MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2003
GROPE THIS: How low in character is Washingtons press corps? Chris Matthews has long been the low of the low, and he proved it again on last Friday nights Hardball. That morning, the Los Angeles Times had reported that six women had accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of groping and grabbing, without their consent. Matthews has been the musclemans chief shill in the media, so he quickly got to work, standing by his man. But uh-oh! Friday night, trouble was brewing! On Hardball, Gloria Allred expressed concern about the Times report:
ALLRED: What Im concerned about is what Arnold Schwarzenegger has done, what he has allegedly done to women, to the six women who reported incidents to the L. A. Times. We dont know if it is true or not, but Mr. Schwarzenegger himself, Chris, said where theres smoke, theres fire. He suggested that he acted badly.Uh-oh! It didnt sound good! So Matthews began misdirecting. By the way, where were you on Clinton? he asked, specifically mentioning Monica Lewinsky. And soon an obvious distinction was offered. This is a different situation, Allred said. This is unconsented-to conduct.
Hmmm. Lets see if we can puzzle this out. Lewinsky engaged in consensual conduct. These six (now fifteen) women say they were groped. The distinction seemed fairly clear to us, but the Hardball host was thoroughly flummoxed. Allred voiced the distinction again. But he just couldnt figure it out:
ALLRED: The situation with Monica Lewinsky was consented-to conduct. She consented to that conduct. In the newspaper article in the L. A. Times, the situation with the six women with Arnold SchwarzeneggerCant you see the total clowning, and one of the clowning clowns who produce it? Matthews feigned utter confusionhe just couldnt figure this value system out! And now, concluding his segment with Allred, he showcased his low, smutty character:
ALLRED (continuing directly): Well, it is very clear. It is not unlawful, although I dont think it is wise, to have a sexual relationship that is consented to in the workplace.Matthewstrying to be politedidnt tell Allred to shut up himself. He just said his producer was saying it!
But Matthews was hardly alone this weekend. Many pundits seemed confused by the concept of consent. Of course, few of them clowned any harder than Matthews. But hes long been an industry leader.
THEYVE GOT YOUR CONSENT RIGHT HERE: Many pundits were having trouble with the consensual/nonconsensual distinction. Wow, it was hard to sort out! Luckily, Susan Faludi explained why that might be. Why was Matthews so utterly puzzled? Why should Allred just shut up? Writing an op-ed in Sundays Los Angeles Times, Faludi offered a general suggestion:
FALUDI: A Schwarzenegger spokesman told The Times that [one of the alleged groping episodes] was just a case of locker room humor. Which actually explains a good deal of Schwarzeneggers appeal to male voters. He comes out of the testosterone-ruled world of weight rooms and action movies, where women are the designated observers and adorners, and where men find their place in the wolf pack through a well-established ordeal of hazing and humiliation.Of course, Matthews has always been a sand-kicking bully when female guests talk back on Hardball. We have written in the past about his rude putdowns of Norah ODonnell, Elizabeth Holtzman, Kiki Moore, Mary Boyle. Lets say this for Bill OReillyhe tells men that they ought to shut up. Matthewsa 98-pound bully and cowardlikes to say shut up to women.
YOU LIVE IN AN AGE OF PROPAGANDA: Many pundits dragged Clinton in, eager to get their favorite movie star off the hook. They tended to ignore two distinctions:
Consent/non-consent: [A]ll of Arnolds incidents were one-off, Andrew Sullivan wrote in a silly disquisition which said that Clinton was worse, so much worse. Clinton, for the most part, pursued the same women over time. Its unclear who Sullivan meant by that, except for Lewinsky, of course. But he also mentioned Gennifer Flowersa person who alleged a twelve-year, passionate love affair, not an unwanted advance. But somehow, many pundits conflated the Flowers allegation with the assault allegations against Schwarzenegger. But we think you know why that is. Among other reasons, your press corps isnt very smart or very honestand you live in an age of propaganda.Do the accusations against Schwarzenegger seem to be true? That is a matter of judgment. (We think the general answer is obvious.) Should they affect how Californians vote? Voters decide that, not us. But you live in an age of propaganda, and many pundits are shilling for Arnold. Theyve deceived you for years about Clinton-accusers, and their fakery continues on still.
SULLIVANS STRUGGLES: Andrew Sullivan struggled hard to show that Clinton was worse, so much worse. Heres our favorite of his six silly items:
SULLIVAN: Item two: most of Clintons sexual targets were women who worked for him or were under his direct authority. Some of Arnolds targets were on movie sets where he certainly had social power but where he was, as far as I know, not the owner or direct boss.Readers, theres only one word to describe such slick parsing. You know what it is: Clintonesque.
By the way, who are these Clinton targets, who supposedly made up the bulk of his victims? Presumably, Sullivan refers to Flowers and Lewinsky. But Flowers allegations lack credibility, and Lewinsky engaged in consensual conduct. (And no, she wasnt 21, a bit of clowning to which Maureen Dowd returned in yesterdays column.)
By contrast, Schwarzenegger stands accused of multiple assaults against unwilling women. Sullivan, of course, finds those allegations less troubling. Reason? Schwarzenegger wasnt the boss at the time! Say hello to the endless clowning which defines a corrupted press age.