He’s been a governor, a movie star and the world’s greatest body builder, but Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t done yet.
The man who never tires of telling people he’ll be back returned again Monday, this time as a global policy wonk and statesman dedicated to leading America into what he calls a new post-partisan era.
Schwarzenegger, in a dark suit, crisp white shirt and red tie, appeared at the University of Southern California to officially launch the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy with a symposium featuring some of the most notable names in politics and entertainment.
For the former Republican governor, the symposium marked a sudden public re-emergence after leaving office nearly two years ago with a mixed record that he suggested Monday accomplished about half of what he had set out to do.
He’s hoping that through the institute, created with a $20 million commitment from Schwarzenegger and others, he can accomplish the rest, tackling issues such as hunger, health care and global warming.
He’ll also take an active role in teaching at USC. The institute’s academic director, Nancy Staudt, referred to him several times as Professor Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger is also publishing his autobiography next week and has a pair of movies in post-production. One of them, “The Tomb,” co-stars his old buddy Sylvester Stallone.
His return to the spotlight will also include a segment on “60 Minutes” to promote the book and discuss, among other things, the affair he had with his nanny that resulted in a son out of wedlock and destroyed his marriage to Maria Shriver.
No mention was made of the scandal when he moved out of the governor’s office at the end of 2010 and left his successor, Jerry Brown, with a huge budget deficit.
At Monday’s symposium, attended by 700 people, no questions were taken during the first panel of the day, which featured Schwarzenegger in an hour-long discussion of partisan politics that was moderated by Cokie Roberts and featured Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-N.D., and others.
Schwarzenegger made a brief reference to Shriver’s politics when he said cooperation among Republicans and Democrats is key to solving the nation’s problems.
“I never looked at the Democrats as villains,” said Schwarzenegger. “Remember, I was married to a Democrat for 25 years.”
Schwarzenegger called repeatedly during the discussion for bipartisan cooperation, as McCain called the current presidential campaign the most bitter he has ever observed.
“You cannot just do it my way or the highway. I tried that and I failed,” Schwarzenegger said at one point, noting his lack of success when he tried early in his administration to bypass the state Legislature by bringing his agenda directly to the voters in a series of failed ballot initiatives.
Overall, however, he painted a bright picture of his time as governor. During his welcoming remarks, he said his administration took the lead in pushing to stem global warming, provide health care to its citizens, and rebuild the state’s infrastructure while the federal government was gridlocked on those issues.
He also noted that California committed $3 billion to stem cell research when he was governor and created an independent, citizen-led commission to more fairly draw state legislative districts.
He said he wants the Schwarzenegger Institute to continue to take on those issues and others, collaborating with innovators of all political backgrounds to come up with solutions for the problems of the nation and the world.
“No ideology has a monopoly on solutions,” he said.
Schwarzenegger showed he could still charm a crowd with one-liners, even though he didn’t use his signature phrase, “I’ll be back,” or even the modified version, “I’m back,” from his latest action film, “The Expendables 2.”
Introduced by USC President C.L. Max Nikias, who called him a larger than life hero, Schwarzenegger said, “Thank you for that fantastic introduction, President Nikias, that’s exactly how I wrote it.”