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.