California first lady Maria Shriver has been keeping mum while her husband, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, stumps for a series of controversial conservative measures. But her silent treatment isn’t cutting it with the Kennedy clan, we hear. Sources close to the tragedy-plagued dynasty say family members believe Shriver, daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver, is “compromising her responsibility as a Kennedy by not saying anything” against her newly radicalized husband’s initiatives.
Widely viewed as a moderate when he came to power in 2003, Schwarzenegger’s new propositions—including parental notification for abortions, Texas-style redistricting, and a prescription drug plan critics claim is a sop to pharmaceutical companies—signal a distinct rightward tack in his politics. (The ballot measures also come on the heels of the governor’s recent veto of a popular gay marriage bill.) Shriver, an outspoken center-stage advocate for the Governator during the recall campaign, has kept a low profile during the run-up to the Nov. 8 vote, discreetly voicing neither her opposition nor support.
“I know that there are Kennedys, including her brothers and cousins, who find it extremely hard to continue standing by her,” says one family friend. “They have already said publicly that Arnold is his own man, but I think they see some of these measures as a real stab in the back.”
Sources say that, although the family was at first against the idea of Schwarzenegger running for governor, they relented when Eunice Kennedy decided the demands of high public office might cure Arnold of his extra-marital proclivities—“an old, and obviously ineffective, family remedy for such things,” we’re told.
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Only now, apparently, is the clan beginning to realize they’ve got a right-wing loose canon on their hands. “Arnold kept his first promise to the family, which was to institute stem-cell research funding for the state,” says the family friend. “But his plans for education, women’s choice, and his attack on the unions are not the Kennedy way, and they’re pissed.”
It’s unclear exactly what the Kennedys are expecting from Shriver, who gave up her prized post at NBC News, impassively stuck by her man during Gropegate and seems content to play the role of the Stepford political wife. Asked about the family’s critiques of Shriver, a representative for Eunice Kennedy, who has just been hospitalized for a stroke, declined to comment. Reps for Maria Shriver and Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy did not return calls.