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October 5, 2003 Odd and Ends

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Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sex and Outrage
Susan Faludi, the author of Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man and Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, had an interesting opinion piece in the October 5th Los Angeles Times - Conan the Vulgarian (at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-faludi5oct05,1,7785362.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions registration required). 
Faludi reports she has a friend in the film industry out here who asked her about all these reports concerning Schwarzenegger's alleged groping of six women (the count was actually eleven as I started writing this and is now fifteen, with one in the UK threatening to sue).  "Why doesn't anyone seem to care about Arnold's reputation for sexual harassment?  Everybody in the business knows about it but it doesn't even seem to register."
Faludi goes into why it doesn't seem to matter.
Even before The Times' piece, Schwarzenegger's bad behavior toward women had made the rounds.  Premiere magazine offered chapter and verse on Schwarzenegger's molesting tendencies two years ago, and the Oui interview in which he bragged about nailing that babe in a gang bang has been endlessly recycled. None of it seems to have had an effect on the very constituency that expressed the most disgust over reports of Bill Clinton's philandering: American men.
Her argument, rather detailed, is that most men see a fundamental difference between the Clinton business with that Monica woman and Schwarzenegger's behavior.
Clinton was perceived by men as having lost this control, and worse, lost it to a series of women. He may have been the aggressor, but as a seducer he really meant to seduce, thus exposing an almost feminine sort of desire and vulnerability. For this, he was humiliated ... Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, is going after women, sniggering frat-boy style, for the score.... Sex isn't even the prime object here: The women in the Times story were manhandled, not seduced. There is no warning, no courtship (unless you count such romantic come-ons as "I'd love to work you out"); the hand darts into their underclothes like a bolt from the blue, a preemptive strike.
Humiliation so often seems to be the theme in these tales of Schwarzenegger's conquests, humiliation not just of women but - perhaps even more notably - of the men these women "belong" to.
So it would seem what Clinton was up to was really about sex, which is, one supposes, dark and scary, and Schwarzenegger's rather assertive behavior is about power.
It is my sense that what propels events out here, this recall, is anger and fear, and a sense of powerlessness.  The anger is directed at the incumbent governor regarding the mess the state is in, without overly much regard as to whether or not he is or is not the primary cause of the mess.  The fear is that the mess cannot be fixed without a strong hand slapping down those who may are may not be causing the mess - career politicians, the dark-skinned folks from south of the border who shouldn't have drivers licenses, the Native Americans who run all those casinos and now have lots of money when others don't even have jobs... and who knows who else.  Things aren't right and the sense is that things are spinning out of control. 
Schwarzenegger's sexual aggressiveness, or as he puts it, his "playfulness" that he realizes now may have offended one or two people, is thus an asset.  He is strong and dominant/domineering.  Sure he has humiliated people, but much of the population out here wants to see someone humiliated, and soon.  Thus Schwarzenegger's behavior is "an outward and spiritual sign of an inward spiritual grace" - to twist the catechism a bit.  Folks may "tut-tut" his treatment of a few women, and some men, but love the idea he is well-versed in humiliating others.   That's what is called for.
Thus his comments, made when he was twenty-eight, regarding how he admired Adolph Hilter, will not hurt him out here either. 
Schwarzenegger pointed out that he was only saying he admired how Hitler, without much formal education, rose to power against all odds, using his speaking ability to have, finally, giant stadiums filled with followers hanging on his every word.  Schwarzenegger says he hates what Hitler did, but as an odd sort of Horatio Alger figure, Schwarzenegger admires how Hitler made himself powerful from a lowly background and not much schooling at all, and he admires his rhetorical skills.  Thus Hitler is a sort of business model, one supposes, and a political model.  Schwarzenegger has contributed to Jewish cause out here for decades.  The bottom line is that Schwarzenegger is arguing that he hates the "ends" of the Nazi leader, one supposes, but is impressed with the "means" - he is impressed with power and dominance, and as he says, always wanted that sort of power and dominance.
Things are a bit of a mess out here.  Such force of will, such a personality, longing to get things under control and humiliate those who might object, and to dominate, is attractive to those who live in fear and anger, feeling powerless.  No, his comments on Hitler will not hurt out here.
And his appeal is, fundamentally, to male voters out here, feeling these things - some of whom have lost jobs to women applicants, some of whom work for women, and who have deep unease about women's rights.  They are the Rush Limbaugh crowd who like to use Rush's rant about the women's movement - Rush calls all those women "Femi-Nazi's." 
The world has turned upside down for these guys.  Women murder children claiming a "womans right to choose" on the abortion issue.  Folks from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and who knows where else are everywhere you look - and you hear ten kinds of Spanish all day long.  Indian guys with turquoise jewelry are driving fancy cars and buying influence up in Sacramento.  And on a national level, some people are saying the president took us to war for no good reason, screwed the economy, and should now work with the UN, and even with the most feminine of all folks, those girly-men French guys. 
George and Arnold are the "real men" in this way of thinking.  They are sure they are right, not very curious, show a deep distaste for detail and are scornful of introspection of any kind.  That's for the women folk. 
I'd say there's a bit of divide out here.  And I'd guess Schwarzenegger will be the governor come Wednesday.  If he's not elected, there will be a whole lot of even angrier people out here.

The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld

Back in June I made some comments about Gertrude Stein and "automatic writing" - June 8, 2003 Reviews - providing a link to a site that randomly generated possible names for rock bands, typical adolescent poetry, and generated endless scholarly essays on structural linguistics. 

In the same spirit, Hart Seely in Slate magazine has taken the ordinary words of Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, and turned them into poetry.  These poems are the exact words of the defense secretary, taken from the official transcripts on the Defense Department's website.

As a friend from Canada commented, "All that 'wisdom', yet not an actual comment or opinion to come back and bite him in the butt.  Rummy's obviously the best politician in Washington.  And we didn't even vote for him... EITHER!"

From Atlanta, "There is a hint of Frank Sinatra and Rod McKuen in these pearls of poetry."

Well, we report.  You decide.

You may think it's something
I ought to know,
But I happen not to.
That's life.
(July 9, 2003)

On Reporters
If you do something,
Somebody's not going
To agree with it.
That's life.
(Feb. 19, 2003)

On the Budget
If you do anything,
Someone's not going
To like it and
That's life.
(May 7, 2002)

On Leaks
Look bumpy? Sure.
But you pick up
And go on.
That's life.
(May 17, 2002)

On Democracy
People elected
Those people to office.
That's what they think, and
That's life.
(Feb. 20, 2003)

On People
They're going to have
Some impact on
What happens in that country
And that's not wrong.
That's life.
(Nov. 16, 2001)

On Criticism
It makes it complicated.
Sometimes, it makes
It difficult.
That's life.
(Sept. 11, 2003)