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Willie Brown Keeps Digging

May 31, 2011

"Just make sure nobody finds out!"

There seemed to be little reason to write about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s affair. Everyone agreed that he was – to put it kindly – a douchebag.

Willie Brown, however, thinks otherwise. Brown has a column every Sunday in the Chronicle where he tells San Francisco what he thinks of the political issues of the moment, name-drops famous politicians and socialites, and gets to pretend that people care what he thinks of new movies. The column is generally entertaining and every once in a while he’ll say something substantial or interesting, but the last two were interesting for how wrong they were. Last weekend, he wrote about a phone conversation he had with Schwarzenegger (because Willie has phone convos with Arnie all the time) in which he told Schwarzenegger that Schwarzenegger “did exactly what I or anyone else would have done, which is do your best to protect your family.” He ended the passage by saying that Schwarzenegger was “human… just like you and me.” This past Sunday, