Does The Terminator Have A Future In Politics?

Host Michel Martin and the Beauty Shop ladies discuss Arnold Schwarzenegger's tell-all memoir. The book details his highs and lows, including fathering a child with his housekeeper. The ladies also weigh in on IKEA's decision to leave women out of catalogs in Saudi Arabia.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, veteran CNN journalist T.J. Holmes has turned in his 24 hour news junkie card for a new schedule. He's hosting a new late night talk program on BET. It's called "Don't Sleep." We'll ask him what the new show is all about. That's a little later in the program.

But first, it's time for the Beauty Shop. That's where we get a fresh look at the week's news with a panel of women writers, journalists and commentators.

Sitting in their chairs for a new do this week are Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief of the website the Wise Latina Club. Natalie Hopkinson is contributing editor for TheRoot.com. She's also the author of "Go-Go Live." That's a new social history of Washington, D.C. Also with us, Bridget Johnson, Washington, D.C. editor for P.J. Media. That's a conservative libertarian commentary and news website.

They're all here in Washington, D.C., and with us from St. Paul, Minnesota, Ana Marie Cox, political correspondent for the Guardian. She's also the founder of the political blog Wonkette.

Welcome back, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

VIVIANA HURTADO: Thanks for having us.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: So I want to get...

BRIDGET JOHNSON: Good to be here.

MARTIN: I want to get started by talking about former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's been getting around on television and radio to talk about his memoir, "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True" - or so he says - "Life Story." He says he's recalling it all, his use of steroids as a bodybuilder, his life as a Hollywood action star, and it also covers his political career and how his marriage to Maria Shriver collapsed after the revelation that he fathered a child with his housekeeper and then concealed it for more than a decade.

He's really been out there pushing the book, as we said, doing all kinds of media, from "The Daily Show" to NPR's TALK OF THE NATION, but just to set the table, I'm going to play a short clip from his interview with "60 Minutes"'s Lesley Stahl, which appeared, of course, on Sunday night. This is where she points out that he doesn't seem to feel bad about his affair. At least he didn't say that he felt bad about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: You know, I did feel bad about it, but I mean all of my various different things - there were mistakes and there's this, you know - my failure, my screw-ups.

LESLEY STAHL: Was that the only affair?

SCHWARZENEGGER: No. I had others, but I mean - but you know, that's something that's obviously between Maria and me.

STAHL: She knew?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah.

STAHL: So it's a recurring issue with you?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm not perfect.

MARTIN: Well, Bridget Johnson, I'm going to start with you, much to your chagrin, because this is your home state.

JOHNSON: Yes.

MARTIN: So I have two questions for you. One, do you care? And, two, does he have any political career after this? Because it does seem as though that's part of the agenda here, and it is worth remembering that at one point there was even talk about trying to change the Constitution because Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a naturalized citizen, cannot run - is not eligible to run for president. There really was talk about - and also for Jennifer Granholm, too, who was born overseas as well, is not eligible to run for president.

So do you care and does he have any future?

JOHNSON: That is a flashback to the old days, talking about when they wanted to change the Constitution for him. I remember those days well. I guess this is the time to confess that I voted for him in the recall versus Gray Davis.

But politically, you know, he didn't do a very good job with California. He tried to forge a lot of bipartisan consensus, but then just didn't really have the same muscle that he has in the movies to try and get something done there. But - and you know, for him to say, this is between me and Maria - well, it's also between TMZ, you know, and so I know that he's hoping for some sort of personal redemption with Maria too, and personal and/or political redemption might - might be possible if he didn't seem so hell bent on humiliating Maria by going on all these shows. Oh yeah. By the way, I also slept with Flavor Flav's ex. Let's just, you know, add that to the list. You know, it's just a messy situation.

MARTIN: Ana Marie Cox, do you care?

ANA MARIE COX: No. I mean I was just thinking, like, I - yeah, I remember that brief moment when we talked about changing the Constitution so that the Terminator could be president. It seems like - it seems like a fever dream. You know, I mean I think that the whole - his whole memoir, the fact that he was able to use a movie catch phrase title as the title of his memoir, I mean says a lot about his place in the culture.

He was - as far as I know, you know, he did try to be a bipartisan governor. I think he treated the office of governor with some refreshing irreverence, let's say, but he also treated his marriage with a lot of irreverence. He has, I think, come back to his place in the firmament of our sort of like political and social, you know, constellation, and that's where he probably should stay.

I mean I think I'm interested in reading the biography just because I think he can be very funny, but you know, his place in our political future is probably not a very high level place, and that's - that's fine with me, I guess.

MARTIN: The reason I keep - I'm expressing some skepticism about whether this is total recall or not is that there are a number of reports that have come out that say that his timeline of when he claims he disclosed this and when he knew and when Maria knew (unintelligible) is completely false, and so there are - that's one reason why I just want to sort of flag that there are credible reports that what he's claiming to be the timeline is not it at all.

Viviana, what's your take on this? I also think it is worth - just from a political standpoint, that you could make an argument that he saved the Republican Party in California after the former governor, Pete Wilson, almost destroyed it, particular - given his anti-immigrant initiatives...

HURTADO: Exactly.

MARTIN: ...which completely...

HURTADO: Proposition 187, which many of us remember.

MARTIN: ...just soured his standing with the Republican Party with the...

HURTADO: Exactly.

MARTIN: ...Latino voters and other immigrant voters, so...

HURTADO: Exactly.

JOHNSON: If I can jump in on that really quick.

MARTIN: Very briefly.

JOHNSON: I think it's important. Steve Schmidt was his advisor on that. Steve Schmidt, who's also the advisor - who was a big advisor for him in California in sort of reshaping that narrative of the GOP; Steve Schmidt, who was also one of the senior advisors of the McCain-Palin campaign, who now commentates on MSNBC. But I know that his role in that is sort of interesting in seeing how the GOP's going now and how Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a part of that future now.

MARTIN: Hmm. Interesting. Viviana?

HURTADO: I'm going to take, actually, a really personal take because that's the one that really interested me the most as I watched with horror every single time he uttered a word on the "60 Minutes" interview with Lesley Stahl. And that's that he said hasta la vista, baby, to a lot of women while he was living with Maria Shriver for many years before they got married and during their marriage.

And so fathering his love child with their housekeeper, Mildred Baena, was just really the most egregious example throughout their long relationship. And certainly not judging any woman, it just really surprised me that Maria Shriver, a woman who I've always associated with being incredibly successful - she's a Kennedy, she was an NBC correspondent - seemed to not only know about this behavior, but condone it.

And so I think it added - it's just is the age-old what do you do when you're a woman, no matter who you are, no matter your station in life, when you're just so in love with this man? Or was it a relationship of convenient? I don't know, but it really, I think, complicated for me this view of - that I had of Maria Shriver as an incredibly successful woman. And echoing what was said already in this roundtable, I just found that that "60 Minutes" interview really humiliated Maria.

MARTIN: Hmm. Interesting. Let's let Natalie in here. Natalie, go ahead.

HOPKINSON: Well, I also think that it is - it's Arnold's failing. It's not hers. I mean, she's not - he needs to take responsibility for himself and, you know, we have many examples in popular and political life. There are marriages of convenience. I mean Hillary Clinton has kept it stepping and, you know, it's one of these, you know, human things that I think is having less of an impact for voters.

You know, there's always people - politicians can always come back. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger was somebody who I never took seriously. I thought it was a joke from beginning to end and the fact that he made it really makes me think that maybe he has more political skills than maybe we give him credit for.

MARTIN: Well, let me just say this about - no one knows what really goes on within a relationship except the people who are in it, but to the Hillary Clinton point, it is noteworthy that Maria Shriver - it's been reported - is also being offered a lot of media jobs now that - has been very well received, at least by the media organizations who would like to give her another opportunity, which echoes the fact that Hillary Clinton's popularity was never higher than when the former president, Bill Clinton's behavior was revealed.

I do want to make a point, though, about this behavior. He says that affairs are between him and Maria Shriver. That's fine. Sexual harassment, however, is between him and the law. And what I find disturbing is that there's not a lot of conversation here about his behavior toward women colleagues, which was starting to be reported during his first campaign for governor, but never really...

HURTADO: And Maria came out against it.

MARTIN: Yeah. Never - but implying that this was their personal business. Well, if you are putting your hands on electricians, you know, directors, ADs, people who have to work in your space with you - I mean we're not talking about maybe being a little too touchy-touchy in a love scene with a fellow actor. But we're talking about women who are, as I said, paid to be staffers in these movie sets, and there were credible reports at the time, women who came out at great risk to their careers.

And it's always bothered me that her friends in the media don't seem to have had any interest in pursuing these allegations fairly. And what does that say about these other professional women who put their careers on the line to come forward because they thought it was important? And that's the piece of this that I still don't feel like I've heard anything about and I'm - I'll just (unintelligible).

So anyway, if you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin and you're listening to our Beauty Shop roundtable. We're joined by Natalie Hopkinson, contributing editor for TheRoot.com; Ana Marie Cox, political correspondent for the Guardian; Viviana Hurtado blogs at The Wise Latina Club; and Bridget Johnson is editor at P.J. Media, that's a conservative libertarian online media outlet.

So let's turn to news from the presidential race. Ahead of tonight's debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney offered some new thoughts on immigration, telling the Denver Post that he would not deport the young undocumented immigrants who have signed up for President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan. He says that if you've already received this consideration, he's not going to revoke it, but he's not going to offer this to anybody else.

And, you know - I don't know, Viviana, what do you think about that?

HURTADO: Well, I think I'm not surprised that he said it in Denver, Colorado, which is certainly one of the battleground states and where the Latino voting population may end up making a difference for this presidential election. But I think it's also really interesting to note that, this week the latest Latino decisions poll came out, which consistently shows the polling that President Obama is up on Governor Romney by a two to one margin.

And so I think really the big question for a lot of Latino voters is, which Mitt Romney would show up if he in fact wins on election day and moves into the White House in January? Is it going to be Mitt Romney who has been showing a bit of a compassionate side since the Univision forums, now in the Denver, Colorado Post newspaper towards immigration, certainly with this - you know, keeping with the president's deferral action for Dreamers, you know, one bit of a more compassionate stance? Or is it going to be the Mitt Romney who has as an informal advisor, Kris Kobach, one of the authors of the most restrictive immigration laws in the country, Arizona SB1070, among others?

There is a distress and I think that - among Latino voters for Mitt Romney and I think that that's reflected in the polling.

MARTIN: I should have disclosed here that you are also - you have, in addition to your blogging work - that you're working with Project Vote to do outreach to Latino voters. I think it's important for people to know that as well.

Bridget, what's your take?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm going to brand it a semi-pander. You know that it's not going to get you Latino votes, but it's also kind of the smart and necessary move to do. You know, as he saw, self-deport as an immigration policy didn't exactly win him many fans and we're not just talking Latino voters, but people in the middle, you know, who have more of a compassionate, moderate stance on immigration.

MARTIN: Who think it's just illogical.

JOHNSON: Right.

MARTIN: They just don't believe that 12 million people are going to just self-deport.

JOHNSON: Right. And so saying that you're going to get tough on immigration is one thing, but you've got to tread carefully when you're talking about kids who were brought here. So he knows that the real amendment of Obama's order is going to have to be DREAM Act in the legislative arena. It's going to have to be Latino members on the GOP pushing through a bill, forging consensus with the Senate and then coming to a solution that way.

MARTIN: Natalie, what do you think? I mean you've mentioned that - if you don't mind our mentioning that you were born in Canada. Is that right?

HOPKINSON: Yes.

MARTIN: Unfortunately, you can't be president either. Sorry.

HOPKINSON: No, I can't.

MARTIN: Start a constitutional amendment for you.

HOPKINSON: Right. That's why I was pulling for Arnold to get that.

MARTIN: Pave the way for you.

HOPKINSON: So I still had a chance. But - yeah. I mean I think that, you know, coming at this very late stage of the campaign, like it's kind of shocking to me. I mean, these are some of the policy positions that we'd much rather have heard much earlier in the campaign so that we could have really made informed choices about who we're going to pick in November.

So you know, for him to come now and sort of make this statement is - it seems like - I'd give it full pander.

MARTIN: You'd give it full pander?

HOPKINSON: Yeah.

