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Arnold Schwarzenegger's Blunder at the Republican Convention

Michel Chossudovsky | September 2 2004

At the Republican Convention, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he became a Republican after listening to a televised debate between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon in 1968.

In his address, he described arriving in the United States from Austria and hearing Richard Nixon challenge Hubert Humphrey in a televised presidential debate:

"I finally arrived here in 1968.I had empty pockets, but I was full of dreams. The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon and Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend who spoke German and English, translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism which is what I had just left. But then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting government off your back, lowering taxes, and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air.

I said to my friend, "What party is he?" My friend said, "He's a Republican." I said, "Then I am a Republican!" And I've been a Republican ever since!" (complete speech at

The records on televised presidential debates are unequivocal. They started in 1960 with the famous Kennedy-Nixon debate. Nixon's performance in this debate was in part instrumental in his defeat and the election of John F. Kennedy to the White house in the November 1960. (for a review of presidential debates since 1858 see The Commission on Presidential Debates at: )

In the 1968 presidential campaign, Hubert Humphrey and Ed Muskie ran against Richard Nixon and Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew. Richard Nixon did not want to repeat his 1960 experience with JFK. He refused to debate his Democratic opponent Hubert Humphrey. (See Providence Journal-Bulletin (Rhode Island), October 3, 2000)

Although Humphrey challenged Nixon to a debate, there was no debate between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon in 1968. Arnold Scharzenegger could not have seen it on TV, because it never took place. In fact, there were no presidential debates between 1960 and 1976.

Déjà vu

Arnold Scharzenegger's affirmation at the Republican Convention concerning the Nixon-Humphrey debate has a ring of déjà vu. It was essentially a "say again" of a announcement he first made public in 1993, at a Press Conference in Beverly Hills, California , following the release of his adventure comedy, Last Action Hero:

"I realized then that this one guy (Humphrey) is closer to Austria and socialism, while this other guy (Nixon) represents the free market, free enterprise and the freedom of getting the government off your back," (The Toronto Star, June 18, 1993)

And since then, he has used these same catch sentences on Humphrey versus Nixon on numerous occasions, in press interviews as well as at political venues (including the 2000 Republican Convention and his 2003 campaign for the Governorship of California):

"For substance, try a dubious note with which Schwarzenegger brightened an address to his party's recent L.A. convention. The story goes over so well, he's taken to repeating it. He says his decision to become a Republican was prompted soon after he'd arrived from Austria in 1968, and watched a presidential debate between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. A friend translated their words for him. Says Arnold:

"I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which I had just left, and Nixon talking about free enterprise, getting the government off our backs, and lower taxes. ..." (The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 24, 2003)

And the media applauds. Presented as a "compassionate libertarian," and "a Republican moderate", his "highlight" speech at Madison Square Gardens was described as most "effective". According to CNN: "Only one speaker managed to bring everyone together"

"The GOP's not-so-secret weapon wowed the crowd with a masterful speech that balanced macho conservatism with sweeping compassion". (Business Week, 2 September 2004)

While the media tacitly acknowledges that "the debate never took place", the matter is invariably dismissed. According to CNN Host Tucker Carlson in response to Larry King, it was an honest mistake because Arnie did not know English at the time:

LARRY KING: Tucker Carlson, there was one notable error tonight picked up by our vast production crew. Governor Schwarzenegger refers to coming to this country and hearing the debate between Humphrey and Nixon, Humphrey sounded socialistic and Nixon introduced him to capitalism. One little problem: They never debated.

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN HOST: Well, I don't think Schwarzenegger even spoke English at the time. So he could be, you know, forgiven for making that mistake it seems to me. (CNN, Larry King Live, 1 September 2004)


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