to control things, Enron would find ways to take advantage of the deregulation system – simply because Belden understood the new rules better than anyone.
What happened in 2000-2001 was perhaps one of the most shocking and nauseating examples of private enterprise raping the common good in modern American history. The blackouts started in early 2000, that is the winter months, which should have been an indicator of how phony the blackouts were because in California much more electricity is consumed in the summer due to overuse of air conditioning.
And as many experts in the field have stated, the blackouts were never about a lack of power. As measured in megawatt-hours, California always generated more electricity than it consumed. The shortages were later revealed to be manmade.
Enron and its allies, like Reliant, joined together in creating schemes to artificially manufacture shortages. They even applied flashy names to these gimmicks, like Death Star and Get Shorty. These schemes included deliberately exporting power out of state and then importing it back into California during a time of crisis, thereby increasing its price.
How were the shortages created? By doing things like overbooking a transmission line so no one else could use it. Belden and his friends even resorted to asking power plants to shut down for hours. At times they would make this request to two or three power plants at once. At the worst moments of the blackouts, kilowatt-hour rates for consumers went up by a factor of eight.
The human cost was also painful. Traffic lights would go down at rush hours, causing traffic accidents. Elevators would stop in mid-floor, so firefighters would have to go to department stores to get people out. Many people simply could not pay their bills and therefore had their homes go dark.
Friends in High Places
Davis finally had to declare a state of emergency, since the cumulative effect of the 38 blackouts was beyond his ability to predict or control. But in January 2001, when he turned to Washington for help in installing federal price limits, he got nothing – except criticism.
This was largely because new President George W. Bush was quite friendly with Ken Lay, who was a top contributor to Bush’s political career and even loaned a corporate jet to rush Bush’s lawyers and operatives around Florida during the recount battle in November 2000.
Vice President Dick Cheney also was an avid promoter of energy deregulation. Cheney actually said California had not deregulated enough. This personal coziness allowed Lay to choose the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency with jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales.
Why do we know that Schwarzenegger has to understand at least some of this, perhaps a lot of it? Because in the summer of 2001, at the height of the crisis – when some were telling Davis to forcibly take over power plants by calling out the National Guard – Ken Lay flew into Los Angeles and rented a banquet hall at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. He invited several influential people to attend his meeting, including former junk bond king Mike Milliken, former mayor of Los Angeles Dick Riordan and – a seemingly odd choice – actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
According to journalist Greg Palast and other sources, there were three objectives to the meeting. First, to urge the California Republican power elite to stay the deregulatory course and not join Davis in his call for price caps. Second, to begin to recruit a viable candidate to run for Davis’s office in 2002, which is why Riordan and Schwarzenegger were there. The reason for this was not just to oust Davis, but – reason number three – to negate the impact of a $9 billion civil suit that Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante had filed.
Since Enron had been using fraudulent accounting practices to conceal its increasingly fragile financial condition – and those tricks were unraveling as Enron lurched toward bankruptcy at the end of 2001 – the phony California electricity crisis was the company’s last hurrah.
In fact, when one public relations officer for the company understood the end was coming, he asked a trading officer how Enron could avoid going bankrupt. The answer was one word: California.
Today, no one knows how much money Enron and its allies pirated out of the state. Estimates range all the way up to $40 billion. But clearly, the crisis damaged Davis’s image and lowered his approval ratings. A man who was once touted as a possible nominee for the Democratic nomination for president was perceived as vulnerable.
For Schwarzenegger to avoid all of these key facts in his memoir makes this part of the book a travesty. But almost all of this information is available in a fine documentary called Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. (To me, that film has more value to it than the entire oeuvre of Schwarzenegger.)
There was another way that the path to the governorship was paved for Arnold by outside forces. In the book, Arnold says that the recall effort against Davis was a grassroots effort at first. (p. 479) Again, this is not accurate. The recall effort was initiated by rightwing political operatives Howard Kaloogian and Sal Russo with the financial backing of wealthy conservative Rep. Darrell Issa.
Far from being a grassroots effort, the Davis recall effort was really Astroturf, an illusion meant to appear to be a grassroots movement but, in reality, is politically motivated and bankrolled by deep pockets. And for Schwarzenegger to still try and disguise this as something else tells us just how candid he is being in the last part of this memoir.
Why did Issa put $2 million of his own money into the recall? It was not simply to get rid of Davis. It was because Davis was in such an attenuated position — he barely hung on in the 2002 election against a rather weak Republican opponent — that Issa felt he could take the governor’s house himself.
But that was not to be. For now came a third way that others would help Arnold on his way to Sacramento. Realizing that this was a prime opportunity that the GOP should not squander, higher-ups from Washington decided to clear the field for the actor. This meant that he should not have any serious Republican opponent in the recall effort.
Clearing Arnold’s Path
Therefore, one by one, the GOP candidates with high name recognition and large amounts of cash dropped out: Issa, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, and investment banker Bill Simon. The only Republican who refused to leave was state senator Tom McClintock, but McClintock was too conservative and weakly financed to pose any real headaches for Schwarzenegger. Understandably, this part of Arnold’s ascension to the governorship is not dealt with at all in Total Recall.
With the road cleared for him, Schwarzenegger’s fame and money executed a rather simple plan for the last months of the recall. Instead of attending a series of candidate debates in California, Schwarzenegger and his wife appeared on high-profile national television shows where he could speak in generalities to people who knew very little about the problems facing the state.
So while appearing on shows like Oprah Winfrey’s and Sean Hannity’s, Schwarzenegger was viewed by many more people than he would be during the debates, and his positions were not challenged nor his ideas vetted. Arnold only showed up for the very last candidate debate.
Meanwhile, headline writers fell in love with puns related to Schwarzenegger’s famous movies. The anti-Davis drive was called “Total Recall” and Arnold was called the “Governator” after the “Terminator” movies.
Yet, the irony of Schwarzenegger’s seven years as governor is that when he left, he had the same problems that Gray Davis did. Arnold had very low approval ratings, exacerbated by a gaping budget deficit and a struggling state economy.
During his administration, Schwarzenegger refused to raise taxes on businesses and the wealthy. For example in 2004-05, he proposed $4.6 billion in cuts to education and health and human services. (Arianna Huffington, Fanatics and Fools, p. 170) He also proposed freezing enrollment in the Healthy Families program which endangered the well being of as any as 100,000 children. (ibid, p. 169) Another way he chose to try and alleviate the budget deficit was borrowing, which only put off the problem, since California’s debt service grew and grew.
To understand Schwarzenegger’s failed regime one must read the book carefully for hints of his political opportunism and deceptions. For instance, Schwarzenegger says that when he first came to America in 1968, he watched a debate between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. He says he liked the things Nixon was saying about free enterprise and opportunity versus what Humphrey was saying about government programs and welfare. (p. 85)
However, there was no Nixon-Humphrey debate between the two in 1968 since Nixon refused to have one. But Arnold’s need to insert this false anecdote tells us a lot about him.
The next political statement in the book is his admiration for Ronald Reagan and his economic ideas, which were modeled on the philosophy of MiIton Friedman. Schwarzenegger watched each installment of the PBS special about Friedman called Free to Choose and then bought copies of the book of the same name to send to his friends.
This is all apropos of how Schwarzenegger excuses the fact that he failed to solve the budget problem. He blames it on the real estate bust of 2007 and the following stock market crash of 2008. (p. 571)
Schwarzenegger then writes that those events were caused by “the federal government which allowed fast and loose subprime mortgage deals. … Just as I learned from Milton Friedman, when the federal government meddles in markets, the states pay the price.” (p. 571)
Yet, anyone who has studied the subprime crisis knows that these institutions were controlled by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), which was known for its loose regulatory policies especially during the Bush years.
As James Gilleran, the head of OTS, said in 2001, “Our goal is to allow thrifts to operate with a wide breadth of freedom from regulatory intrusion.” (All the Devils are Here, by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, p. 94) In other words, OTS was giving the thrifts who sold subprime loans just what they wanted: a Friedmanian free hand.
What makes Arnold’s statement even more mind-boggling is that the man viewed as the personification of the crisis was Angelo Mozilo, chairman and CEO of Countrywide Financial and founder of IndyMac, two thrifts that championed subprime loans. Both were located in California and both collapsed during Schwarzenegger’s governorship.
In other words, the governor could have done something about their predatory practices before the collapse of 2007. He had four years to do so. To my knowledge, he did nothing. But further, what then helped cause the stock market crash the following year was the fact that Wall Street piled derivatives on top of these subprime loans, more of the Milton Friedman elixir of deregulation and getting government out of the marketplace.
This free-market frenzy, which had been pushed by Republicans and abetted by some key Democrats, had dismantled Franklin Roosevelt’s Glass-Steagall Act, a law that had separated Main Street’s commercial banks from Wall Street’s investment banks. That wall had been built to prevent the periodic crashes on Wall Street from taking down the banks on Main Street.
However, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, a principal advocate for deregulation, got the Commodity Futures Modernization Act through Congress in 2000, thus, exempting derivatives from regulation. So what happened several years later was a chain reaction: weak subprime regulation caused a real estate crash, which then cascaded through the unregulated derivatives into a stock market crash and then into a financial crash that destroyed jobs and bankrupted many municipalities and crushed the budgets of many states.
It is thus ironic that Schwarzenegger describes a meeting with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in the city of Stockton about the subprime crisis. (p. 572) Ironic, because Stockton has since gone bankrupt.
Almost immediately after stepping down as governor in 2011, Schwarzenegger admitted to Shriver, during a meeting with a marriage counselor, to having fathered a son with his housekeeper, Mildred Baena. This had occurred in 1997, the same year that Christopher, his last son with his wife, was born. Christopher was born just five days before Mildred gave birth to Joseph. Therefore, the illegitimate child was six years old when Schwarzenegger first ran for the governor’s office.
Arnold kept Mildred around the house until his admission at the meeting with the therapist. In interviews and in Total Recall, it’s clear that the child actually stayed in Arnold’s home and played with his legitimate children. (p. 592) The Schwarzenegger family even attended Joseph’s christening. The governor secretly paid for Joseph’s education, provided jobs for Mildred’s sister and mother, and in 2010, the governor helped her buy a four bedroom pool home in Bakersfield. (“Is Arnold Schwarzenegger Still Lying” by A.L. Bardach, Daily Beast, 9/30/12)
Maria Shriver finally caught on to who Joseph was in the summer of 2010. Apparently, the resemblance between the two boys born within a week of each other was becoming obvious. Maria confronted Mildred with her suspicions, and Mildred confirmed them. (Bardach, op. cit.) Maria kept this knowledge to herself so that her unfaithful husband could complete his term without being plagued by a huge scandal.
According to author Laurence Leamer, Maria wanted Arnold to continue going to a marriage therapist, but he would not. And although Schwarzenegger says that it was her choice to move out of their mansion, Leamer writes that Maria first asked Arnold to leave. He refused, so she moved to a hotel. The Los Angeles Times found out about the separation and began asking questions as to the reason for it.
A statement was issued saying that, after 25 years of marriage, the separation was amicable. But against the therapist’s advice, the actual cause was kept secret. In mid-May of 2011, the LA Times broke the story about Joseph and Mildred.
As a result of the scandal, Schwarzenegger cancelled more than one movie project he was planning for his comeback to the screen. Instead he decided to inch his way back by doing two bit parts in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables and The Expendables 2. He also gave a $20 million grant to the University of Southern California to create something called the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.
How Arnold Rose
Another part of his reputation-repair strategy is his new book, which – as one can deduce from above – should actually be called Selective Recall. Schwarzenegger is a good storyteller, but he has a tendency not to fill in all the details even when they are important.
Schwarzenegger has had three main occupations in his life: as a bodybuilder, an actor and as governor. His most complete success was probably as the first.
Born just outside of Graz, Austria, Schwarzenegger was the son of a policeman who had served in the Nazi storm troopers during World War II. (But according to famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, there is no evidence that Gustav participated in any German atrocities. See pgs. 366-67)
At a young age, Arnold met Mr. Austria, Kurt Marnul, and was impressed by Marnul’s physique, his sports car and his assortment of women. In Graz, Arnold learned more about even greater bodybuilders like the American Steve Reeves and the Englishman Reg Park. Arnold noted that both men had jumped from being bodybuilding champions to movie stars, a paradigm he set for his own life. (p. 31)
After serving a year in the army, he got an offer to run a gym in Munich, West Germany. There he met Franco Columbu, with whom he began training as the two became close friends. Schwarzenegger improved so much in one year that he applied for his first Mr. Universe contest in London in 1966. He did surprisingly well for a 19-year-old, finishing second. The next year, he won the amateur Mr. Universe, becoming the youngest competitor ever to do so.
By 1970, Schwarzenegger had won four Mr. Universe titles, the most ever at that time. He then set his sights on the newly founded Mr. Olympia contest, the Super Bowl for former Mr. Universe winners. The first year he entered, he lost to the great Sergio Oliva. But he subsequently defeated Oliva and then won five Mr. Olympias in a row, a string that set another record for that time.
Beyond these accomplishments, Schwarzenegger was the first champion to take bodybuilding out of its narrow subculture of local YMCA dungeons. He undertook national tours to promote the sport; he even appeared in prisons; and he was the first bodybuilder to appear on syndicated TV talks shows like Merv Griffin’s. One can make a good argument that it was Schwarzenegger who helped found the modern habit of specialized gymnasiums for physical fitness, which has become a hallmark of American cities today.
