Nightline's Terry Moran on Wednesday profiled Arnold Schwarzenegger as a "Republican reformist" and never once referred to him as a liberal. Instead, the co-anchor tagged the California Governor as a "lonely figure" in the GOP.
Moran sympathized, "When you look at the way the Republican Party is going, here in California and around the country, rise of the tea party, candidates like Rand Paul, do you think there's still room in the Republican Party for someone like you?" He then prompted, "Or are you being squeezed out?" [Audio available here.]
Of course, most Republicans in California and nationwide would say that Schwarzenegger's embrace of liberalism indicates someone who left the party, rather than being "forced out."
Although Moran noted the Governor's massive unpopularity (his approval rating hovers around 23 percent), he never really explained why. The host also mentioned the state's $19 billion deficit, but not the excessive spending. Instead, Moran spun, "He sounds pragmatic, though many of his reform efforts have failed."
Throughout his two terms, journalists have often favored Schwarzenegger as an example of the ideal Republican. On November 20, 2006, CNN's Bill Schneider enthused, "In California, Schwarzenegger carried independent voters handily. He reclaimed the center. Schwarzenegger did two things President Bush has never done. He flatly acknowledged his mistakes, and he changed course."
A transcript of the June 9 segment, which aired at 11:45pm EDT, follows:
TERRY MORAN: Arnold Schwarzenegger. He rose from big screen action hero to Republican reformist in charge of governing California. But this real-life script hasn't exactly enjoyed a Hollywood happy ending. Now he's staring down his final months in office, and he's going to end his term on something of a down note. So, what has he learned about politics and what's next? I spent the day with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. On primary night in California last night, the big political stars of the state took center stage. But the guy who once dominated California politics, who seemed poised a few years back to usher in a new era in the Golden State, like Ronald Reagan before him, he was out of the limelight, strangely muted. These are difficult days for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and for a guy who has lived his life in the limelight, from his championship body building days immortalized in the documentary Pumping Iron, to his Hollywood career, built on indomitable action roles like The Terminator and Conan the Barbarian.
[Clips from Schwarzenegger's movies.]
SCHWARZENEGGER: You see capital gains taxes going up.
MORAN: The real world of politics has not been easy for California's Governor, and for all his relentless self-confidence, he knows it. You've become a very unpopular governor.
SCHWARZENEGGER: You know something, it's perfectly fine. I understand the mood. I don't blame the people for being upset about what's going on.
MORAN: What's going on in California is a colossal grinding fiscal and political crisis with no end in sight. A $19 billion deficit in the state's budget. A political system in such deep partisan gridlock it makes Washington look almost functional. It's all a recipe for deep voter disgust. And a lot of that anger is aimed right at Schwarzenegger, who has seen his approval rating collapse to 23 percent, with seven in ten saying they disapprove with the way he's done his job. But he is determined to keep pushing. We caught up with Schwarzenegger last week aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, where he was unveiling Operation Welcome Home. It's an ambitious effort to help returning veterans in the state.
SCHWARZENEGGER: We want them to move smoothly from the battlefront to the home front.
MORAN: The goal? Streamline the sometimes confusing process of coming home.
SCHWARZENEGGER: We are saying to the veterans, you don't have to run around anymore. You don't have to get the runaround. No, you just go to one place, you call and we will pay attention.
MORAN: It's the kind of program tailor made for Schwarzenegger right now. It's got bipartisan support. It doesn't cost much. It's doable. Because the last thing Schwarzenegger wants to talk about, even think about now, is the end of his career as governor. And this is really a major initiative of what are your last months in office, yeah?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, it doesn't matter if it is my last months in office, which it's not. It's my last year in office. But you know, this is irrelevant. I mean we continue on until the last. We sprint to the finish line.
MORAN: Schwarzenegger, though, is sprinting on his own, a lonely figure on the state's political landscape, and in the national GOP. When you look at the way the Republican Party is going, here in California and around the country, rise of the tea party, candidates like Rand Paul, do you think there's still room in the Republican Party for someone like you? Or are you being squeezed out?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't feel like I'm getting squeezed out. I feel like I need reforms. It's not the Republican Party. It's not the Democratic Party. It's the system that is wrong. What we want to do is create a system where you get rewarded for compromise, rather than get punished for compromise and rewarded for getting stuck in the ideological corners.
CAMPAIGN AD: After Arnold, don't we deserve a Republican?
MORAN: Schwarzenegger was hammered this primary season by Republicans running away from him and Democrats trashing him. But, Arnold Schwarzenegger is far from the only incumbent politician getting trashed these days. As President Obama struggles with a stumbling economic recovery and an environmental disaster in the gulf, Arnold sounds like he's got some sympathy for him. As a governor, how do you rate President Obama and his administration's response to the oil spill in the gulf?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I mean, I think that he's doing everything that he can. And everything that he's doing to his knowledge. There is no one in the political arena that is an expert it in, so we all rely on experts to tell us, you know, what is the thing to do.
MORAN: As the oil continues to gush into the waters of the gulf, Schwarzenegger is blunt about the blame.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I think one should not lose sight of one thing. Why do we have this problem? The problem is because we failed as a country to force the oil companies to have a safety device, which, European countries have. What's the safety feature? What device do you have? Nothing, because they lobbied and Congress voted against it.
MORAN: There are people who say that because of the scale of this catastrophe, BP should, essentially, be put out of business.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, you know, that's all easier said than done. You can't go just now and say this is the worst company, let's put them out of business when the fact is that 95 percent of our, you know, energy comes from fossil fuels. I mean it's, I think, crazy talk.
MORAN: He sounds pragmatic, though many of his reform efforts have failed. But yesterday, primary day, a triumph. A Schwarzenegger-backed ballot measure that would do away with party-controlled primaries in favor of open primaries, passed handily.
SCHWARZENEGGER: You will see extraordinary change in a direction that California will be going and the kind of decisions that will be made here.
MORAN: And then there are programs like Operation Welcome home, something that can get done for returning soldiers like Lance Yonker.
LANCE YONKER (RETURNING SOLDER): Plastic surgeon put this ear back on and put my head together with 70 staples. And, you know, I had to learn how to walk again and do all that, and, you know, I've seen the worst of it, and Operation Welcome Home and everything that's going on here has really helped me.
MORAN: So, as the race to succeed him revs up, Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking to make a mark where he can. And given the state's deep and intractable problems, a question, did California terminate the governator? The old body building competitor just won't have it.
SCHWARZENEGGER: You never have the surrender kind of attitude. I remember Munich, trying to break a record, I couldn't. It was 500 pounds on the bench press. And I tried it many times after that, but the 11th time, I did it. So, people fail in sports, people fail all the time in many other things. That doesn't mean that you give up. It means that you continue on and you keep saying, "I'll be back." That is the important thing.
MORAN: He'll be back. And Schwarzenegger told me he won't think about what he'll do next until the day he leaves office.