Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Win One for the Groper

Various people have tried to make comparisons between the conduct of Bill "I feel your pain" Clinton and Arnold "I feel your breasts" Schwarzenegger. Both are pretty obviously not models of conduct in their personal lives, but their faults seem to be actually quite sharply different. Clinton is known to have had several extramarital affairs; the ones we know about are most likely the tip of a pretty sizable iceberg. But his affairs were consensual; his most famous paramour, Monica Lewinsky, clearly was chasing after him before he was more than vaguely aware of her.

Three women have accused Clinton of nonconsensual conduct. But all are questionable witnesses. The most serious accusation, that he raped Juanita Broadrick, was made only 19 years after the alleged act, and after she had stated, under oath and in several conversations, that she had received no unwanted sexual attention from him. Kathleen Willey is known to be a dubious character who has lied about Clinton and her own affairs, as well as using questionable means to avoid returning money her late husband stole from clients. Paula Jones originally filed suit over the claim that her name was tarnished by a single sentence in an article which mentioned only her first name; she wound up using her celebrity to attach her full name to nude photos in "Penthouse". It's not unreasonable to believe that Clinton has never engaged in nonconsensual sexual conduct beyond making unwelcome passes. Even if his accusers are believed, his actions were private and seem to reflect excessive libido.

Schwarzenegger's alleged harassments, in almost every case, took place before an audience, most of the time an audience of Schwarzenegger's own Hollywood posse of sycophants and hangers-on. Only two women describe instances when they were alone with Arnold, and in both cases they were in public spaces: a hotel elavator and a break room in a movie editing facility. Schwarzenegger seems to have little interest in sex in most of these stories; instead his pleasure comes from the public humiliation and degradation of his victims. It's hardly a trait that gives one confidence in the man's character. And these stories are most likely also instances of a much broader pattern; where it took years of investigation and the combined efforts of Jones's attorneys, Starr's investigators, and dozens of right-wing muckrakers to bring forward 2 women who gave rather weak support to the allegations of Paula Jones, the LA Times was able to find 6 women and corroborate that they had previously told friends of Arnold's behavior in less than two months - and 10 more women volunteered similar stories within days of the L.A. Times publishing.

This trait, rather than political ideology, is how Schwarzenegger's admiration for Hitler should be viewed. He says he is not a Nazi, and I entirely believe him. But he has a fascination with power and narcissism that is deeply disturbing. Rather than an improbable obsession with Mein Kampf, this is the far more likely explanation of Arnold's fantasy of being "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium. And have all those people scream at you and just being total agreement whatever you say."

As a young man, he sought the most obvious, superficial kind of power, becoming the most famous bodybuilder in the world, and indulging his narcissism by posing nude. He went on to gain another kind of power, in celebrity, wealth, and social status. Now he has successfully sought the real thing.

Will he be a success at governing? I'm skeptical, although it would be foolish to dismiss out of hand a man who has been so successful through almost his entire life. But he is facing sizable problems that he can't charm his way out of, and his promise to spend several billion to reduce the car fees makes them even larger. Being a movie star is a superlative career preparation for running, but a very poor one for governing. He boasts of being a businessman, a somewhat more apt introduction to governance, but his main actual business venture, Planet Hollywood, was a major failure. He was conspicuous in the campaign for his refusal to address California's real problems or offer serious solutions. The fact that he has slid through the campaign and won the election with our knowing almost nothing of what he will do to address the state's urgent fiscal problems speaks poorly of both the media and the electorate. He certainly could surprise me - I did publicly predict he would lose - but I suspect his administration will be less successful than his campaign.