Exclusive Interview: Governor Schwarzenegger

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger truly has an amazing success story. An Austrian immigrant, he moved from body builder, to Mr. World, to A-list actor, to governor of the largest state (by population) in America. In this exclusive Q&A, Schwarzenegger highlights the traditional Republican values, and how the GOP needs to unite together over our similarities instead of divide over our differences. Schwarzenegger’s life embodies the Republican ideals of hard work to create your own destiny, and he worked extremely hard to get to where he is today.

Elephant News: Why is it better to be a Republican over a Democrat?  

Schwarzenegger: When I moved to the United States in 1968, it was in the middle of the Presidential elections. So one of my first political experiences here was watching the debate between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. When I heard Nixon talk – about a strong economy, low taxes, keeping the government off your back, a powerful military, international trade, and making sure America remained the greatest country in the world – it was music to my ears. My friend told me Nixon was a Republican, and I decided that day that I was a Republican. I still believe in those principles, and I still believe that they are the best path to keep American great.

Here’s a funny story Prime Minister Netanyahu told me years ago when he was the finance minister. I asked him how he turned his economy around, and I think his answer is a great analogy for Republican values.

“When I was in the army, our commander had six of us line up and pick the soldier next to us up, and then we raced each other. The first guy was a tiny guy, and he had to pick up one of the biggest soldiers we had. I had to pick up a guy who was about the same size as me. The guy next to me was a big strong guy, and he picked up a much smaller guy. Then we took off toward the finish line. The first guy, the little guy, was stumbling under the weight of the big guy and finally collapsed without finishing the race. I moved toward the finish line with big strides. But the big guy next to me, with the little guy on his shoulders, he ran through the finish line and finished first. What’s the moral of the story?”

“The bottom guy represents the private sector and the top guy represents the public sector. If the public sector is bigger than the private sector, the private sector has no chance. That is why the first guy carrying the much bigger guy stumbled, and the other guy ran through the finish line because he had the little guy on top. You have to make the public sector shrink to succeed. That is the bottom line.”

Elephant News: There are many different factions within the Republican party- what issues should definitely stay the same and what needs to change? 

Schwarzenegger: Here’s an op-ed I wrote about this: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/06/opinion/la-oe-schwarzenegger-gop-needs-to-be-more-inclusiv-20120506

Let me start by saying that President Reagan is a personal hero for me and almost every Republican I know. It was his Big Tent philosophy that expanded the party to include all factions, and his 11th Commandment was to never speak ill of another Republican. We need to go back to those principles.

There is room in this party for all of us – from the Tea Party to the centrists. We have to remember Reagan’s wisdom and focus on all of the things we agree on, rather than the things that divide us.

We can all agree about the principles that I talked about earlier that Nixon discussed. And we can all agree that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government; that a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group; that your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does; that our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children.

Elephant News: How can the GOP incorporate Hispanics and minorities? 

Schwarzenegger: If we can communicate that we believe in equal opportunities for everyone, like we have since President Lincoln, and we try to be as inclusive as possible, our principles can appeal to anyone.

I think equal opportunity is so important. I remember when I was elected Governor, the ACLU had sued California in what was called the Williams lawsuit, because there wasn’t equal education. There were inner-city kids, mostly minorities, that had many times inferior teachers, less budget than the wealthier schools, I mean, they didn’t even have textbooks. How can you call that equal? I agreed with the ACLU that the state was responsible for giving everyone an equal opportunity and one of the first things I did was settle the lawsuit, because it was outrageous that these kids were getting left behind because the system was failing them. As Republicans, we need to talk about these issues more.

It’s also time to pass a fair comprehensive immigration reform bill. The Republicans I know are very supportive of immigration reform. They want a guarantee that we will secure the border, but I think if the Democrats gave them that guarantee, my Republican friends would jump at a compromise. As an immigrant myself, I know that the Republican philosophy is perfect for those of us who come here in search of the American dream. It’s time to hammer out a compromise so that we can spread that message.

Here’s an op-ed I wrote about immigration reform: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/immigration-arnold-schwarzenegger-90740.html

Elephant News: If you could write one bill right now, what would it be and why? 

Schwarzenegger: I would write a bill to get rid of gerrymandering all over the country. We did it in California, and the results look fantastic so far. It’s unfortunate that in most states, the politicians get together in back rooms and they pick the voters. That’s not how our system was supposed to work – everyone knows the voters are meant to pick the representatives. But for 200 years, politicians have scammed the system and drawn these crazy lines to make sure they get re-elected. Since they can pick their voters, they feel totally safe and don’t have to produce any results.  In California, before we passed redistricting reform, only one of our 53 districts had ever changed party hands in the last 10 years of elections. One!

I know both my Democrat and Republican friends aren’t fond of this change because we took the power away from the politicians to give it to the people, but we have to send representatives to do the people’s work, not to find a way to get re-elected. Congressional approval is at record lows, but everybody gets re-elected because they’ve gamed the system. Plus, more competition is good for the Republican brand, like it is for any brand.

Elephant News: If you could run for president, what would be the first thing you would do when you got into office? 

I would invite all of Congress over for a big barbecue on the White House lawn, and I would force them to sit with somebody from the other party. And then I would do it over and over, as often as I had to, until they realized that they were there to do the people’s work, not to bicker with each other and treat each other like the enemy. If that didn’t work, I’d force them to watch my first movie, Hercules in New York until they got the message. I’m sure they would bond with each other in no time.

Seriously, though, I just had Chris Matthews speak at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute about his new book about President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill, and one of the things he pointed out was that in the old days, the two parties hung out together after work, they schmoozed, they connected. Tip O’Neill actually had a rule that he and Reagan were friends after 6:00pm. Today, the lawmakers fly in for work on Monday and fly out on Thursday. They need to connect again. So I would be the Connectinator.