LOS ANGELES - This week, a special episode of The Issue Is, an exclusive interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger, known best as an action hero, a bodybuilder, and the 38th Governor of California, joins Elex Michaelson to talk coronavirus, race relations, the Presidential election, his famous pets, quarantine, family, and much more.
As the US approaches its five-millionth confirmed case of coronavirus, the conversation kicked off with a discussion of the nation’s response.
“If you compare the US to the rest of the world, I would say that we have not really done that well,” Schwarzenegger said, adding that unlike many other countries that have seen case and death rates fall, the United States has not had a singular national response.
“In America we have different laws, we have state laws, and then we have city laws, and county laws, so you get into a situation where on a federal level they say wear a mask, and the states can make up their own minds,” he posited. “It’s not just one person’s fault, this is kind of a systemic kind of a problem that we have where the whole nation did not come together.”
At the state level, back in April, Schwarzenegger, who served as Governor from 2003 through 2011, joined his predecessors Gray Davis, Pete Wilson, and Jerry Brown, as well as dozens of other business and community leaders, on current Governor Gavin Newsom’s economic revival task force, offering advice on how to best bring California out of the shutdown.
California began a phased-reopening of the state in May, but has since had to roll-back many of those efforts, as the state has now seen some 550,000 confirmed cases, and, as of this week, more than 10,000 deaths.
Overall, Schwarzenegger praised Newsom’s handling of the pandemic, citing his ability to bring together diverse viewpoints and voices from both sides of the aisle, but he suggested that the state may have been too quick to reopen.
“[Newsom] opened up businesses maybe quicker than we should have because then it backfired and coronavirus came right back like gangbusters,” the former Governor said. “I think we could have waited another month… but as you know, it’s always very easy to be smart in hindsight.”
Without the need for hindsight though, Schwarzenegger encouraged those in California, and beyond, to take the proper precautions in the fight against coronavirus, namely by maintaining proper social distancing, keeping good hygiene, and wearing masks.
But Schwarzenegger’s not only advocating for the use of face masks, he’s also selling a line of them, masks emblazoned with the line “We’ll be Back,” a play on his famous Terminator catch-phrase. Proceeds from the masks, which can be purchased on represent.com, benefit Schwarzenegger’s non-profit After-School All-Stars.
“The bottom line is that I am a big believer in masks, and wearing a mask, if everyone wears a mask, we protect each other from coronavirus,” Schwarzenegger said. “You just have to think about this stuff day and night, because you can catch it anywhere… it’s out there, and you just have to be very careful.”
From the pandemic, the conversation turned to a pair of other issues currently impacting the nation.
First, the Presidential election. Schwarzenegger would not reveal who he plans to support come November, but he did have some kind words of praise for one California lawmaker currently being considered as Joe Biden’s running mate: Karen Bass.
Bass, a five-term California Congresswoman, served as the Speaker of the California State Assembly while Schwarzenegger was the state’s Governor.
“I had a wonderful working relationship with Karen Bass,” Schwarzenegger said. “I have absolutely nothing negative to say about her at all.”
“She was a trustworthy person, she kept her word, she was great to work with, she went beyond ideology, she was able to reach across the aisle,” Schwarzenegger continued, adding that Bass understands the only way to move forward is for Democrats and Republicans to work together.
Next, on the issue of racial justice, Schwarzenegger, whose USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy has announced plans for a virtual summit on race relations in America, recounted his own immigrant story as an impetus for equal opportunity for all Americans.
“I have seen first hand how I have been treated in American as an immigrant,” Schwarzenegger said, “how I was received with open arms, how I have gotten all these opportunities, there were doors of opportunity opening up left and right for me so that I could become a superstar in the bodybuilding world, and then a superstar in show business, and then also become Governor of the state of California, have a wonderful family, make millions of dollars… I can tell you, the kinds of things I’ve accomplished were all because of America.”
52 years after moving to the US, Schwarzenegger said he wants that opportunity for everyone, be that in regards to education, employment, banking, or beyond.
And while the former Governor said he believes that change is possible, if only there exists a willingness for Republicans and Democrats to sit down together to craft a plan, he said he worries that just like when he moved to America in 1968, politicians won’t actually hear the calls of those currently calling for justice.
Next, the conversation shifted to matters of the personal variety.
First, quarantine life, which Schwarzenegger has spent alongside a very unique group of pets, most notably a miniature horse named Whiskey, and a donkey called Lulu.
“It’s so wonderful when you have animals around you, and they play with you, and they do funny things, and they roam around the house,” Schwarzenegger said. “I’m very fortunate that I can afford animals like that, or have the space for animals like that, or have the time now because of the coronavirus where I can stay home most of the time.”
During that time at home, Whiskey and Lulu have become a pair of unlikely viral stars, garnering millions of views as they explore, eat, play chess, and even work out with Schwarzenegger.
“It’s so much fun to watch this, and see this energy… I think, in a way, it’s also therapeutic,” Schwarzenegger said of his pets, adding that given the hardships plaguing people across the globe, he’s happy his animal videos can help spread a little cheer.
While his pets celebrate their newfound fame, Schwarzenegger is celebrating two milestones of his own, the first being his recent 73rd birthday.
Michaelson asked Schwarzenegger what turning 73 meant to him.
“Every year we get older, and the key thing is not to make too many alterations in your life,” Schwarzenegger said. “To try to stay fit and to try and stay healthy, that’s the important thing, and to continue on working, to continue on with our passions.”
Despite saying the key is limiting the amount of alterations in your life, Schwarzenegger is preparing for a major alteration, the birth of his first grandchild.
Schwarzenegger’s eldest daughter, Katherine, announced in April that she and husband Chris Pratt are expecting.
“It’s going to be really, really exciting… I’m really looking forward for Katherine to pop out that baby and to deliver,” Schwarzenegger said, adding that he’s also looking forward to learning whether the baby is a boy or a girl, since Katherine continued the family tradition of waiting to find out the baby’s gender.
While discussing the new arrival, Schwarzenegger also had kind words for his son-in-law.
“Chris Pratt is a fantastic son-in-law,” Schwarzenegger said. “He’s very, very disciplined with his work, he’s wonderful to Katherine, and to Maria, and to me, and we have a great relationship with him, he’s really a great, great guy.”
The conversation wrapped up with Schwarzenegger giving his advice to a nation currently divided on a number of fronts.
“The key thing for us is that we must come together as a nation,” he said. “We must come together, Democrats and Republicans must realize that the other side are not villains, just because you have a different ideology, or just because you see things differently, you have a different background, it makes no difference, you have to sit together, and talk, and discuss, and debate, and work things out, and come to conclusions, and fix things.”
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.