| Arnold Schwarzenegger at a restaurant in Gorman, California. (Reuters)
Fresno (California), Oct. 4 (Reuters): Like a film superhero who miraculously survives knife, gun and grenade attacks, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was still going strong in his campaign to become California governor today after battling back allegations of sexual misconduct and Nazi sympathies.
As enthusiastic crowds greeted the former Mr Universe on his bus tour across the state that ends in Sacramento tomorrow, the Republican front-runner wondered aloud why he was facing attacks on his past behaviour and statements in the final days of what many have called an extraordinary political circus.
“One wonders what the motivation of all this is, why I’m getting thrown all this stuff three days before” the vote, Schwarzenegger said. “Where have they been the last 20 years, 10 years, five years'”
In the Tuesday vote, Californians will decide whether they will oust governor Gray Davis in only the second such recall in US history. The second part of the ballot lists 135 replacement candidates, of which political neophyte Schwarzenegger has emerged as the front runner in the same state that elevated actor Ronald Reagan to governor. Nothing about the campaign has followed any predictable political storyline.
Yesterday, the Schwarzenegger campaign handed out a statement quoting the actor as expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler in 1975 — and in doing so aides were hoping to qualm concerns about the Austrian-American’s attitudes about Nazism by providing a wider context for the quote.
“I don’t see how anyone can admire Adolf Hitler,” governor Davis told ABC television. “Any decent American has to be offended by that phrase. Adolf Hitler did nothing but shock our conscience, destroy millions of Jews and non-Jews, and is an abomination to any decent American.”
The actor’s experienced staff of Republican operatives were hoping the campaign statement would provide a wider context for Schwarzenegger’s remark on Hitler — and eliminate further questions on the issue — following New York Times and ABC News reports that re-ignited concerns about his past.
The document quoted Schwarzenegger’s close friend, documentary filmmaker George Butler, who helped cement the bodybuilder’s legend in the 1970s with the film and book Pumping Iron.
“I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power,” Butler quoted the actor as saying in transcripts from 1975-6 outtakes for the film.
“And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn’t admire him for what he did with it.”