tv Arnold Schwarzenegger on Richard Nixon and the Environment CSPAN December 21, 2020 3:57pm-4:35pm EST
in 1881 between james buchanan and abraham lincoln, and in 1953, herbert hoover and roosevelt. enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. the environmental protection agency launched 50 years ago this month during the richard nixon administration. to mark the anniversary, nixon foundation president hugh hewitt interviews former california governor arnold schwarzenegger about president nixon's environmental record and the role such decisions had on his political career. pleased to welcome now, former governor of california arnold schwarzenegger here to celebrate richard nixon, the
found of the epa 50 years ago. governor, good to see you again. how are you? >> good to see you. i think we've done many interviews before, so it's great to see you again, yes. >> i opened your campaign, i barnstormed with you. you left me standing out in the rain a couple times in october of 2003 when you were delayed, so i think i heard twisted sister a lot more than you did, actually, governor. >> but look what happened after you hung out in the rain, you grew. just like a plant. you grew. you got bigger and better. >> but what's interesting, first time i ever met you, you will not recall this because i was just a functionary to richard nixon at the nixon library when we were hoping it in 1990, and you came to open it with president nixon. i don't even know how you came to be connected with president nixon, so before we get to the epa and the green stuff, let's get to that. >> i was always a big fan of richard nixon. i think i have talked about this even in my republican speech at the republican convention in 2004, how i became a republican
because of richard nixon. i happened to move to this country from austria in 1968, which was like a month before the finals, before the actual election, presidential election year. so i listened to hubert humphrey talk about his policies and the things he wants to do in the future if he becomes president, and then i listened to richard nixon. and i was very lucky that i had this friend, a jewish friend of mine that spoke german fluently. and he translated for me because my english wasn't good enough, and he was telling me what they were all proposing, and then i said, well, this richard nixon, what party is he in? and he said, well, he's a republican. and i said, well, i think, then, i will be a republican, because this sounds so fantastic what he was talking about. free trade, and he was talking about getting government off your back, and he was talking
about no taxes and decrease the taxes, strong military and, you know, personal freedoms and all of this kind of stuff. i said, oh, my god, that sounds so refreshing, so great in compared to what humphrey was talking about. it was like he was campaigning in austria for socialism or something like that. that's when i became a big fan of nixon, and of course, when he came into office and became president, i became an even bigger fan of his because i saw the action. also what was amazing was he saw so many things in people's issues rather than as a political issue. so i stayed to be a fan and always talked about him. eventually i went down to the nixon library, and then they invited me to come to this event. i went there for the first time. i actually met president nixon and we hung out together, and i remember that he took me into his office down there, and we were talking about policy and about i told him i was a big fan
of his and why i thought his policies and beliefs were so much up my alley. then he said to me, you know, you are very particular about policies and politics. you should run for governor. so he was actually the first one that proposed the idea to me, which was really interesting because he said, you are fantastic. that was it. then we had a great conversation, took some pictures with some of the comedians, and bob hope was one of them that was there, i remember. then he says, okay, i have to go out and do a little speech. he says, why don't you come with me and you can hang out with me. so i just went out there, then he gave his speech to all of the -- i think it was like 1,500 people or so. the nixon library was packed.
then out of nowhere, without ever telling me, he said, now i want to introduce my friend arnold schwarzenegger. he said, he's a great actor, this and that, and he's a good republican. arnold, do you want to say a few words? i didn't get any warning or anything like that at all from him. then i went and told the story of how i became a nixon fan and how i became a republican because of richard nixon and stuff. i kind of told this to the audience, and they applauded, they liked it. it was really a terrific evening, and i just really have some great pictures and fond memories of meeting him and all that. >> i was backstage for that, i remember it happening, but i was backstage. i did watch, in order to prepare for the interview, your opening with nixon at usc. richard nixon's white house had a lot of democrats in it. he had a lot of spectrum of politics. when you staffed up, was that part of what was bothering you, was making sure everyone was
represented in your administration. >> i felt his presidency was very successful because he was so kind of open-minded in that way. it was like, you know -- i think lincoln was the first one that really hired, you know, to make part of his team people that actual lly campaigned against h. so i think the whole idea of having a diverse group, people that maybe don't agree with you but give you insight of a different point of view is is very healthy. richard nixon, when i saw him doing that, i was always a believer that that's a good idea and to be inclusive, and that's what i did when i became governor, then. i had democrats there, i had state people there, i had republicans there. obviously, it was a mantle of republicans but there were a few democrats there. and they were very helpful when we had discussions about various issues, to give me another point of view.
and especially it was important for me to have women around me, because that's another thing. it's not just republicans versus democrats, but women think differently so i wanted to hear their point of view, how they look at the issues. i think i had really great input of having a female chief of staff and having an environmentalist that was a woman, an expert in education at berkeley and those things. from a woman's point of view on all of those things, and from a man's point of i knew the man's point of view view. and i knew the republicans point of view, but i needed different points of view. richard nixon was a great inspiration in that area. >> before i turn to the environmental legacy of president nixon and you, behind me is my studio, and the map of ohio is embedded in my display because i'm from the buckeye state. the arnold sports festival was actually the canary in the mine for covid. it's the first thing i remember
being canceled with governor dewine and your support. do you hope it will be back on the agenda in the spring for columbus, arnold schwarzenegger? >> i hope the fitness festival will be back. if it will be back in march or if we delay it for a few months, we don't know yet because we don't know what will happen with the coronavirus and what effect it will have when we get the vaccine and all this, but ohio has been a fantastic place for the world championships in bodybuilding, and we have 88 sports activities there with 22,000 athletes every year. so it was really, like you said, the coronavirus made us really reduce down just the participants and spectators in the sports competitions, but not having the fitness expo anymore, which really attracts 250,000 people.
but we are going to continue. ohio is a great place to hold those competitions, and we, of course, want to create a good balance to keep people safe, to create an environment where we have large gatherings, but at the same time have the competition sometimes. we just have to wait and see when the experts in ohio say it's safe to do that, what we have planned to do. >> i just hope you keep it in the buckeye state, governor. let's go to the environment. we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of the epa today. we have administrator wheeler today. we spoke with former administrators before we talked to you. when you were governor, you became sort of the green governor. it surprised a lot of republicans. i among them. i was living in california then. i was like, what is arnold up to? i didn't know about the climate stuff. i didn't understand it. i'm not against climate stuff, i just didn't know that end of it. what did you champion for when you became governor? >> i think it has to do with what richard nixon and ronald reagan talked about. it was not so much about climate
change, even though this was information that was given to me when i became governor, and i met with the scientists and university leaders that dealt with this subject. but to me it was much more about smog and about pollution. and i remember ronald reagan created resources for that back in 1967, '68 because of pollution. he did not talk about climate change. we didn't even know about those kinds of things at that time. but it was pollution. he was a common-sense kind of man that said, look, i see pollution out there. i don't see a republican pollution or democratic pollution, i just see pollution, and i want to get rid of it. i think it's our responsibility to do something about it. the same is true with richard nixon. he felt the same way. look, i go out to california, they have the oil spills. remember in '68, '69, the oil
spills after he became president. he came out here and he inspected the hugest oil spill out here, and i remember walking around venice beach and having my feet always full of tar because of the oil spill and all this. so, he was concerned. it just showed you that he was concerned about, you know, keeping the world clean, keeping this country clean, getting rid of fossil fuels, and fighting those kinds of things that pollute our cities and our oceans, and our country. so, to me, it was about that. it was let's get rid of pollution, let's terminate pollution. a lot of times, that means getting rid of fossil fuels and switching over to renewables, some more common sense things, and then later on i got into the climate change that you saw what effect it's going to have in the future. but it was, you know, remarkable of how advanced, you know, those
guys were, like ronald reagan and richard nixon. richard nixon on a national level, if you think about it, we had already 1971 to celebrate earth week. the important thing that you're doing this program is that people really have to learn a little bit about the history. because most people, you know, they remember nixon from watergate. but this was to me what i remember nixon for is those kind of unbelievable, powerful visions that he had back in 1970 or '80 when he gave the state of the union address, and he talked about, you know, so eloquently about how we have to have 50%
