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Hollywood is a scripted town where the release of gossip, like a new blockbuster movie, is carefully timed to maximize box-office potential. The recent revelations about former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s adulterous relations with a former housekeeper and fathering an out-of-wedlock "love child" may, in the end, help reignite his once enormously successful movie career.
Best known as the android star of the "Terminator" series, revelations about Arnoid the Governator’s (some have dubbed him the "Sperminator") extra-marital hanky-panky came just months after he left office. Why it did not come out earlier is one of the scandal’s unanswered questions; like reports of his still-earlier scandals that were effective hushed-up, one can only ask who got paid off to kept this one under wraps.
Ironically, the Governator’s term of office, from 2003-2011, coincided with the continuing employment of his object of desire, the family’s housekeeper, and the formative years of his "other" child’s formative development. Looking from the outside, it must have been a particularly troubling psychological climate within the Schwarzenegger household, one not dissimilar to his governorship.
Revelations about Arnoid’s escapades coincided with a series of similiarly sleazy stories, often involving sexual scandals, to come out about prominent Republicans, including potential presidential candidates. (The biggest headline grabber of the recent round of scandals is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF, for sexual assault.)
These revelations share a peculiar resonance to the Republican Party’s burn out in the years leading up to the 2008 presidential election. Those scandals helped undercut the holier-than-thou morality of the culture-wars crusaders that then, like today, masked Republican appeal to Christian evangelical and other white conservative voters. In 2008, they contributed to Obama’s election and this new round of scandals will likely help usher in his reelection next year.
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"I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family," Arnoid implored his adoring press at the media circus that followed revelations of his latest sex scandal. "There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologised to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry."
Like innumerable political entertainers before him, from Clinton to Spitzer and Gingrich to Sanford, Arnoid spoke from his PR-primed heart asking for forgiveness. Most telling, he failed to actually explain what happened or, more so, how it could have taken place.
The media loves a good sex scandal; especially as exploited by the headline-grabbing distraction industry of celebrate gossip. The private lives of politicians, like that of ordinary people, should to be respected; however, politicians invite media hounding when they morph into just one more hustling celebrity. And no one has accomplished this with greater gusto then Arnoid, having moved effortless from the big screen to the big stage and now back. Unfortunately, most of the sources of information about this sad story come from the rumor-hyped expos? press, thus one has to take it all with more than a grain of salt.
Allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct have plagued Arnoid for more than a decade. In 2001, Gigi Goyette-Jeffers, who, as a 16-year old was an actor on the TV series, "Little House On The Prairie," had an affair with the then-28-year-old future Governator; the age of consent in California is 18 years. She recently noted, "There were so many other women [who had affairs with him]. About 13 have come out of the woodwork." LA media outlets aledged that Arnoid paid her $20,000 as hush money.
This story was followed, in 2003, by a LA Times report claiming that six women accused Arnoid of sexual harassment between 1975 and 2000. Two of these women, Elaine Stockton, the former wife of bodybuilder Robby Robinson, and the British television presenter, Anna Richardson, accused him of squeezing their breasts.
In 2004, Rhonda Miller, a Hollywood stuntwoman, accused Arnoid of having sexually assaulted her twice: the first time was during filming of "Terminator 2" in 1991 when he pulled her shirt up and, sucking her breasts, took photos of them; the second time was on the set of "True Lies" in 1994 when he fondled her breasts. (Miller ultimately dropped the case.)
Which brings us to the current revelations of extra-marital activities. One can only wonder what domestic life must have been in the Schwarzenegger household for the decade or so that he lived with his two intersecting families. It was a household consisting of his wife, Maria Shriver, and their four children along with the housekeeper, Mildred Baena, and the child she had with Arnoid and her two others children. Most peculiar, the alledged "love child" and his second son with Maria Shriver were born a week or so apart.
The world awaits the next Eugene O’Neil or Edward Albee to convey the texture of deception, duplicity and deceit that must surely have infused daily life in the Governator’s household.
Or perhaps such an examination requires another Sigmund Freud to begin to truly understand Arnoid’s psychological disposition. Born in Austria, in the village of Thal near Graz, in 1947, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1968. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the LA Times, Arnoid is the son a former Nazi party member who was a local police chief and senior non-commissioned military police officer during WWII. Growing up in devistated postwar Austria must surely have been no piece of cake. The past must weigh heavily on this super over-achiever.
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Adulterous relations and other questionable sexualized activities by politicians have become common fodder for both the tabloid and mainstream media; the front page of the "New York Times" often looks remarkably like the "National Enquirer" of old. Once such scandals shocked or challenged popular notions of acceptable conduct, today they have become short-lived distractions.
At the same time that revelations about Arnoid’s adulterous relations and "love child" surfaced, a number of other sexual distractions battled for top billing in the media circus. The rapid departure from Congress of former Rep. Chris Lee [R-NY] earlier started the ball rolling earlier this year. He was outed by Gawker.com when it published compromising emails along with a bare-chested photo of the macho-man.
The Senate Ethics Committee report on the conduct of former Sen. John Ensign [R-NV] paints a bleak picture of corruption, adulterous goings-on and moral hypocrisy. Gov. Mitch Daniels’ [R-IN] decision not to pursue the Republican nomination is rooted, in part, in his unorthodox marital history; for anybody but a politician, his would be the story of love, love lost and love regained.
The second shoe has yet to fall on the presidential aspirations of former Rep. Newt Gingrich. Now married to this third wife, a woman he was having an adulterous affair with while prosecuting Bill Clinton for his White House "is" affair. How long he stays in the game is an open question.
Rumors that former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani may throw his hat in the ring is a testament to just how disappointing is the field of Republican potential contenders. Like Donald (the Dump) Trump, Giuliani’s questionable past haunts him like an unforgettable nightmare. If he steps out of the shadows, his adulterous affairs with one of his assistants and his current wife, Judith Nathan, will, once again capture gossip column headlines.
(General David Petraeus’ decision to become head of the CIA was the most telling indicator of the sad state of the Republican field; he had reportedly been approached for the VP slot by a number of presidential aspirants but passed. He’s got his sight on 2016, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Washington, Taylor, Grant and Eisenhower.)
Today’s sexual revelations share a peculiar resonance to the Republican Party’s burn out in the years leading up to the 2008 presidential election. For those with short attention spans, this was the era of the outing of such Republican luminaries as William Bennett (remember Mistress Lee?); David Vitter (remember Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the DC Madam, and the New Orleans prostitute, "Wendy Cortez," with whom he allegedly had an out-of-wedlock "love child"?); Larry Craig (who will forget his wide stance in the airport men’s room?); Rudi Giuliani; and John McCain (for an alleged affair with a lobbyist and floated by the NY Times).
The current round of sex scandal revelations is contributing to the erosion of the Republican field of truly second-rate candidates, helping to ensure Obama’s likely reelection. The Tea Party movement seems in crisis. It expressed the first round of popular rage toward the Great Recession, reflecting the genuine fears of a segment of the aging, insecure, white (often racists) and conservative Christian populace. It screamed loud and was heard.
The Tea Party was organized and funded by well-financed conservative and Republican operatives like the Koch brothers, Carl Rove and Dick Armey. However, the political and legislative solutions it championed are turning out to only make worse the lives of an increasing number of the more vulnerable party affiliates. In the wake of the growing rejection of Rep. Paul Ryan’s health care voucher system, the Tea Party is being exposed as the con job it always was. (Kathy Hochul’s victory in Congressional election in Buffalo, NY, may signal the deeper crisis yet to come for Tea Party Republicans.)
Unless he stumbles mightily, Obama looks like a shoe-in for 2012. The economic crisis is marginally lessening, with unemployment rates slowly declining and consumer spending gradually increasing.
Obama played his ace-in-the-hole card with his military strike to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan; talk of bin Laden’s capture (with 20-plus years at Guant?namo) seems nothing more than a PR ploy. Obama’s gambit, involving the wild cards of Carter’s desert disaster or the Black Hawk Down downer, risked undermining the last years of his presidency and his reelection prospects. Had the mission failed to kill bin Laden or had a significant number of U.S. personnel died in the incursion, Hilary Clinton may well have been the underdog Democratic candidate.
David Rosen is the author of “Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.