December 26, 2004: Headlines: Directors - Shriver: San Jose Mercury News: In Schwarzenegger's administration, Maria Shriver's fingerprints are everywhere, from the Impressionist landscapes that hang in his suite of offices, to the content of his speeches, to the people he hires, to his position on issues like stem-cell research and hybrid cars

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver: Sargent Shriver: Archived Stories: December 26, 2004: Headlines: Directors - Shriver: San Jose Mercury News: In Schwarzenegger's administration, Maria Shriver's fingerprints are everywhere, from the Impressionist landscapes that hang in his suite of offices, to the content of his speeches, to the people he hires, to his position on issues like stem-cell research and hybrid cars

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In Schwarzenegger's administration, Maria Shriver's fingerprints are everywhere, from the Impressionist landscapes that hang in his suite of offices, to the content of his speeches, to the people he hires, to his position on issues like stem-cell research and hybrid cars

In Schwarzenegger's administration, Maria Shriver's fingerprints are everywhere, from the Impressionist landscapes that hang in his suite of offices, to the content of his speeches, to the people he hires, to his position on issues like stem-cell research and hybrid cars

In Schwarzenegger's administration, Maria Shriver's fingerprints are everywhere, from the Impressionist landscapes that hang in his suite of offices, to the content of his speeches, to the people he hires, to his position on issues like stem-cell research and hybrid cars

Shriver 'guides' husband

By Ann E. Marimow

Mercury News Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - Maria Shriver's visit to an inner-city elementary school earlier this month was one of the many ceremonial duties she's assumed as the wife of California's governor. Still, one second-grader's inquiry was a surprise.

``Are you like the governor?'' he asked.

``That's a really loaded question,'' Shriver answered with a smile.

Loaded perhaps, but it's a sentiment also murmured privately in the Capitol. Whatever the answer, there's no doubt the high-voltage former television reporter from a legendary Democratic family has emerged as a force in the administration of her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The 49-year-old mother of four, who is herself a glamorous celebrity, has long been a partner in Schwarzenegger's business affairs. When her husband's business became politics, Shriver's involvement hardly dwindled.

``I've always been interested in helping Arnold with whatever he was doing. I want him to do well. I want him to succeed. I've always looked at that as part of my job,'' Shriver said in an interview this month.

In the movie business, Shriver read scripts, quizzed Schwarzenegger's agents and was his most trusted adviser in deciding which films to pursue.

In Schwarzenegger's administration, her fingerprints are everywhere, from the Impressionist landscapes that hang in his suite of offices, to the content of his speeches, to the people he hires, to his position on issues like stem-cell research and hybrid cars. Her reporter-like grilling of unprepared aides is affectionately nicknamed the ``Full Maria'' by the governor's advisers.

Shriver is effectively a minister without portfolio, immersing herself in the recesses of government and politics, not just the ceremony.

The diplomat
Words of praise from assemblyman

``People underestimate the role Maria is having in the administration,'' said Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, who credits Shriver as a diplomat who helps him work with Schwarzenegger. ``She is going to go down in history as the most powerful first lady in California.''

When Núñez successfully sought Shriver's help to persuade the governor to back off budget cuts to the disabled, Schwarzenegger told him, ``If you're talking to her, it's like talking to me,'' Núñez recalled. ``It's almost like a team.''

Even Schwarzenegger has joked, ``When you're married to my wife, you're never your own boss.''

Shriver's involvement is a cause for concern among conservatives as much as it is a comfort for Democrats to know that the Republican governor is married to the niece of John F. Kennedy.

But Shriver and those who know the couple well say her husband always has the final word when it comes to governing. Her mantra is, ``It's all Arnold, all the time.''

``I try to kind of bring him as much as I can,'' she said, ``And then, let it go.''

And the governor doesn't always follow his wife's counsel. Shriver, who is a Democrat to the core and proud of her husband's bipartisan image, did not want him to campaign for President Bush in the critical state of Ohio, according to Schwarzenegger advisers who asked not to be named. But the governor went anyway.

Shriver resisted the political world she grew up in as the only daughter of Sargent Shriver, the founding director of the Peace Corps who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1976, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics. She was attracted to Schwarzenegger, a bodybuilding Mr. Universe when they met in 1977, because he was so different from her patrician family.

2003 recall
First lady at first had her doubts

In the run-up to California's 2003 recall, Shriver worried about Schwarzenegger's candidacy. Her biggest concern was protecting her children, now ages 7 to 15. Then she struggled with giving up her full-time career when it conflicted with his.

You'd never know it one year later. Shriver thinks fast, talks fast and moves fast. She e-mails, questions and inspires her cadre of aides and girlfriends into action, even when she's working out or driving her children's carpool in Los Angeles.

She calls the spouses of her husband's senior advisers, like Gloria Costigan, the wife of Legislative Affairs Secretary Richard Costigan, to thank them for putting up with the long hours.

A broken foot, the result of cheering for the Boston Red Sox, did not slow her stride at the women's conference she hosted earlier this month. Shriver just traded heels for Nikes that matched her emerald-green suit.

``I call her an idea factory,'' said informal adviser Nancy McFadden, who was deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Gray Davis and Vice President Al Gore. ``You can have a five-minute conversation with her and she will generate 50 ideas -- all of them good.''

Shriver scrapped plans for traditional Christmas tree ornaments this year in favor of pre-paid phone cards, sending more than 5,000 to California National Guard members deployed overseas. She is encouraging people to volunteer in the spirit of her father, the namesake of Sarge the Bear, the state's new public-service mascot.

Her effort to highlight the accomplishments of California women at a state history museum has taken off with bipartisan backing, despite a rocky beginning that included the resignation of museum board members.

Shriver's plan to rescue the financially troubled museum was approved, but then met with accusations from some members who said she had overpowered the board.

``I have the highest praise for her work ethic,'' said former president Tom Stallard, who resigned, ``but she may not be aware that she really has the ability to run over others.''

Shriver recovered by offering a new plan that includes a women's museum within a state history center.

Ultimate match
Shriver challenges Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger surrounds himself with people who challenge him and each other. Despite her slight stature, Shriver is his ultimate match. She is energetic, opinionated and to-the-point. While Schwarzenegger prefers to sit back and absorb an exchange, the former reporter is dogged in her questioning.

``She's really good at pushing people to do their best, inspiring them and saying, `Don't let down here. What is our message? What do we want to do?' '' said Paul Wachter, the couple's longtime financial adviser and friend.

In many ways, the two-party couple embody the image Schwarzenegger is trying to project for his administration. The governor draws some of his biggest laughs when he pokes fun at Shriver and her Democratic relatives. The jokes distance him from the Kennedys at the same time they remind people of his bipartisan marriage.

But the partisan divide sometimes takes careful navigating. For the Republican National Convention, speechwriter Landon Parvin -- whom Shriver recruited -- thought the governor should include a joke about Shriver's liberal uncle, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. She vetoed the idea and it was taken out.

``I thought it would just play great with that audience,'' said Parvin, who wrote for President Reagan. ``But it's her uncle, someone she loves, so I can see her point.''

The perception among some Republican legislators and aides is that the real tug of war inside the administration is not between Democrats and Republicans. Rather, they see a cleavage between traditional GOP insiders, many from the Pete Wilson administration, and what they call the ``Maria wing,'' a reference to advisers like Bonnie Reiss, who is a Democrat and friend of the couple.

Conservative groups have criticized Schwarzenegger for supporting a controversial initiative approved last month to fund stem-cell research, an issue with personal resonance for him and Shriver.

Long before Schwarzenegger became governor, the couple had expressed support for the research at a dinner with scientists hosted by Jerry and Janet Zucker, their neighbors in Brentwood who later helped lead the campaign for Proposition 71.

But as a governor touting fiscal discipline, how could he support borrowing $3 billion to fund research without a guaranteed result? Schwarzenegger talked to George Shultz, the head of his economic council and secretary of state under President Reagan. Shriver's mother, who was visiting at the time, also weighed in.

The issues
First lady takes it personally

Shriver doesn't claim credit for her husband's public stance: ``That's Arnold's decision to support that.'' But neither does she abdicate it: ``I'm an advocate of stem-cell research, my dad has Alzheimer's, and take it from there.''

Wachter, the friend and financial adviser, said: ``Every time Arnold does something that's perceived as socially liberal or compassionate, people say, `Maria made him do it.' I don't think that's it.''

``In many of these things, she's an important data point,'' he said, ``but she's not the only data point. Much of it comes from Arnold himself.''

A bill the governor sponsored to allow solo drivers of hybrid cars in carpool lanes was a favorite of Shriver and their children, administration aides were told. Again, Shriver said it's all Arnold.

Then she added, ``Just because Arnold drove a Hummer, people thought, `Oh he can't be an environmentalist.' '' It's a point Shriver has tried to teach her children -- not to make assumptions about people based on labels.

``I find that people who are Republicans have many of the same characteristics as Democrats and vice versa,'' she said. ``People I meet want people to inspire them, they want people to come up with ideas, they want to see that people are reaching out to seek compromise, seek solutions, and are not so focused on their own labels and . . . they can say, `You know what? You've got an idea, let's work together.' ''
Contact Ann E. Marimow at amarimow@mercurynews.com or (916) 325-4315.





When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: San Jose Mercury News

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