Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

California's First Lady Builds a Different Role (NYT Barf Alert!)
NY Times ^ | 3/31/05 | Patricia Leigh Brown

Posted on 03/31/2005 8:33:28 AM PST by NormsRevenge

SACRAMENTO - There are 16 million women in California, and Maria Shriver is only one of them. But as she strode past the potted palms and the oil paintings of aging gray-haired former governors earlier this month to address the Legislature - the first time in modern history a California first lady had taken the rostrum without her husband - it was difficult not to sense the symbolic import of the state's alpha female.

"We have a lot in common," Ms. Shriver told 120 rapt "women of the year" being honored by the lawmakers, a group upon whom her husband has famously heaped disdain. "We're all trying to get my husband to do what we want."

After an initial period of ambivalence, in which she left her network television job because of possible conflicts of interest and assumed a potentially retro role, Ms. Shriver is on her way to becoming California's most influential first lady ever, observers say.

The niece of President John F. Kennedy and the only daughter of R. Sargent Shriver, the founding director of the Peace Corps and a onetime vice-presidential candidate, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, Ms. Shriver was weaned on politics and public service. Now she is deploying her considerable charisma and political instincts both inside and outside "the Horseshoe," as the governor's inner sanctum is known.

As for her husband, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, Ms. Shriver helps to bridge the gap with the opposition so much that Democrats who want to get his ear often head directly to her.

"It's common knowledge that her office is the go-to place for a lot of Democrats," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant in San Francisco. And in telling her husband when his message is getting lost and bringing together polarized politicians, Ms. Shriver is writing her own script, neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Nancy Reagan in approach.

Ms. Shriver speaks in the language of her best-selling books, touching on topics like Alzheimer's disease and death. "There's no job description for life, period," she said, when describing the need to resign from NBC News, where she was a correspondent. "It was the work I love and have always done, where my friends are, where my expertise is. It was, 'wait a minute, now what do I do?' It was a wobbly moment.

"But I was brought up hearing that people aren't interested in 'woe is me.' As my mother would say, 'moving right along now.' "

Among other things, she has moved on to women's issues. Despite much controversy and behind-the-scenes jockeying, the legislature signed off this month on Ms. Shriver's pet project - the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. She plans to transform a nearly bankrupt history museum in downtown Sacramento into a sophisticated portrait of diversity and refutation of the vacuous Beach Boys blonde.

Like Minerva, the Roman goddess who graces the state seal (as well as a diamond necklace that was a gift from her husband), Ms. Shriver can be a warrior. She lanced last-minute accusations of her husband's sexual improprieties during the campaign, helping defuse the aftershocks particularly among liberal white women who make up 37 percent of the state's electorate. Ms. Shriver also reinforced the view that Mr. Schwarzenegger "is not a partisan figure, even in marriage," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

"She is as savvy as they come," said Gloria Romero, the state Senate's majority leader and Democrat from Los Angeles. "She has made him Terminator-tolerant, providing a cover for Democrats, especially women, who feel that if she can be married to him he must be O.K."

Early on, Ms. Shriver was widely credited with helping to persuade her husband to restore a cut in state programs for the developmentally disabled. Conferring often with "Team Maria" - staff members and friends like Nadine Schiff, a writer and producer: Jillian Manus, a literary agent; and Wanda McDaniel, a liaison to the stars at Giorgio Armani in Beverly Hills - Ms. Shriver is said to weigh in on key appointments, including that of Terry Tamminen, the governor's cabinet secretary, who worked with Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert Kennedy Jr.'s environmental group.

Ms. Shriver also hired Charlotte Schultz, the wife of former Secretary of State George P. Schultz, as the state's protocol chief.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: california; different; firstklady; firstlady; kennedy; maria; mariashriver; role; shriver
As for her husband, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, Ms. Shriver helps to bridge the gap with the opposition so much that Democrats who want to get his ear often head directly to her.

"It's common knowledge that her office is the go-to place for a lot of Democrats," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant in San Francisco. And in telling her husband when his message is getting lost and bringing together polarized politicians, Ms. Shriver is writing her own script, neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Nancy Reagan in approach.

1 posted on 03/31/2005 8:33:30 AM PST by NormsRevenge
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: NormsRevenge

I wonder which dinner conversations are more heated, Arnold and Maria's, or Carville and Mary Matalin's? LOL


2 posted on 03/31/2005 8:51:24 AM PST by Redgirl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NormsRevenge

I believe Maria is calling a lot of the shots for Arnold. I also think she has political ambitions of her own. She is very dangerous. Just like Hillary, she must be watched very closely.


3 posted on 03/31/2005 9:26:14 AM PST by Uncle Hal
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Uncle Hal

Poor Arnold, didn't he his Eunice's face? That's the future pal.


4 posted on 03/31/2005 10:23:43 AM PST by massgopguy (massgopguy)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson