By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 30, 2003 10:45 AM

A joke in questionable taste made the rounds when Arnold Schwarzenegger married Kennedy cousin Maria Shriver in 1986: that he was just what the world needed – a bulletproof Kennedy.

But whether or not the “Terminator” star can withstand the dissing of a major Kennedy family elder is another matter.

Speaking to the Boston Herald, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, a well-known Democrat, said he will not support the California gubernatorial ambitions of Schwarzenegger, a well-known Republican, despite Arnold’s being married to Kennedy’s newswoman niece (whose parents are R. Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who is Ted Kennedy’s sister).

“Listen, Arnold is great,” said Kennedy, 71. “And I never argue with Arnold, particularly when he’s holding me by my ankles upside down. But I intend to support the Democrat.”

Schwarzenegger, 55, busy on the promotional trail for “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (which opens Wednesday), has been quoted about a possible run on the California governor’s mansion should there be a recall election involving the current Democrat incumbent, Gray Davis.

“I’m for the recall because I think the situation in California is disastrous,” Arnold said recently at a press conference. “But I am not even thinking of (running) now, because the recall hasn’t (happened) yet. As it plays out, then I can make that decision.”

In Kennedy’s view, however, “I’m not sure where Arnold gets his political instincts,” the eight-term senator said. “People often say that for Kennedys, it’s in the water. Arnold seems to be a staunch Republican, so I’ve asked Maria to check their plumbing.”