There were two aspects to this phase of Arnold’s life that particularly interested me. Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders of that era have admitted to using steroids before contests. Their defense is that 1.) Everyone else did it, and 2.) It was legal at the time. But in an interview with Ric Drasin, Steve Davis revealed that everyone he knew took three Dianabol pills per day. Everyone except Arnold. Davis says that Schwarzenegger took four.
Secondly, as Schwarzenegger notes, in the Nineties, the steroid usage got out of control. It was made worse by the introduction of Human Growth Hormone, or HGH. The excessive use of these drugs has made it impossible for bodybuilding to be accepted as an Olympic sport. And it has kept the professional contests confined as a niche sport, since everyone knows by looking at these men that one has to do an immense amount of chemicals to compete.
In fact, a few bodybuilders have died because of this abuse. It got so bad that the late Steve Reeves wrote an open letter to Arnold asking him to join in a crusade to clean up the sport and make it acceptable. There is no record of Arnold replying to this letter or uniting with Reeves to begin the campaign. Yet in Total Recall, Schwarzenegger writes that he has worked hard with the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) to get drugs banned from the sport. (p. 65)
I don’t see any evidence of this. For example, each year Schwarzenegger promotes a contest called the Arnold Classic. The competitors there look just as drugged up as in any other professional contest. And this points up another interesting aspect of Schwarzenegger’s life: his association with the founders of the IFBB, Joe and (the late) Ben Weider.
The Bosses and Their Star
The Weiders dominated professional bodybuilding for decades. And many people believe that it was this dominance that kept the sport in the shadows and kept bodybuilders earning below poverty wages, while it made the two brothers rich. Joe Weider developed a huge magazine and health supplement business that catered to young men who wanted to emulate champions like Park, Reeves and Schwarzenegger.
But while the Weiders were getting rich, the bodybuilders were making next to nothing. For example, until the mid-Seventies, winning the Mr. Olympia contest netted you about $1,500. Meanwhile, the pages of Weider’s magazines were studded with photos of competing bodybuilders, almost all of whom got nothing in return for their pictures. Weider called them “lazy bastards” and Schwarzenegger echoes that in this book. (see p. 99)
Somehow Schwarzenegger can’t see that there was no upside for any of these men to do more than what they did since, with very few exceptions, millionaire Weider was not subsidizing them. Schwarzenegger, of course, was one of the exceptions. Weider subsidized him since he felt that with his humor, charm, quick-wittedness and immense physical potential, Schwarzenegger could advance the sport into the mainstream and therefore increase his company’s market share. Weider was correct.
In fact, some commentators have stated that this was the reason that Sergio Oliva was not allowed to compete in the 1971 Olympia in Paris, and why Arnold won the controversial 1972 Olympia contest in Essen, West Germany, over Oliva. Some insiders think these were power plays by Weider that cheated Oliva since Weider did not think that the black Cuban had the popular appeal Arnold did. (In the book, Schwarzenegger glides over the Essen controversy by saying he was not in top shape. See p. 145)
Further, Schwarzenegger fails to mention the fact that Weider has been sued at least twice for taking advantage of these men in the Sixties and Seventies. Weider was first sued by Dave Draper who, prior to Arnold, had done some film appearances in the Sixties. Draper apparently ran out of money and settled for a relatively small sum.
Weider was also sued by Kalman Szkalak, who did not run out of money. This case went to trial and Weider chose to settle it before the jury verdict was returned. An interesting sidelight to the latter case is that Szkalak proposed forming a bodybuilders’ union, similar to the one that professional baseball players or football players have.
Reportedly, Arnold originally backed this union idea. But when the Weiders turned all their considerable power against the proposal, Schwarzenegger switched sides. And without him the proposal died. Szkalak was then reportedly blackballed from the sport and forced to file his lawsuit.
An Acting Career
Arnold’s transition from bodybuilding to acting was facilitated by the success of the documentary film Pumping Iron. Originally, Schwarzenegger was going to retire after the 1974 Mr. Olympia contest. But when producer/director George Butler told him he needed him for the film he was making out of the book Pumping Iron, Arnold reconsidered.
This proved a turning point in Arnold’s career since the film was both a commercial and critical success. It was this film that brought Schwarzenegger to the attention of the producers of the upcoming film Conan the Barbarian, which would make him a star.
Again, I was puzzled by what Arnold left out of this part of the book. The keystone event for the film Pumping Iron is the Mr. Olympia contest of 1975. Butler had built his film around the rivalry between the veteran champion Schwarzenegger and the up-and-coming rival, Lou Ferrigno.
Since the contest was held in Pretoria, South Africa, no one thought that Serge Nubret, a black French bodybuilder born in Barbados, would enter. He did try to enter, but the Weiders turned him away on the charge he had participated in a pornographic film. (Which, as of today, no one has been able to produce.)
