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Author: Recall 'a double-edged sword for Maria Shriver'

Author Thomas Maier
Author Thomas Maier: "I think a big part of Arnold's win in California was the appeal of the Kennedy family."

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Arnold Schwarzenegger
Maria Shriver

(CNN) -- In a new book, historian Thomas Maier discusses the role that women of the Kennedy family continue to play in U.S. policy-making. CNN correspondent Renay San Miguel spoke with Maier about his book "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings", and the influence of Maria Shriver, wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger and daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, on the California gubernatorial recall race.

SAN MIGUEL: From what you've seen from the campaign, is Maria Shriver performing the role well so far?

MAIER: Yes, I think a big part of Arnold's win in California was the appeal of the Kennedy family. I think it's very important to note that there were a number of immigrants who voted for Arnold in this election. I think it harkens back to the Kennedy legacy of immigration in this country.

SAN MIGUEL: I'm thinking specifically about the groping allegations and how much having her by his side meant. He even thanked her on the election night, admitting that there were some people who may not have voted for him if it hadn't been for her. What do you think about that?

MAIER: Right. I think it's been a double-edged sword for Maria Shriver. Her generation of Kennedys, particularly the women, have been the leaders in the family. The subtitle of my book, "America's Emerald Kings", comes back to the Irish notion [of] the chieftains, and [they] usually [have] been the men. In this generation it has been the women as the leaders: Caroline Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith, and Maria in her own right as a distinguished journalist. On the flip side of it, she's being asked as the other women have been asked in the past to stand by her man. And I think that was a difficult situation for her.

SAN MIGUEL: Schwarzenegger was thought to be a moderate Republican. Some of his critics have said he's a Republican in name only. He is socially a little more moderate than some Republicans. [Is there] Shriver's influence in that?

MAIER: I think so. A big part of the Kennedy legacy is immigration. I think many of the problems and many of the questions that Arnold are going to face as governor will have to do with immigration. I think it was very notable on Wednesday, after the election, Senator Ted Kennedy said that Arnold's election in California was proof positive that we live in a nation of immigrants. Not everybody may understand what the connection there is but it has to do with the book JFK wrote in 1958, "A Nation of Immigrants". And that led to the 1965 Immigration Act that opened up the door in this country to many of the new immigrants we see. So, a lot of this goes back to the Kennedy legacy.

SAN MIGUEL: What about the Shriver family, Maria's parents, Eunice and Sargent. They have their own little subplot, if you will, in the Kennedy legacy?

MAIER: They absolutely do. Politically, they're the most liberal in the Kennedy clan. Sargent Shriver was the founder of the Peace Corps, and Eunice Shriver is one of the most distinguished in the family with Special Olympics and other notable things. But in times of election, the Kennedys do rally. The whole sense of the Kennedy clan, as they themselves call it, stresses the whole sense of family. I think it's a big part of the Kennedy story. And I think they were there at the important moments for Arnold in this election.


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