When it comes to reinventing himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature line, taken from the first of his three "Terminator" movies, sums up the man's career: "I'll be back." From bodybuilder to movie star to elected official, Schwarzenegger excels at gaining the spotlight, and there's every reason to believe he'll do it again as the curtain closes on his seven years as governor of California. He can't run for president because of a constitutional prohibition against immigrants holding the highest office, which today seems more like paranoia, but is unlikely to be overturned anytime soon, and Schwarzenegger was born in Austria on July 30, 1947.
At not quite 63 years of age, Arnold still has time for another act or two of spectacular reinvention. Together with his high-wattage wife, Maria Shriver, the soon-to-be former first family of California has a world of options, none of which members have revealed, but which all surely share these family traits. Arnold loves capitalism -- he got paid $30 million for his last "Terminator" movie. And Maria loves public service. As a Kennedy, she's steeped in the family tradition of giving back. Her late mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded Special Olympics, and her father, Sargent Shriver, was the first director of the Peace Corps, appointed by her uncle, President John F. Kennedy.
It's a good thing for Arnold that his low poll ratings in California, 23 percent approval at last count, haven't destroyed his star appeal. The general attitude seems to be that the Sunshine State is ungovernable and Arnold gave it his best, so let's see what he'll come up with next to entertain us. Tom Arnold, his co-star in the buddy movie, "True Lies," told The New York Times last year that they would be re-united in another major film project as soon as Arnold leaves office. "All I know is Jim Cameron's making it and Arnold and I are going to be in it, and it starts shooting in 14 months, the day after Arnold stops being governor of California. It's not going to be called "True Lies 2," but it might as well be. I can live with that."
On the political front, global warming is taken, but Arnold is positioned to cast himself as a big-time environmental activist, spurring the business community to do the right thing. If President Barack Obama conferred some high-status modernistic title on him, Arnold would be the perfect salesman for the new green economy that Obama wants to build. Business is wary of Obama, but Arnold can sell the bark off a tree. It would allow both men to regain a remnant of the bipartisanship that propelled them to elective office, and once made them different enough to awaken an apathetic electorate.
If Obama doesn't grab the opportunity that Schwarzenegger's availability presents, maybe Michelle will recruit Arnold and Maria for her anti-obesity drive. Both have an abiding interest in nutrition. Maria is co-founder with her brother of a new ice cream company, Lovin' Scoopful, which makes ice cream with half the fat of the regular stuff, and donates a quarter of its profits to Special Olympics and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Maria told an interviewer, "I've struggled with weight my whole life," a quote that will puzzle most people who know Maria as rail thin. Whatever her issues, she is a fierce advocate for whatever cause she adopts, as is Arnold. He told the AP, "Everything I do is forever. I got into bodybuilding at an early age and I will be working out until I drop dead, and hopefully they will put dumbbells in my casket. . . . I will continue promoting fitness forever and I will be an environmental leader forever."
With family scion Ted Kennedy gone, there is room for this latest incarnation of a powerful political partnership to create a legacy to be remembered. Shriver has booked her husband for a "kitchen-table conversation" with Matt Lauer at her annual woman's conference, set for October in Los Angeles. The advance publicity promises Arnold will reflect on his time in office and discuss what's ahead. No surprises this time. When Schwarzenegger decided to run for governor in a recall election, he blurted it out before telling Maria. This time, he told a Fox interviewer, "Before I make any move, the next move that I make, I'm going to go and say to Maria: 'Maria, you tell me what to do."
While most of the national attention still falls to Arnold, Maria has built an empire of her own, writing books, producing a documentary that raises awareness about Alzheimer's, which her father has, and keeping intact her journalistic creds, honed as an award-winning correspondent with NBC News. Come to think of it, with Larry King announcing his retirement this fall, Shriver, 54, would make a good replacement, and it would be nice to see her one-up Arnold on the small screen if not the big.
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