President Schwarzenegger?

Calif. Governor Tells <B><I>60 Minutes</B></I> He'd Like To Run For Office

It's been a year and a half since Californians recalled their governor, Gray Davis, and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace him.

When Correspondent Morley Safer first reported on this story last October, Gov. Schwarzenegger (The Governator, as some called him) was riding high.

His straight talk, his promise to balance the state budget, and the sheer, unpolitical way he seemed to practice the art of politics seemed to have endeared him to the electorate.

Well, the honeymoon seems to be over. In a recent poll, Schwarzenegger's approval rating had dropped to 37 percent.

Californians are no longer amused by his macho-man approach. And he's feeling a touch of the Gray Davis disease, backtracking on a number of his pet projects.

But barely six months ago, Schwarzenegger was on top of the world.

Why did he do it? Had he become bored, fed up with acting?

"All of a sudden, I realized that, you know, I've done this. I've gotten to the top. I have done huge action movies. I've done all of those different things," says Schwarzenegger.

"So I said to myself, you know, 'I'm tired of the same things.' You know. Jumping over car hoods at three in the morning. And then going up to someone and says, 'I'm back.' You know and then blow him away or something. So all of this is great. But I mean, eventually it gets old."

Leaving the fantasy of Hollywood for the buttoned-down world of politics in Sacramento was not all that big a step. Both places have big egos. Both spend big money, and both are often economical with the truth. In politics, stardom works – but only up to a point.

"As the kind of movie star that you were, certainly you could be a dictator," says Safer. "You could say, 'I want it,' and it got done. You can't do that now."

"You're absolutely correct," says Schwarzenegger. "And now this is different. But look, this is the great thing about it, about adjusting from one career to the next. And the key thing always is, is to keep your eye on the ball."

Safer points out that it took a lot of balls to go cold turkey into politics.

"Yes ... But, you know, I've never had a lack of that," replies the governor with a laugh. "So, may I remind you. It makes no difference to me. Because I always say, 'What's the worst that could happen?' That you fail ... That's really not that bad."

60 Minutes first met Schwarzenegger two careers back, in 1977, when he was 30 and the king of the musclemen.

At the time, he said, "Through bodybuilding, I did a lot of things. You know, I mean, I got into the films …"

Even then, he now says, he was itching to move on.

"One day I stood there on the stage," recalls Schwarzenegger. "And I said, 'Why am I standing here with my little posing trunks, oiled up, trying to be the most muscular man? Why?'"

He was always a quick study. Back then he had already figured out the key element to his success — in bodybuilding, in the movies and in politics: "You can have the best product in the world but if you don't know how to sell it, and if you don't, if you don't have anybody who can sell it for you or tell the public, it's a waste of time, the whole thing."

Today, Safer tells him, "I guess you kind of proved your point, yes?"

"Oh, absolutely," replies Schwarzenegger. "And I still say that. Selling and communicating to the people is the most important thing ... You can't learn it. You have it or you don't have it."

He's clearly got it, to the consternation of critics who doubted he could survive in the cutthroat world of politics. In terminating his highly unpopular predecessor, Democrat Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger's timing, once again, was perfect.

"You could not have asked for a better opponent than Gray Davis — who was right on the ropes at that time," says Safer.

"He was a jewel," says Schwarzenegger, with a laugh. "He was good. I agree with you."

After a year in office, Schwarzenegger says he would score himself an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.

"I think I fell short on some of the things. Probably the communications with the legislators," he explains.

He hit a rough patch with lawmakers during the summer, delivering a remark that was pure Arnold: "I hope that those who want to sell out to the special interests, those girlie men up there in Sacramento ..."

Girlie men. During a deadlock in budget talks, he aimed the line at Democrats in the legislature. Their leader, John Burton, was among those who thought the remark insulting. And Burton was in no mood to deal with the governor, saying, "Why would I possibly call him? What are you people, nuts? (pretends to hold phone to ear) 'Hi, this is the scumbag, girlie boy. How you doin'? Give my best to the kids.'"

"It drove them nuts," says Schwarzenegger. "But the interesting thing about it is, the following week they signed the budget exactly the way it was a week before."

He was trying, he says, to underscore his belief that the legislature was on an out-of-control spending spree, putting special interests ahead of the public good.

"I say, if you have the balls, you will go out there and say this to the people. If not, then you're a girlie man," he explains. "That's really what it's all about. I think they should have the guts to say that."