success in the next ten years, but, he says, we cannot do it and be successful and, you know, ruin our environment. and we have to make sure that ten years from now, the president doesn't stand here and say we are 50% more successful, but we polluted the air, we polluted the water, and people got kind of, you know, overwhelmed with the noise pollution and this kind of thing. we have to protect all of that. and he even said the pollution will have a surprise attack of pollution. he was the first one to talk about these kinds of things. today maybe bernie sanders only talks about these kinds of things. it's wild to hear him talk about those kinds of things. i have listened to the speeches, read the speeches, and i think it's important for people to know the extraordinary work he did and how he sent the country on the right path and talked about the vision 50 years ago. 50 years ago. today you can literally have this speech -- if i were to deliver this speech, it would be my own beginning. then i would continue on with the nixon speech. i tell you, there would be no one that would say, wait a minute, this is an old speech. no. he had that grand kind of a
visionary and this is what i love about politicians when they're not just trying to get in there, get into office and win, but they actually have a vision of where they want to go, because then everything falls into place, because you know where you want to go. >> for those who do not know, president nixon signed the national environmental act, the clean air act, clean water act, the environmental species act and epa. >> in 1970 he formed the epa. this was 50 years ago. this is what's so extraordinary about all of this. >> the person who is being tipped to run the epa under president-elect biden is mary nichols, who i used to listen to when i was on the air south coast by pete nelson. mary was a young regulator. i'm sure you worked with her when you were governor. i'm sure mary nichols was
in your office, demanding more, or in your ear, demanding you do it this way. what do you think she'll do as an epa administrator? >> i hired mary nichols to run the resources created around ronald reagan. i hired her because ronald reagan was smart enough that he hired a scientist, one of the brightest people on this subject, he hired to lead the air resources at this time. it was not a political appointment. it was not a political hack or someone that took over. it was really an extra in resources, so i felt i should do exactly the same thing and i should follow through with it and really hired the number one expert. and mary nichols is fantastic. she, i got to become the head of the air resources board. since then, she has done such an extraordinary job. because as everyone knows, politicians get together and they negotiate, democrats and republicans, and then we come up with a very good legislation, let's say. but there is someone that has to
follow through. it's one thing to pass a law as we have seen now all over the world. in 2015, you know, cop 21 in paris, there was the paris agreement. the whole world signed on to this u.n. agreement that says we're going to reduce greenhouse gas by a percentage. congress itself decided what it can do. 25% of the countries did not follow through on their promises. that's a very sad story. and the reason they didn't follow through is because they didn't have an air resources board. after they make a promise, after they pass a law, they then need an agency, not a political agency, it just sees the problem. so our air and resources board was able to do the things we said, when i was governor, we're going to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% by the year 2020. the resources, and mary nichols
got it in 2018, two years earlier, we reduced our greenhouse gases. and when we passed the environmental law in california, everyone was screaming, this will ruin our economy, this will ruin jobs. well, look what happened. just last year, someone sent me a congratulatory note and said, mr. schwarzenegger, i just want you to know, you know when i was scared about the jobs, now we have the strongest environmental laws and we have the number one economy in the country. california is the most successful state in the union when it comes to gdp and revenues and all of this stuff. and we have the strictest environmental laws. so, it is very clear that we can do both. we can protect, like nixon says, we've got to go and move forward and be successful, but not at the expense of our environment. we have to protect our environment at the same time.
