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August 23, 2005

outercourse?

Don Herzog: August 23, 2005

The versatile Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilder (for real), actor (sort of), governor (don't blame me) has always provoked snickering.  For a couple of weeks now, there's been a new and less amiable snicker, over the recent revelation that for years, while he was married to Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger and Gigi Goyette (no, I did not make up that name) engaged in what she calls "outercourse."

There are two stories here, both of them about public and private.  One is old, boring, and inconclusive.  The other is old, too.  But it matters, and it gets underplayed.

One:  is this relationship private? or is it politically relevant?  Maybe this tawdry little affair is none of the public's business, but should be left to Schwarzenegger, Shriver, and Goyette to sort out, or to them and those they confide in:  friends, ministers, or whoever else.  In this view, if you want to know whether Schwarzenegger is a good governor, you should worry about his policy stances and political skills.  You shouldn't worry about his sex life, or whether he flosses regularly, or whether he's religiously devout.  Those latter things might or might not be important in assessing his character, but they don't matter in sizing him up for politics.

But maybe character counts.  Maybe the older allegations of Schwarzenegger's womanizing and groping, coupled with this newer story, do tell us something relevant about him.  They tell us that he's an untrustworthy, selfish scoundrel, that he has a lack of integrity, and maybe we should expect those unsavory traits to show up not just in his marriage but in politics, too.  (I leave aside the Machiavellian thought that maybe politicians ought to have those traits.)

I have nothing interesting to say about this stale, old dispute, past noticing its existence.  But ...

Two:  on August 6, 2003, Schwarzenegger announced he would run in the recall election against Gray Davis.  On August 8, 2003, American Media, Inc. paid Goyette $20,000 for exclusive rights to her story.  (For these and connected facts, see the link above the fold.  Or entertain yourself by googling further facts.  Me, I got battle fatigue.)  Goyette thought that they wanted her to write a book.  She was wrong.  They wanted to keep her story quiet.

Why?  American Media publishes the National Enquirer, the Star and some fitness magazines.  Later that year, they agreed to pay Schwarzenegger millions for associating himself with two of the fitness magazines.  In the world of bodybuilding, the guy's name, image, and endorsement are still golden.  No, I don't suppose the typical weightlifter would think much worse of him for cheating on Shriver.  But check the columnists who have sniffed that "outercourse" just means "striking out" they might have thought less of him anyway.  So American Media had pressing financial interests in what consumers and therefore voters did and didn't know about Schwarzenegger.  Yes, the Enquirer flirted briefly with the story.  But during the campaign, American Media put together a special 120-page magazine "hailing Schwarzenegger as an embodiment of the 'American dream.'"  So the link works in the other direction, too:  if voters made him governor, his endorsements would be worth even more.  And voters might not have liked Goyette's story.

Some voters think character matters.  Some don't.  Some might well think that allegations of outercourse are importantly different from those of womanizing or groping.  Those too are political disagreements, ones we properly sort out with vigorous public debate.  But California voters never got a chance to have that debate when Schwarzenegger ran, because a corporation decided they'd make more money if they pre-empted it.

Maybe Schwarzenegger wasn't getting screwed.  But the voters were.

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