Arnold Schwarzenegger appears on the cover of the upcoming issue of Men’s Journal, due out March 3, discussing his environmental legacy as Governor of California — but also, offering his bluntest comments yet about President Donald Trump. Here’s how the story by Stephen Rodrick begins:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is nearly 70 years old, probably thought his next battle would be against some mutant menace in a dystopian summer tentpole film or an attempt to talk sense to some fool climate-change denier — and not a public spat with the leader of the free world.
But as the whole world knows by now, that’s precisely what happened following Schwarzenegger’s debut as the new host of Celebrity Apprentice. When the ratings came in lower than those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, the then-president-elect struck out trumpily. “Wow, the ratings are in, and Arnold Schwarzenegger got ‘swamped’ (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT,” Trump tweeted. “So much for....being a movie star — and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.”
At the mention of Trump’s tweet, Schwarzenegger smiles that slightly dopey ski-instructor grin made famous in his less apocalyptic films like Twins and Kindergarten Cop. With a haughty laugh, he recalls what he said to himself upon hearing Trump’s dis: “Don’t get into a stinking contest with a skunk.”
He’s just finishing a workout at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, his home gym since landing in Los Angeles back in 1968. Between sets, Schwarzenegger poses for pictures with some Russian gym rats. When another asks for a few tips, Schwarzenegger relates his favored lifting method: Start with heavy weights, and keep dropping the weight as you increase the reps. “You’re basically shredding the muscles, and they don’t know what to do,” he explains. “They have no choice except to panic and grow bigger.” He then stops to hug a geriatric fitness-nut woman, the same Gold’s regular he famously hoisted above his head in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron.
Workout complete, Schwarzenegger eats a bowl of oatmeal and mixed berries while contemplating a question being asked by world leaders everywhere: How to handle The Donald?
Schwarzenegger has known Trump casually for decades and, in fact, volunteered to take his place on Celebrity Apprentice. “I’d never done a reality-TV show and thought it would be interesting,” he says. “When Trump started running for office, I said to myself, ‘Obviously he can’t do both.’ ” Schwarzenegger got in touch with Mark Burnett, the show’s creator, met with the brass at NBC, and was soon hired. “They said, ‘Let’s do a season and see what happens,’ ” he says.
In between, other things happened. Notably, Schwarzenegger announced that he could not vote for Trump and instructed other Republicans to “choose your country over your party.” After the tweet about Schwarzenegger’s opening-night ratings, it was clear that Trump had not forgotten the slight.
“I said, ‘Let’s sit on it for an hour,’ ” Schwarzenegger says, blowing on his gruel. But then he had an idea. “I called my assistant and said, ‘I think what we really should do is request a meeting and go back to New York.’ ” He pauses for maximum impact. “And then we just smash his face into the table.”
Schwarzenegger’s laugh fills the cafe like a small nuclear explosion. He rubs his massive hands together. “And then I think we can’t do that, either. I think I have to be above all of that and put him on the spot.” He wound up tweeting a reply: “There's nothing more important than the people's work. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you'll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings."
Schwarzenegger has since maintained a guerilla war against Trump — hey, Michael Bay, movie idea! — first chiding him for appointing a climate-change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), then ripping him for the botched rollout of an executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. “It’s crazy,” the former two-term governor of California said during an appearance on Extra TV. “It makes us look stupid.”
“I think people really reacted well to that response,” Schwarzenegger says, pointing out that it’s Trump who sounds like a rogue action hero with no impulse control. “I sound more presidential and more diplomatic and more elder-statesman — that’s exactly the way Donald should be.”
The National Prayer Breakfast? pic.twitter.com/KYUqEZbJIE— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) February 2, 2017