water, air, and all the things we talked about. mary nichols is a big, big star. i hope she gets to be head of the epa because she has fought with the oil companies, fought with the car companies. let me tell you what i was so impressed about with her, she is sensitive. she's a very sensitive woman. that means that when someone sits there from caterpillar and says, mary, we cannot make this for 2012. we need till 2016 in order to change the engines and to make it more efficient, because we have already started to work with all of this. we can't just throw everything away. she made the adjustment. she understands we cannot do those things from one year to the next. she listens to the automakers. she listens to everybody. we made the adjustments and really rolled it back. as a matter of fact, i remember when the obama administration
came in and says, can you guys -- and john kerry, senator kerry called me and said, can you guys change the standards from 2014 to 2016 and then we can do it nationwide? we said, of course. two years is not going to change much. i said let's do it nationwide. let's work with. so i think that mary nichols is brilliant. i think she would really be great, and she will be able to be a person that will work with the car companies and work with the fossil fuel companies and do it in a sensible way. >> it will be interesting, governor, when she gets here and takes over that agency whether or not she'll be concerned about the flip side which i'll come back to. president nixon's key environmental adviser was a guy named arnold beckman. in fact, it's the beckman foundation paying for today's event. he was a scientist first, concerned about air pollution, and he was in richard nixon's ear the whole time he was president. maybe in the way that mary was in your ear. but they build bureaucracies and sometimes bureaucracies are not
so good for the common person. you know that and i know that, even when you do a film shoot. bureaucracy can screw it up. do you think the bureaucracy has kept up with the science, governor? >> i would say that the majority of people in government are not really smart enough to make decisions. i think it's because they really don't have the interest in studying the facts, they have more interest in doing their little republican talking points or democratic talking points. to me i despise that. i think the most important thing is always -- when someone presents to me their opinion, i don't always agree with it, but i want to understand, what is the origin of that? is there something i'm missing here? i try to inform myself, because
inquiring minds need to know. we need to know everything. and so i just feel like today it's all just about how do we go and win a race, and how do we go and make things political. and it is really not helping this country at all, because we now have gotten to a point that we've gotten so political that when i said, for instance, to give you an example, i said, you know, i'm getting -- i'm 73 years old. i'm going to start eating less meat. i'm not going to stop eating meat but i'm going to eat less, going to 80% be vegan. they said come on now, you're becoming more and more liberal. i said, wait a minute. this is what the doctor is telling me. he didn't say i want you to change from a republican to a democrat, be liberal and, therefore, change your diet. this is not what he said. he said arnold, you're doing a great job. in order to keep it up, arteries
get clogged. go on a good, sound diet and you should eat less meat. can you do that? i said yeah, i'm going to do that. great athletes have told me about that. i can't go completely vegan because i go to austria and eat. they think i became a liberal. it's the same thing with the environment. how can you go and say this is a liberal idea when, as i said, there is no democratic air and there's no republican air. we all breathe the same air. there's no democratic water or republican water. we all drink the same water. so let's clean the water. let's do everything we can in our power to keep our water clean so we don't have to worry about when we turn on the faucet that maybe it's polluted water coming out.
>> in 2008 i was one of the panelists, and it was john kasich. in the green room when we were preparing for the debate, one of my panelists asked about global warming. i said, i'll tell you what the answer will be. it's a do you see any way out of that, but there is a talking point, just absolute deadlock. >> i think the key thing is republicans feel uncomfortable with the idea of global climate change. i said to john kasich and to others, don't use the grid, you don't have to use the grid. as if that is the sticking point, and if that makes you feel uncomfortable, talk about pollution. nixon didn't talk about pollution. climate change. nixon talked about pollution.
let us -- i say everyone will be on board with you. and i think that's an important thing for the republican party in the future, because you've got -- in california, i've seen it firsthand, how the republican party has lost women, in droves, because they did not address what were considered issues that women were more concerned about than guys because women are the creators of the family and the protectors of the family, and protectors of health. so, they were interested in california air, about pollution. they were concerned about health care. they were concerned about education. and the republican party in california didn't address those issues and work aggressively out there to take that off the table of the democrats and make it their kind of thing. so they lost that. and i'm just worried about what's going to happen nationwide when the republican party does not address those very important issues. they're people shalls and shouldn't be political issues. i would just say to republicans, in order to just not say i caved
in or anything like that, just say, look, i don't believe in climate change but i do want to get rid of pollution. >> governor, would you be willing to serve in a biden administration? >> look, my mother-in-law, eunice kennedy shriver, told me a long time ago never turn down of like a "true lies" tv series
about being a spy, a superspy with some comedy and action and all that stuff, which i'm really looking forward to. so i'm not looking for another political job or anything like that. what i'm looking for, basically, is just to be helpful. that's why we created the schwarzenegger institute and to have symposiums there and to have, you know, kind of at gatherings where the brightest minds come together and talk about these very important issues. if it is pollution, if it is health care, universal health care, or if it is political reform, if it is immigration reform. any of those kind of issues we discuss, or equality in america, which is another important issue that i think needs to be addressed. these are the kinds of things i'm interested in. and i just really want to be -- use my celebrity power to further those kinds of issues
rather than really furthering anything that has to do with politics. but it's issues, it's policies. sometimes politics gets in the way of really good policy. >> now independents can actually run statewide, governor. it's a jungle primary. it's whoever comes in first and second. any interest in the senate at all? that wasn't no. that was an i'm busy in 2021. that wasn't anything about 2022. >> i have no interest running for senator or running for anything, as far as that goes. >> wrong answer, governor, but okay. tell us about the future ahead for movies for you. i see "conan" is in production. i hope they'll make you the red skull in the marvel universe. there are lots of things you could do. what are you going to do besides a tv show? >> i'm doing a tv show, i'm doing an animated -- right now we are putting together an animated tv series which is for kids where it's a superhero kindergarten. it's kind of like the idea of
"kindergarten cop," the movie i did that was highly successful, but making it like where the kids are becoming, in the future, super heroes like the batmans and supermans and thor, all this. so now they're 5 years old and i have to teach them how to use their powers for something good rather than for something evil. of course, there are evil forces out there that will do the same thing to make the kids evil. there's confrontations and battles and all of this. it's really a lot of, lot of fun. i'm doing the voiceover. and i'm working with animators. we do the voice-over for that and my character for "kindergarten cop" is teaching this. i was an ex kind of superhero myself, now retired, and now i'm the teacher of these kindergarten kids that have superpowers. >> that's a good concept. let me close on politics. richard nixon, arnold schwarzenegger, ronald reagan,
pete wilson, three california governors, and a president. is the republican party in california dead? >> well, potentially no. potentially i think if there's good leadership there, they can come back. but you have to face the issues facing california. and i think the californian people are just an interesting mix of people. and i found out when i was governor. which means that they can be very, very conservative in some ways. like, for instance, voting for capital punishment. but at the same time, you know, they're very kind of liberal in some other ways, like with environmental issues. you can see very clearly that they are very concerned about pollution. they're very concerned about keeping the state clean, and keeping the country clean, and keeping the world clean. education. they are very concerned about education. these are the issues as i was talking earlier about, that the republican party would need to
address, and they need to come more to the center rather than being out there way to the right. it's perfectly fine to be to the right, but to be way to the right. it's perfectly fine. but you need, as a party, to also have a center and also, you know, a kind of a big tenth that ronald reagan and nixon always talked about. that's what made those candidates appealing. that's why those candidates, like nixon and reagan, became president, because they did it the california way. they have shown the way to the republican party of california what is the way to go. but, believe me, when i talked to ronald reagan, he told me he thought the republican party -- when i talked to nancy reagan, she was like, oh, my god, those guys are such lunatics. they fought with the republican party. she had kind of, you know, her own opinion about it. and then when you talk to pete wilson, he would tell you the same thing. he fought with them. and when you talk to richard
nixon, i'm sure he fought with them. i didn't talk to him about that subject, but -- and every one of those guys had their own little problems with the party, because this were so extreme and that's not california. so, you will lose. and that's why you see now the democrats have an absolute majority, you know, in sacramento. and it's a shame, because it does not serve the state well when you have an absolute majority. it does not serve the state well when you have a majority that much. i think it is much better when there is a real balance, sometimes republicans win, sometimes democrats win. that's what makes it competitive. there is no competition now. >> you know, governor newsom -- >> you know and i know that competition is what makes -- what creates excellence.
