SANTA MONICA (CBS) — In his first formal interview since leaving office, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says his faltering popularity rankings were “just a snapshot” and that “they would have rocketed to the top” had he had not been forced out of office by term limits.

Schwarzenegger told an Austrian newspaper that Hollywood salaries have dropped since he left the business, but he estimates his seven years in public service cost him $70 million in lost earnings.

“But I’m not sorry, it was more than worth it,” he said.

“I was addicted to being governor. Of course it hit me hard … to be suddenly thrown back after seven years,” Schwarzenegger lamented in German last week about his transition back to private citizen.

The newspaper Krone in Vienna posted a transcript of the interview, which was conducted last week in Schwarzenegger’s Santa Monica offices, on its web site Sunday.

“I smoke much less now than before,” Schwarzenegger said as he lit a cigar and settled into the session with two Austrian reporters.

Schwarzenegger acknowledged the dismal state of California’s budget, and his approval ratings that had plummeted to below those of the Democratic governor whom he unseated in a recall election.

“If I had known how hard we were going to be hit by the second great recession, I would have of course started cutting state spending much earlier,” he said.

His wife, Maria Shriver, and four children took his first term hard, he told Krone. The Monday-through-Friday workweek in Sacramento caused “all the children and Maria to break out in tears at dinner” on Sunday nights, he said.

But Schwarzenegger said his second term “was much better. I tried to fly home every night.”

Schwarzenegger is a native of Styria, a province in central Austria.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (5)
  1. Still Wrong says:

    You did nothing in 7 yrs!

  2. glow says:

    Gee,,,,who’s dime did Arnold fly home on every night??????????????

  3. Mini Mousekat says:

    Too bad the interview wasn’t from the inside of a jail cell. That’s where he belongs!

  4. Richard says:

    If i had known about how hard we were going to be hit by the second great recession i would have of course started cutting state spending much earlier he said WHAT A JOKE !!!! You make it sound as though it was your money all you Law makers spend tax payer money like drunken saliors and continue to do so and the new Gov takes away cells phone and the law makers are rewarding them self’s with new cars on the tax payer so funny when it comes to cutting it does not apply to Law makers because they know whats good for the taxpayer…….

  5. James Hormozi says:

    Arnold visited us when we were stationed in Iraq….nice guy…very personable and approachable.

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