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Gov. Schwarzenegger has more kind words for Pres. Obama

March 23, 2009 | 12:44 am

California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on NBC's Meet the Press in November 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican whose mother-in-law founded the Special Olympics, has some more understanding words for Democratic President Barack Obama, who apologized for his offhand remark described by his own spokesman as a "thoughtless joke."

The California governor, who's been saying some very positive things about Obama and his programs, including at one of the new president's California town hall sessions last week, said everybody in public life says things they regret and must apologize for.

Schwarzenegger says he knows that despite Obama's late-night TV joke about Special Olympics, "I know where his heart is at." The governor did not say at that point where the president's heart is at, but the context implied he thought it was at a good place. Later, Schwarzenegger said the president's heart "is at the right place. He loves Special Olympics."

We're publishing below that entire exchange between the governor and NBC's David Gregory on "Meet the Press."

On Friday, the day after Obama's gaffe before an estimated 13 million viewers, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has a child with Down syndrome and made a recent video on behalf of Special Olympics, expressed shock and criticized the president.

The governor's wife, Maria Shriver, chastised Obama, as The Ticket reported here. She suggested, and Gregory and Schwarzenegger also briefly discussed, that the audience's laughter implied more education was needed about disabled people's efforts to perform athletically to the best of their ability.

The videotape shows, however, that the audience was already laughing about Obama's poor bowling when he dropped in the Special Olympics crack. So some may not have even heard it at the time. Scroll down or click on the "Read more" line for the "Meet the Press" excerpt and click here for the "The Tonight Show" transcript.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Democratic President Barack Obama and Jay Leno on NBC's Tonight Show 3-19-09

Excerpt from Meet the Press, March 22, 2009:

GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I think that, first of all, I know where his heart is at. I mean, I think that he loves Special Olympics and he would do anything that he can to be helpful to Special Olympics.

This was one of those slips that, you know, you always regret afterwards. And I've had mine, believe me, plenty of them where I had to go back and apologize. And I'm sure everyone in public life has had those moments.

But the important thing is where's his heart? And number two, what is important is, yes, you're right, people laughed. And I think that it needs more awareness in Special Olympics. I think that the Special Olympics itself does a great job. I think my mother-in-law, who started it in 1968, has done an extraordinary job when America was the only country that participated. Now there's 164 countries all over the world participating in Special Olympics.

In, in Shanghai a year and a half ago we had the biggest opening ceremony with around 100,000 people in the stadium and having the most extraordinary event. But you know, the more we reach out through Best Buddies program.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: I have, for instance, someone in the office working for
Best Buddies. Other governors are doing the same thing. In the federal government we are
trying to do the same thing, where there's more and more of those folks working there, because
they're so talented.

The fact of the matter is when you talk about bowling, I guarantee you there's a Special Olympian out there that bowls 200, because I have witnessed it myself. I was in South Africa at a, at a golf tournament, and I got beaten badly by a Special Olympian in playing golf, that I can tell you.

MR. GREGORY: In your meeting with the president did you talk about this, talk about perhaps
a role he might play going forward to shed some more light on this?

GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Before this ever happened he has already talked about the, the role he will play and how important Special Olympics is. That's why I said his heart is at the right place. He loves Special Olympics."      ###

Photo credits: NBC; Associated Press