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The Tale of the Governator and the Baby

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

In 2004, Maria Shriver told Vanity Fair that many people were surprised that a Kennedy clan member would marry Hollywood bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"People at first were like, 'You married the other side of the tracks.'" She said, "They have trouble with the class thing. ... Everyone assumed that I was supposed to marry someone like a John Kerry, some preppy that had gone to Harvard or Yale. I didn't want to marry those boys. I did not like them. I had been around them my whole life. I interrupted the story line."

Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Schwarzenegger had fathered a child with a longtime member of his household staff before he became governor. The story follows news of the couple's separation.

The tragedy of this whole story is that Shriver fell into a classic female trap. She thought she had found a man who would deliver her from a toxic family pattern, only to discover that in the end, she married, well, another Kennedy.

She deserved better.

When Schwarzenegger decided to run for governor in the 2003 recall election, he told people that he did not consult with his wife before he decided to run. That would look bad for any husband -- but appeared especially callous considering that Shriver lost two uncles to political assassination.

Nonetheless, Shriver stood by Schwarzenegger. When the Los Angeles Times printed reports by several women who accused the Terminator of sexually harassing them between 1975 and 2000, Shriver saved his candidacy. While Schwarzenegger denied harassing the women, he admitted he had "behaved badly."

Shriver may have saved his campaign when she told supporters, "(Y)ou can listen to the people who have never met Arnold, or who met him for five seconds 30 years ago. Or you can listen to me."

If Shriver has soured on the Austrian Oak, so has California. In his remaining hours in office, the Governator commuted the sentence of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez's son, Esteban. On the way out the door, Schwarzenegger shortened Nunez's sentence on a charge of voluntary manslaughter from 16 years to seven years.

Schwarzenegger recently admitted to Newsweek that his "office" made a mistake in not notifying the victims' families. That's right, the Governator put it on his staff. Schwarzenegger also said he felt good about the decision.

"Well, hello," he added, "I mean, of course you help a friend."

Wrong. You help a friend whose son wielded a knife in a fatal brawl only if you look at the governorship not as public service but as a seat at the big-shot SOB club.

Schwarzenegger is a charmer. He's larger than life. He's entertaining. But he is not so grand that he can treat the public safety as if it is incidental. Nor is he so grand that he can get away with the level of betrayal that produces another woman's child virtually under the couple's roof.

Shriver's website promises to "inspire," "empower" and "engage." Now, I've always considered "empower" to be a proxy for pretend power. Powerful people don't use the term.

Shriver may want to try some new buzzwords. She might want to repeat a phrase that California voters have been thinking of late: "Hasta la vista, baby."


See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

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