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When Arnold Decided to Run

The November Vanity Fair features a lengthy piece by Michael Lewis on California’s financial bust, including an interview with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Somehow, they get to talking about how Schwarzenegger decided to take the plunge and run for governor, and the story is a lot more spur of the moment than it seemed back in 2003.

Lewis writes, “If there had not been a popular movement to remove sitting governor Gray Davis and the chance to run for governor without having to endure a party primary, he never would have bothered. “The recall happens and people are asking me, ‘What are you going to do?’ ” he says, dodging vagrants and joggers along the beach bike path. “I thought about it but decided I wasn’t going to do it. I told Maria I wasn’t running. I told everyone I wasn’t running. I wasn’t running.” Then, in the middle of the recall madness, ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ opened. As the movie’s leading machine, he was expected to appear on ‘The Tonight Show’ to promote it. En route he experienced a familiar impulse—the impulse to do something out of the ordinary. “I just thought, This will freak everyone out,” he says. “It’ll be so funny. I’ll announce that I am running. I told Leno I was running. And two months later I was governor.” He looks over at me, pedaling as fast as I can to keep up with him, and laughs. “What the fuck is that?

“We’re now off the beach and on the surface roads, and the traffic is already heavy. He veers left, across four lanes, arrives on the other side, and says, “All these people are asking me, ‘What’s your plan? Who’s on your staff?’ I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a staff. I wasn’t running until I went on ‘Jay Leno ‘.”

Schwarzenegger only makes passing reference to the end of his marriage to Maria Shriver following the revelation that he fathered a child with a household maid. As he and Lewis are biking through Venice, a woman spots him and tells a friend on the phone that she’s just spotted Bill Clinton.

Schwarzenegger doesn’t correct her but gives her a hint. “It’s one of those guys who has had a sex scandal.”

 

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