Arnold’s debauched destiny

    The news about Arnold Schwarzenegger brings to mind the aphorism coined by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “Character is destiny.”Even though Arnold is out of politics and heading back (although not right away) to the manufacture of skull-cracking cinema, we should still plumb his ever-unraveling “love child” melodrama for whatever valuable lessons it may yield.For instance, these lessons overlap: Character matters. The press has an obligation to ensure that a politician’s public image reflects reality. If the press smells smoke, it is duty bound to find the fire. The public deserves to have sufficient information to judge the people whom they would entrust with power.In 2003, when Schwarzenegger was running for governor, Californians deserved to know whether this guy was everything he claimed he was – namely, that he was a role-model family man who practiced the family values that he preached on the stump (“to me, family has always been the basic foundation of everything”), and everything that his liberal feminist Kennedy-spawned wife said he was (“an A-plus human being”).Indeed, Maria Shriver vetted him so well in the final days of that campaign that the voters essentially ignored the Los Angeles Times expose about his serial misogynism on movie sets – especially after Arnold ‘fessed up to the essence of the story. I was at the rally where he (kinda) came clean. It was early on a Thursday morning in San Diego, just five days before the election, and his followers were stunned. I still have the notes. Here’s what he said: “A lot of what you see in the stories is not true, but at the same time, I have to tell you that…wherever there is smoke, there is fire. That is true…I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then were playful but now I recognize that I have offended people. And to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize…When I’m governor, I want to prove to the women that I will be a champion for the women.”People love it when politicians confess error. But, in light of what we now know, that last quoted sentence prompts a question: Does a guy who slept with the hired help, and who kept his paternity a secret from his wife (in 2003, it was six years on the secrecy clock) have any right to parade himself as a potential “champion for the women?”But there was no way for California voters to ask such a question in 2003, because Arnold’s artful apologia about Hollywood rowdiness was mere cover for his greater transgression. A classic bait and switch.Only now can we truly understand that, in Arnold’s case, character is destiny. He has long been animated by a strong sense of entitlement, treating women as his rightful booty. And that’s really the core issue.Several years before The Los Angeles Times cited six women who were allegedly harassed, the movie magazine Premiere broke the story, reporting that Arnold habitually took it upon himself to fondle women on movie sets, elevators, and on the street. Sometimes he reportedly pulled them onto his lap. One time, he came out of his movie trailer, approached a woman on the crew, and “put his hands inside her blouse…and proceeded to pull her breasts out of her bra.” The Daily Beast now reports that two women in 1999 had to be persuaded not to file charges after Arnold groped them.This is not about being horny. This is about power abuse. For instance, my favorite Arnold quote appeared in Esquire back in 2003. I ran across it while covering his campaign. He told the magazine that, while rehearsing for Terminator 3, “I saw this toilet bowl…How many times do you get away with this – to take a woman, grab her upside down, and bury her face in a toilet bowl?”Siring a child with a household subordinate and keeping it secret from your wife for 14 years is just a more extreme manifestation of Arnold’s time-honored sense of entitlement. Now it’s Maria Shriver’s head in the toilet bowl. What a shame that the voters never got the chance to judge his true character. But now we know.And wait a second…they actually rehearse those movies?

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.