Nubret had turned up in the greatest shape of his life and was confident he would beat Arnold. But if he had, the premise of the film would be vitiated. That would hurt Arnold’s career and the sport. Many people, including Nubret, felt this was the reason he was at first refused entry. However, two weeks later, he was allowed to enter. But he had lost 12 pounds of muscle and finished a close second to Arnold. To this day, there are some observers, including this author, who believe Nubret should have won.
While waiting for Pumping Iron to be released, Schwarzenegger wrote a best-selling book entitled The Education of a Bodybuilder; played a supporting role in the film Stay Hungry; and gave a controversial interview to author Peter Manso. In the last, he revealed a darker side, which would later surface in his marriage. He said that while in Munich he hung out with hookers and had a girlfriend who was a stripper.
Schwarzenegger also talked about his training partners having group sex with a black female bodybuilder. And that was just for starters. (For the interview, click here.) In furtherance of this part of the governor’s personality, two bodybuilders, Rick Wayne and Robby Robinson, have accused Arnold of making racist remarks against black bodybuilders.
For me, the least interesting part of the book was the middle section. Here, Schwarzenegger describes his movie career. What it reveals is that with Arnold, what you see is what you get. His interest in films and screenwriting is about at the level of Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator: lots of murder and mayhem, tons of physical destruction, cardboard characters, and pretty mindless stories.
When a futuristic android with a computer mind picks an eight-wheel semi to chase a kid on a motor scooter through a city street, you have Arnold’s essence: cheap thrills for kids. This has resulted in a career full of, what is for me, ephemera. In fact, one could argue that, next to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, no one else has played a stronger role in dumbing down the quality of American films as Schwarzenegger has.
Beyond that, there is the problem of Schwarzenegger’s acting. In my discussion of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, I stated that Eastwood’s acting does not approach what real actors, like Gene Hackman and Robert DeNiro, do. Well, oddly enough, when Schwarzenegger started out he was a great admirer of Eastwood’s career. (p. 346)
The problem is that Arnold is such a talentless hack that he makes Eastwood look like Laurence Olivier. And he is even worse in comedy than he is as an action hero. In comedy, especially the kind of broad, physical comedy that Schwarzenegger has attempted, one needs to be technically sound and emotionally invested in the character e.g. Kevin Kline, Jack Lemmon, Dustin Hoffman. Compare, for instance, what Kline did in A Fish Called Wanda, with Schwarzenegger’s amateur night turn in Kindergarten Cop.
Because of all this, one of the unintentionally humorous parts of the book is when Arnold describes himself taking acting lessons from Eric Morris. (p. 176) Either Morris is a poor teacher, or Arnold was a poor student. Since Morris taught Jack Nicholson, I tend to believe the latter.
For these reasons, I found it humorously ironic to read the part of the book where the author criticizes a film he was in, Red Sonja, by saying it was nominated for three Razzie awards (a kind of reverse Oscar). For what is left out is that, at one time, Arnold held the record for Razzie nominations for a lead actor with eight.
But there is no doubt that Schwarzenegger’s financial success as an actor was carefully planned and monitored. He became very well acquainted with how movies were marketed and how studios built up audience anticipation for films. (See pgs. 350-52) And when he became an A list star, he used those tools to ensure that most of his films were successful. And it was the accompanying name recognition that allowed him to take advantage of an unprecedented moment in history to become governor of California.
Yet, for all of its superficial glitz and glamour and entertainment value, the book, at least for me, was disappointing and even disenchanting. For all of his personable attributes and his personal accomplishments, Schwarzenegger comes off as superficial and shallow.
For instance, he said he liked the idea of America pushing back against communism in Vietnam, “so if anybody had asked me, I’d have been for the war.” (p. 89) Again, this is incredible. History is now clear that the Vietnam War was not really about communism. It was a war against colonialism by a country which had been dominated for almost a thousand years by the French and Chinese. Vietnam wanted to finally be set free. And to think, Schwarzenegger could write such a thing after being married for 25 years to the niece of John and Robert Kennedy.
Schwarzenegger seems to be not just anti-intellectual, but also ahistorical. Because of this, he is the perfect movie star – and arguably the archetypal politician – for the age of decline in which we live.
And this is probably why there was one member of the Kennedy clan who despised Maria Shriver’s choice of husband. According to author A. L. Bardach, Jackie Kennedy refused to see any of Arnold’s films. She stated, “I loathe everything that man stands for.” With good reason.
Jim DiEugenio is a researcher and writer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and other mysteries of that era.