Arnold For President...Of Austria?

Marry a Kennedy and your thoughts eventually turn to politics÷at least that's what we're being led to believe. The New York Post reports Arnold Schwarzenegger "appears to be preparing to be the next president of Austria." Yup, you heard right. The man who raised the action-hero one-liner to an art form (e.g. "I'll be back.") may have political ambitions in his native land.
According to the paper, Schwarzenegger, who lives in Los Angeles with his newscaster wife, Maria Shriver, and their four children, holds dual citizenship in the United States and Austria. His mother still resides there, and her companion, Alfred Gerstal, whom Arnold calls "Uncle," is head of the upper house of the Austrian parliament.
"The guy has ambitions. There is no doubt about it," Austrian diplomat Hans Janitschek tells the paper's Page Six. "And I think he has a better chance of getting elected president of Austria than he does governor of California." As you know, Arnold can't be commander-in-chief because he wasn't born on American soil.
Explains Janitschek, "Schwarzenegger is a beloved figure in Austria. People are proud of him." He's not exaggerating. Last year, the former muscleman turned Terminator star was on hand for the dedication of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium in his hometown of Graz. "I always dreamed as a child of being a bodybuilder and of going to Hollywood," the former Mr. Universe told the cheering crowd, "but I never dreamed I would make it this big."
And the star created quite a stir recently when he attended the inauguration of two-time-president Thomas Klestil, who cannot run again once his term is over in 2004. Arnold was seated next to his longtime friend Kurt Waldheim, the former Austrian president and general-secretary of the United Nations whose career was halted when revelations of his Nazi background came to light. "He will be the crown of our country," wrote one columnist of Schwarzenegger. "Let him enjoy his success in the world in little Austria."
The paper speculates that Schwarzenegger, like Waldheim and Klestil, is a member of the just-right-of-center People's Party, and says that in order to win the election, he'd have to have the backing of the extreme right Freedom Party, led by Joerg Haider. The Post says this could create some problems, since Haider's picture hangs next to Idi Amin's and David Duke's on the Demagogue Wall in the Museum of Tolerance in the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The rub? Schwarzenegger is a major contributor to the center, and last November took a politically charged tour of it with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A few years ago, while touring the center, Haider, best known for some pro-Nazi comments he made that he later claimed were misinterpreted and exaggerated, reportedly spotted the picture and became outraged, reported the Los Angeles Times. He called on Schwarzenegger to help get the picture removed. Arnold phoned the center, and officials explained the reasons why Haider was included. According to one official, the star called Haider and allegedly said, "You're on the wall because you deserve to be there."
Of course, whether Schwarzenegger decides to pick up stakes and move overseas remains to be seen. He's not commenting on his alleged Austrian political ambitions, and right now, his immediate plans including heading back in front of the camera this October to battle the devil in the big-budget supernatural thriller The End of Days. --




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