MARTIN: Ana Maria Cox, what about you?

COX: It's funny. I was just - I would give it a full pander as well, although not a very - I mean it depends on how you judge pander, is whether it's successful or not. It's not a very successful one. I think that's...

MARTIN: Because many people made the argument that the president announcing through executive action the deferred action plan this close to the election, too. I mean it was a couple of months ago, so the process has had time to move forward.

COX: Yeah.

MARTIN: People would give that a semi or a full pander too.

JOHNSON: Yes.

COX: That's right. I mean people would.

MARTIN: Bridget says she would, for sure.

COX: Yeah. I think that was more successful and, actually, you know, I mean, at the Univision forum Obama got a lot of really tough questions on his immigration stance. He has deported more people under his presidency than any other president, I believe, in recent time. Definitely more than George Bush. And that's been a big problem for his appeal in the Latino community, but unfortunately his problem in appealing to the Latino community is not larger than Mitt Romney's.

You know, I mean I think that they both might have a little bit of a struggle, but Obama can turn to - other policies can turn to this - not the sort of, like, head fake DREAM Act thing that this was and seek some appeal. I mean I think Mitt Romney is starting from zero almost.

I mean I think the Latino conservative - I don't want to call it - but there is definitely - I mean there is a natural sympathy in some Latino communities and in some demographics in that community for the conservative cause and I know people like Karl Rove, for instance, have actually argued - been arguing for a long time that that's such a natural partnership, that the GOP should be doing much better with Latinos.

MARTIN: Actually, before that. I mean Lee Atwater made that point well...

COX: Yeah.

MARTIN: Long before Karl Rove made that point, Lee Atwater made the point that Latinos should be a fertile ground for the GOP.

Before we go, we just have one more thing we've got to ask you about. Natalie, we'll go to you first on this. IKEA, the Scandinavian furniture and home accessories store, has come under fire because it - somebody figure this. There are no secrets in the modern world and economy. The company removed female images that appeared in catalogs which were distributed in Saudi Arabia. OK. I didn't get mine. Mine was lost in the mail.

But - so Natalie, what about it? I mean, do you think it's just a major flub or just, you know, when in Rome do as the Romans do, you know?

HOPKINSON: Well, I mean I do find it sexist to do this, but I mean that's looking at my American lens and my - this - you know, I'm dealing with the cultural norms that are here. And, when you're doing business in other countries, you have to - if you're trying to sell them stuff, I mean you can't - you know, you're not in a position of dictating what's going to be acceptable to them.

So I don't find it to be - I mean I think that it was, you know, unfortunate, but I can understand why they would do it and I don't see why, like - I mean I think companies like Google in China - they're making a lot of the same choices, you know, in trying to keep growing their bases...

MARTIN: OK.

HOPKINSON: ...to sell stuff.

MARTIN: Viviana, a final thought from you, very briefly?

HURTADO: I'm going to take a revolutionary lens, not a woman or a cultural American lens. I'm going to take a furniture lens and I say let's just Photoshop all human beings from furniture catalogs like West Elm does and focus on the beautiful furniture.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. Bridget, you're like what? You're like - you love IKEA.

JOHNSON: No, no.

MARTIN: You're just verklempt because you love it so much, you can't even talk.

JOHNSON: No.

MARTIN: What?

JOHNSON: I wanted to stand up for women's rights here and say there's little reason to respect a culture that wants women to disappear.

MARTIN: OK.

JOHNSON: Saudi women are driving and getting arrested for it and so we should stand behind women trying to attain equal rights instead of trying to sell futons to wahhabists.

MARTIN: All right. OK. Thank you. Bridget Johnson is the Washington, D.C. editor for P.J. Media, the conservative libertarian commentary and news website who's finally come out of her shell, tell us how she really feels. Viviana Hurtado is blogger-in-chief at the website the Wise Latina Club. She's also a spokesperson for Project Vote, working on Hispanic outreach. Ana Marie Cox is a political correspondent for the Guardian. She joined us from Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul. Also here in D.C., Natalie Hopkinson, contributing editor for TheRoot.com.

Thank you all so much.

HURTADO: Thanks, Michel.

HOPKINSON: Thanks.

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