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Arnold Schwarzenegger's tell-all book takes bad taste to a new level

One wonders what led him to drag his family through the mud all over again. But maybe there's poetic justice, since the whole state got screwed while he was governor.

October 03, 2012|Steve Lopez
  • Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses his book at the Hamilton in Washington.
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses his book at the… (Olivier Douliery, McClatchy-Tribune )

In his new book, "Total Recall," former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger explains why he didn't want to talk to the media when it was discovered that he had fathered a child with the family housekeeper.

"I wanted to protect my family's privacy," Schwarzenegger writes, "which remains a priority of mine today."

That being the case, a question comes to mind. If Schwarzenegger wants to protect his family's privacy, what was he doing on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, talking about that affair and admitting to a number of others?

Photos: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver

The simplest answer, I suppose, is that he was promoting the book. But that raises another question:

If Schwarzenegger cares about his wife and their four kids — or his former mistress and the child she had with him — why write the book at all?

Let's think about this. His wife, Maria Shriver, and the kids were gone for a week, and not only was Arnold bold enough to have Mildred Baena do a little extra "housework," but he was careless enough to get her pregnant in the family domicile. She later brought the child to the house to play with half brothers and half sisters, all of them unaware they were related, until the resemblance became a little too obvious.

And yet, after putting his family through all of that, after Maria filed for divorce and his family exploded, the 38th governor of the great state of California still thinks it's appropriate to memorialize the whole thing in book form and blab about it on national television?

"It's another case of Arnold being Arnold," a former Schwarzenegger advisor and longtime GOP consultant told me, saying his former boss was simply promoting the book and drawing attention to two upcoming movies. Like a shark in the ocean, he said, "Arnold's got a single-minded purpose to do what Arnold wants to do."

And he never lets contradiction get in the way.

"Secrecy is just part of me," he wrote in the book, explaining how he answered Shriver when she asked him why he hadn't confessed earlier. "I keep things to myself no matter what."

Secrecy would be a part of me, too, if I'd slept with the maid and my love child was running around the house under my wife's nose. Schwarzenegger writes that Maria had suspected the truth, but since he wasn't certain the child was his when she first asked, he denied it.

Schwarzenegger said on TV that Shriver hadn't read the book, which covers everything from his upbringing in Austria to his bodybuilding and Hollywood days, and I can understand why it wouldn't be at the top of her reading list. Imagine how she might react, though, if she were to read this passage in which Schwarzenegger writes about discussing the affair with his wife.

"I explained that it was my screw-up, that [Maria] should not feel that it had anything to do with her."

What a prince. The former Mr. Olympia did some cardio work with the maid while his wife was away, and he's not even blaming her.

"You're the perfect wife," he goes on, re-creating his conversation with her in the office of their therapist. "It's not because anything is wrong, or you left home for a week, or any of that. Forget that. You look fantastic, you're sexy, I'm turned on by you today as much as I was on the first date."

Classy guy, huh?

Maybe he'll invite her to the sophomore prom and try to patch things up. And he can pick her up in the fantastic new idiot-mobile he drove on "60 Minutes," a $250,000 Mercedes Unimog truck that looks like a Hummer on steroids.

Poor Maria. And poor Arnold. He's unlikely to find another woman who would have stood by him through his denials about all those groping stories during the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. She even stayed true after Schwarzenegger said that although "most" of the groping allegations were false, he wasn't denying bad behavior. As he put it, "where there's smoke there's fire."

Say again?

So Schwarzenegger went from sexual harassment allegations as he entered office to a sex scandal on his way out of office. There's a neat symmetry to it all, especially when you consider that while he was governor, all of California got screwed.

The man who was against borrowing broke borrowing records.

The man who said he didn't need to raise campaign donations raised more than anyone.

The man who replaced a governor with a 22% popularity rating ended up matching that all-time low.

The man who promised to balance the budget left office with record deficits.

You can blame some of that on Schwarzenegger, some on the Legislature, and some on voters who were swept up by the action hero antics of Schwarzenegger the candidate, a man who now confesses in the book that he had no idea what he was doing. After appearing on Jay Leno to announce that he was running, a decision that was news to his wife, Schwarzenegger writes that he got a call from Matt Lauer of "The Today Show."

"As he pressed me for specifics on how I would bring back the California economy and when I would release my tax returns, I realized I was unprepared," Schwarzenegger writes. "Unable to answer, I finally had to resort to the old Groucho Marx stunt of pretending the connection was bad. 'Say again?' I put a hand to my earpiece. 'I didn't hear you.'"

None of this surprises Garry South, Gray Davis' campaign manager.

"It's all just another movie to him," said South, whose diagnosis is that Schwarzenegger has always been defined, pure and simple, by the narcissism that drives an international body-building champion.

That — and an unlimited supply of hubris — may also be what drives a man to end his book with a chapter called "Arnold's Rules," a section that contains such wisdom as, "Don't overthink," "Change takes big balls," and "When someone tells you no, you should hear yes."

Unless she's the housekeeper.

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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