competition is what creates performance. and this is why we need competition in this state again in order to get rid of some of this stupid dialogue that they have about tax increases and about doing this. don't destroy the state. let's keep it the way it is. let's keep it stable. no, we don't need anymore regulations. we don't need any more tax increases. we don't need any more of that stuff. let's move forward to be the number one state in the union, but let's not push them out of state. that's what's happening right now and that's what we have to be careful of. >> there is a new club at the nixon library called the presidents club, about how presidents stay friendly with each other because they've been in the job. there is a governors club. you're in it. pete is in it. pete is a good friend of the library, and of mine. i think newsom is doing as good as he can. he accused you of being a democrat, by the way, when i was preparing for this interview. he said, i saw gavin said arnold is becoming a democrat, i don't believe that. but i think he's doing the best he can with the virus. what do you think? >> i think that, first of all, pete and myself, we felt -- and
sherry brown, we felt honored that he reached out to us and talked to us about how to move forward with the coronavirus. we have regular meetings with him and talk about all of those issues, what we think. so i think that was very smart. i think he is doing as well as he can. of course, the kind of debacle he had with the french laundry didn't help him at all. because it makes it look like, you're telling us what to do, but then you go ahead and do whatever you want. that's the big problem that's been the case with a lot of politicians, as you know, that they fall into this trap. like nancy pelosi going to get her hair done without a mask, without anything, when she tells everyone to wear a mask and to stay six feet apart. you have to be very careful about when you want to be a leader. but, you know, those things happen. they happen. it happened to me, it happened
to other people. so i don't even look at that as kind of a big issue. i think it is just important to clean that up. but i think we have to, you know, be buckled down. i think we have -- until the vaccine comes out and slowly gets distributed, we have to do everything we can to protect lives. you know, i think that's the state's responsibility, and it's the federal government's responsibility. or i should say ultimate responsibility, to protect lives and to save people's lives. and that's what he's trying told, and it's very tough to please everybody because there's always those lunatics out there that say i'm trying to have my personal right and somebody is trying to take my personal right away. no, you don't have your personal life. as soon as you affect someone else's life, by giving someone else the coronavirus and that person may die, from that point on, you don't have the right to do whatever you want. it's the same thing like a stop
sign. we have a stop sign there because we want you to stop because if you run through the stop sign you can kill somebody, so you don't have the right to just go through and do whatever you want. it's like, to be considerate to other people. it's selfish to other people. it's selfish to just think about yourself and your rights and all this stuff. i think people go to the extreme, although i do believe we have our rights, they tell us what to do and blah, blah, blah. but in this case it affects other people so, we do have to buckle down and be considerate toward other people. >> governor, i hope we see you at the nixon library when we reopen. i'll show you around the new exhibit, and i appreciate you being part of the commemoration of richard nixon starting the epa 50 years ago. >> with great pleasure i did this interview, and i urge all of you to go out and tell the world about how great richard nixon was and what great policies he implemented and what a great believer -- what a
future thinking kind of president, what a visionary he really was, in so many areas. don't just think about watergate. think about his great work that he has done. he was an extraordinary man. and i think presidents that -- i mean trump and all of those guys, and biden and all of those -- they all have to go and look at that presidency carefully and learn from that, how to be inclusive and how to move forward and have a vision for the future. >> thank you, governor. >> absolutely. thank you very much, hugh. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. c-span3 created by america's television companies as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. weeknights this month, we're featuring american history tv
programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight from c-span's q&a series, historians susan schulten and eric rauchway talk about two of the most contentious presidential transitions in u.s. history. in 1861, between james buchanan and abraham lincoln, and in 1933 between herbert hoover and franklin roosevelt. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern. and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. the environmental protection agency launched 50 years ago this month during the nixon administration. next this is a panel discussion with two former epa administrators. they'll look past achievements