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Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes to meld Hollywood know-how to politics

The former governor is set to inaugurate an academic institute at USC, where bipartisan solutions on the environment, economy and political reform will be studied.

September 18, 2012|By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is launching the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy on Sept. 24. On hand for the inauguration will be Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Tom Daschle, as well as three former governors.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is launching the USC Schwarzenegger Institute… (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO — He's gone from movie star to governor and back again, and now Arnold Schwarzenegger has a message for politicians in Sacramento and Washington: Both capitals could learn a thing or two from Hollywood.

The entertainment business fosters innovation, risk-taking, boldness — a recipe for success, he says, that political institutions stifle.

"You can get the smartest people in the world," Schwarzenegger said in an interview Monday, "but … if you don't have courage, you will not be able to make a movie, you will not be successful in serving the people or getting things done in the world."

He hopes to infuse public policy with a little show-biz daring this fall at USC, where he's preparing to kick off his new academic institute with the same celebrity flair he once took to Sacramento (albeit with mixed results).

Marquee names from politics and entertainment will be on hand Sept. 24 for the first symposium at the new center, which Schwarzenegger said would host the study of bipartisan solutions to environmental problems, economic policy, political reform and other issues.

"Hollywood and our entertainment industry has solved many, many great, great problems and has been very talented with technology and bringing entertainment all over the world," he said by telephone. "The same brains, if utilized, can actually solve other problems as well."

With the release of a memoir and book tour set for next month, the coming-out party for the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy is a relaunching of sorts for the former governor. Although he has appeared in movies since leaving office, he has kept a relatively low public profile since he and his wife, Maria Shriver, split after she learned that he had fathered a child with their housekeeper.

He declined Monday to discuss those subjects, saying he would get to all that on the book tour. He has also taped an appearance on "60 Minutes" that is expected to include his version of events.

Schwarzenegger has survived other personal scandals that might have inflicted lasting damage on other politicians or celebrities. His latest movie, "The Expendables 2," the USC venture and the book "are all set pieces in a long-term strategy," said Chris Lehane, a political and public relations consultant who specializes is crisis communications but is not working for the former governor.

The institute, part of USC's Price School of Public Policy, was seeded with a commitment of $20 million from Schwarzenegger, who said he would donate some of the money and raise some.

Schwarzenegger said his inauguration of the new center would start with a morning of policy, featuring Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, and three former governors in a conversation about "post-partisanship."

Director James Cameron and Universal Studios President Ron Meyer will headline an afternoon chat about "the power of people and innovation."

Including the entertainment industry is partly a nod to Los Angeles, Schwarzenegger said.

"I think if the institute would be set up in Detroit, obviously that afternoon session will be the head auto manufacturers. But … one of the great things that everyone admires about Los Angeles is the movie studios, the entertainment business and people who are very, very creative."

As for the current political climate, Schwarzenegger has been critical of his fellow Republicans' ideological rigidity in both Sacramento and Washington. But he says he has not decided whom to support in the upcoming presidential election.

Asked to assess Sacramento under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, he said the governor was struggling with the same problems he did in trying to get the state back on track.

"This has been a worldwide recession," Schwarzenegger said, "and people blame political leaders for that."

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