It seemed, at first, that Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t cut out for politics. Surely, Californians thought back in 2003, the Terminator would realize that making $10 million per movie to eat caviar in Hollywood would be a lot more fun than balancing a budget in Sacramento. But what do you know? Arnold stuck it out—seven years in the governor’s mansion, even winning reelection once.
Yet what would be a great story of a celebrity actually succeeding in politics actually isn’t. Arnold leaves office with a statewide approval rating of 23 percent. Most of the reforms that he promised when he stormed Sacramento flopped, and all the times he tried to compromise over blazing a partisan path ended up backfiring (a reality Arnold freely laments as a fault of America’s political system that rewards partisanship). On a Nightline report Wednesday night, the governor told co-anchor Terry Moran that, frankly, he understood why people were angry with him. “It’s perfectly fine,” he said. “I understand the mood and I don’t blame the people for being upset at what’s going on.”
Private life, then, must sound pretty nice for the embattled governor. But Arnold says that he’s “in [his] element” in office, and wants to sprint to the finish.
The big question for the man with big muscles and an even bigger name is what he’ll do next. He refused to answer questions about his next move, saying that he won’t think about it until the day he leaves office. Privately, however, he must have given it some thought. Having already conquered weightlifting, the silver screen, and the highest political office he could constitutionally hold, it’s anyone’s best guess what he’ll focus on next. A university lecturer? An elder statesman with hefty speaking fees? The next American Idol judge?
It’s possible he’d do all of the above to rebuild his brand. Or maybe, by now, he’d rather sit at home and let history speak for itself.