KINSLEY THE PRUDE
John Lemon’s favorite columnist, Michael Kinsley, thinks Arnold Scwarzenegger’s sexual escapades when he was an unmarried bodybuilder 25-plus years is quite relevant to whether he should be governor today.
Some sexual habits reflect an attitude toward other people, especially women, that is worth knowing about in the voting booth. It’s also worth knowing if a politician is a liar and hypocrite, which he is if he’s campaigning with his wife and canoodling with someone else.
But if it did happen, exactly as he described it in 1977, it’s pretty disgusting. It’s disgusting even if it was consensual all around. It’s disgusting even though he wasn’t married at the time. It’s disgusting even if this amounts to applying the standards of the 21st century to events of the mid-1970s. In terms of his fitness for elected office, the fact that Schwarzenegger bragged about this episode in a published interview makes the question of whether it really happened almost irrelevant.
In 1977, at least, he wished to have people believe that he shared and was proud of an attitude toward women that is not acceptable in a politician. Whether the episode happened or not, today he hasn’t said what he thinks about it all from the perspective of 2003.
The actor may be just surfing the zeitgeist: a swinger in the swinging ’70s, a governor in the sober 2000s. Schwarzenegger Ã¢€” in remarks similar to those of George W. Bush about his drinking and Dan Quayle about evading the draft Ã¢€” has said he didn’t know back then that he’d be running for governor today. Which works fine as an explanation but fails miserably as exoneration.
While I basically agree with this analysis, I do think people can genuinely change. Our current president’s reckless youth is not a good thing if it sends the message that it doesn’t matter what you do in early adulthood. But, to the extent it sends the message that it’s never too late to straighten out your life, that’s not so bad.
Some people grow up rather late in life. People who are born into money and those who are become star athletes and entertainers early in life have a lot of temptations that the rest of us don’t and are much more insulated from the consequences of their bad behavior. Witness the many scandals taking place in the various sports leagues. Or the Kennedy family. I’m not sure what the statute of limitations on youthful boorishness is. One would think 25 years would cover it, though. There may well be many reasons not to vote for Schwarzenegger to run California. I don’t think this is one of them.