There are thing two things you should know about the controversies involving Arnold Schwarzenegger and his alleged groping of women and his supposed "admiration" of Adolph Hitler--well, three if you include the fact that Arnold apparently is guilty of some remarkably boorish behavior.
The past few days have brought out the worst and stupidest in California Democrats--and those who enable them. Governor Gray Davis, sounding more desperate by the day, has accused Arnold of sexual battery. "`Some of these events are clearly a crime," he said Saturday in Oakland at a town hall meeting with women. "Electing a governor who might have committed a crime is obviously going to distract the state from the important work it has to do."
Memo to the governor: Call Susan Estrich, a fellow Democrat and USC law professor (and, by the way, a rape victim). Here's what she wrote in Friday's Los Angeles Times regarding Schwarzenegger: "As a professor of sex discrimination law for two decades and an expert on sexual harassment, I certainly don't condone the unwanted touching of women that was apparently involved here. But these acts do not appear to constitute any crime, such as rape or sodomy or even assault or battery. As for civil law, sexual harassment requires more than a single case of unwelcome touching; there must be either a threat or promise of sex in exchange for a job benefit or demotion, or the hostile environment must be severe and pervasive."
Meanwhile, Jewish Democratic lawmakers have suggested that Arnold's a de facto anti-Semite: "If this was a man that found Adolf Hitler to be a glorified and acceptable and a desirable character, I sure want to know it as a Californian," U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Friday's "Today" show.
Memo to the senator: In addition to reading the full transcript of Arnold's comments of three decades ago (something no California newspaper, politician, or party hack did before spreading the pro-Hitler statement--they all assumed ABC News and the New York Times got it right), there's an Associated Press story worth reading. In it, fitness trainer Kurt Marnul, who knew the candidate when he was an unknown bodybuilder, claims that Schwarzenegger took part at least twice in organized disruptions of neo-Nazi gatherings in Arnold's hometown of Graz during the 1960s. "It's absurd. It's 100 percent wrong that he could have ever liked Hitler," Marnul told AP. "He was so outraged--so filled with rage against the Nazi regime."
As for the outraged women's groups across California who now have Arnold in their sights, it should be noted that they took a pass on Bill Clinton's behavior. At a Friday "Arnold Is a Rapist" press conference in Los Angeles, Codepink for World Peace activist Patricia Foulkrod suggested that Arnold's worst transgression isn't that he's a groper--it's his party affiliation. "The difference is that Clinton was so brilliant," said Foulkrod. "If Arnold was a brilliant pol and had this thing about inappropriate behavior, we'd figure a way of getting around it. I think it's to our detriment to go on too much about the groping. But it's our way in. This is really about the GOP trying to take California in 2004 and our trying to stop it."
THE OTHER SAD REALITY in California exposed by the last few days' shenanigans: let's call it the Kent Brockman (among Brockman's better moments: "A fist-fight is in progress in downtown Springfield. Early reports indicate, and this is very preliminary, that one of the fighters is a giant lizard. Do we have a source on this? ... Uh huh. A bunch of drunken frat boys . . . All right, I could use some names. I. P. Freeley . . .").
In recall, Arnold's "I admire Hitler" quote was the media's Kent Brockman moment--they ran with the "news" before they looked at the facts. Here's how the Times quoted Arnold in its Friday national edition:
"I admire [Hitler] for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."
The actual transcript, which comes from "Pumping Iron" out-takes (which the Times chose to run the following day) reads:
In many ways I admired people--It depends for what. I admired Hitler for instance because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn't admire him for what he did with it. It is very hard to say who I admired and who are my heroes. And I admired basically people who are powerful people, like Kennedy. Who people listen to and just wait until he comes out with telling them what to do. People like that I admire a lot.
Something a number of Californians less admire these days is the Los Angeles Times. The West coast's "paper of record" reports that it has lost more than 1,000 subscribers since breaking Gropergate last Wednesday night, and has received up to 400 phone calls "critical of its coverage--many angry, some profane."
Some California Republicans assume the worst, that the Times is in bed with the Davis hit machine, which threatened even before he announced his candidacy that should Arnold run, they'd dish the dirt. I think the truth is closer to this: The Times, which is no fan of recall or Arnold's candidacy, is guilty of being on a mission to deliberately hurt the candidate, and of being in a rush to get it into print before the recall vote (that, and the sin of dropping the news the night before Arnold began his bus caravan, to guarantee reporters would hound him through the weekend).
The paper's editor, John Carroll, has admitted that his reporters were on a fishing expedition, making "cold calls" to film industry types looking for dirt on Arnold. Reporters will tell you that thorough investigations often take three to six months before they go to print; the Times did it in seven weeks. Then again, some observers saw this coming a mile way. Here's what Mickey Kaus wrote on blog last Wednesday, a day before Gropergate broke: "Tomorrow would be about the logical last day for the Los Angeles Times to drop its bomb on Arnold Schwarzenegger. If editor John Carroll waits any longer it will look like a late hit designed to stampede the electorate." Something else the Times has to explain: why it took a pass on allegations of Gray Davis mistreating women. Davis-is-an-ogre stories are the stuff of Sacramento lore, going back to the '70s when he was Jerry Brown's chief of staff. In fact, they were chronicled nearly six years ago in a New Times Los Angeles piece by Jill Stewart, now a Sacramento-based columnist. Among her allegations: in the mid-'90s, Davis lost it when a staffer told him a fundraising source hadn't panned out. Stewart thus quotes the aide: "He just went into one of his rants of, 'F-ck the f-cking f-ck, f-ck, f-ck!' I can still hear his screams ringing in my ears. When I stood up to insist that he not talk to me that way, he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me until my teeth rattled. I was so stunned I said, 'Good God, Gray! Stop and look at what you are doing! Think what you are doing to me!' And he just could not stop." Here's a link to a column by Stewart as to why the Times didn't apply the Arnold standard to Davis.
What else can happen during recall? Sunday's "bombshell" was a National Enquirer piece alleging that Arnold fathered an out-of-wedlock child with a flight attendant after he'd married Maria Shriver. The article references "an inside source" and "a pal" of the woman in question (there's no documentation--no birth certificate or paternity test, no proof of child support payments or hush money). The only named source is the author Wendy Leigh, who wrote an unauthorized biography of Schwarzenegger--and lost a libel suit to Arnold over a 1988 tabloid article based on her material that alleged he had . . . anti-Semitic, pro-Hitler views. Surely, you're surprised.
Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.