For the past year and a half, Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken on a new role — that of governor of California — and the residents of his state are proving to be tougher critics than Ebert and Roper. NBC’s Campbell Brown spoke with Schwarzenegger about his time in office, his controversial fund-raising efforts, past steroid use and future plans for the state.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I always prefer if everyone loves everything that I do. Of course. I think we all do. But the bottom line is that I have been sent to Sacramento by the people of California to represent the people. Not the White House. Not the Republicans. Not the Democrats or any of the special interests, or anything like that.
Campbell Brown: Your approval rating is still above 50 percent, very solid. But it has dropped 10 points over the last six months. People in California now say a majority believe that the state is on the wrong track. Why do you think you've lost some of the luster?
Schwarzenegger: Because I have announced that I'm going to go after four major reforms and turn the system upside-down. Those reforms will create a lot of changes that the special interests will be very unhappy about. Status quo will be very unhappy. The big spenders will be very unhappy about it. The unions will be unhappy about it.
Brown: Taking special interests out politics was a huge part of your campaign. And yet the reason you're here in New York is part of a massive fund-raising effort. Fifty million dollars is what you're going for. Who are you taking money from if it's not special interests?
Schwarzenegger: I really don't look at exactly who is giving money. And there's people that give small contributions and big contributions. The key thing is to include the people of California, to include the people of the whole nation. And the reason why I go around the whole nation is because the kind of reforms that we create will have an impact all over the country.
Brown: But still back to my question. The fund-raisers you're having are big money fund-raisers. And I'll tell you who's going — it's business people, it's Wall Street people, it's lobbyists who are writing big checks to you.
Schwarzenegger: So what's wrong with that?
Brown: You campaigned so aggressively against it. I'm just…
Schwarzenegger: Oh, no.
Brown: …trying to…
Schwarzenegger: No, you…
Brown: …figure out what the difference is.
Schwarzenegger: Well, I'll explain it to you. You're just a little confused here. I said that I would never have any special interest have any affect on me or tell me what to do. I cannot be bought. This guy that's sitting here is rich enough that I don't ever have to raise money for myself. All the money I'm raising is for the initiatives.
Brown: But aren't those people, who are writing you checks, aren't they gaining access to you that the average person in California could not?
Schwarzenegger: Anyone could get access to me. It makes no difference. I visit public places, malls. I go all around the state. I am the people's governor.
Brown: Let me switch from politics to another issue that's gotten a lot of attention — steroid use among athletes. You have admitted that you took steroids back in your bodybuilding days. And you've also said that you don't regret it. Explain that?
Schwarzenegger: Well, you can't go back in time and just say, yeah, you know, I would have done it differently. Because at that time we had a certain amount of knowledge. It was a new product. The important thing is what we do now. And I've said many times that if my son will come to me and say, "I want to get involved in professional football, I want to get involved in baseball or bodybuilding," I would say, "That's terrific. That's a great goal. The important thing is to train hard, do your four or five hours of training a day, eat well, stay away from alcohol and from smoking. And definitely, my son, don't take drugs."
So that is really the message that we give our children today. To let kids know all the time, "This is not good to do. That number one it causes side effects that is unhealthy. And, number two, it's illegal."
Brown: Another comment you made recently that got a lot of attention was you suggesting banning junk food from schools.
Schwarzenegger: A lot of our children are obese. A lot of children are diabetic because of the terrible eating habits that they have. I visited hundreds of schools. And what I saw firsthand, the vending machines that offered the worst food possible. So now since I am governor of the state of California, again, I can do my part to pass laws that would take the junk food out of the schools, out of the vending machines. And take all of that out and give them healthy food.
Brown: You talked about how much you love being governor. What do you not like about it? What drives you crazy?
Schwarzenegger: You know, to be honest with you, as crazy as it sounds, there's absolutely nothing that drives me crazy about the job. It's all wonderful. And it's all part of it. You cannot pick and choose. Coming over from an Austrian farm to America and to make it here. This is all wonderful. But this, being governor of California, by far has been the greatest thing that I've ever done in my life.