‘Til death do them part?

Asked today whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had issued a statement on the death this week of former United Nations Secretary General, Austrian president and Nazi Germany military officer Kurt Waldheim, press secretary Aaron McLear replied, “We have not and have no plans to do so.”

Apparently the governor is no longer willing to say a kind word about Waldheim; this wasn’t always the case.

Waldheim — who by then had served a decade at the head of the United Nations — was outed in early 1986 as having served as a lieutenant in German army intelligence, attached to military units that had executed thousands of Yugoslav partisans and civilians and deported thousands of Greek Jews to death camps from 1942 to 1944.

Waldheim was running for president of Austria in 1986, and Schwarzenegger married Maria Shriver that spring in Massachusetts. Schwarzenegger took some public heat for speaking kindly of the just-outed Waldheim, who’d declined their invitation to attend the wedding but had sent a gift. “My friends don’t want me to mention Kurt’s name, because of all the recent Nazi stuff and the U.N. controversy, but I love him and Maria does too, and so thank you, Kurt,” he reportedly said.

The Slate article from which this comes also notes Schwarzenegger’s name remained on Waldheim’s campaign posters that year, and after Waldheim was elected, Schwarzenegger paid him a visit and was photographed with him:

According to the New York Post’s “Page Six” gossip column, Schwarzenegger was seen sitting beside Waldheim as recently as 1998, when the two attended the second inauguration of Waldheim’s successor as president, Thomas Klestil.

In 1988, Schwarzenegger was asked in a Playboy interview what he thought of Waldheim. He replied:

I hate to talk about it, because it’s a no-win situation. Without going into details, I can say that being half-Austrian and half-American, I don’t like the idea that these two countries that mean so much to me are in such a disagreement. Austria is a very important place for Americans, because it is a neutral country. With a little bit of good will, the problem will be straightened out. I think it’s well on the way.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.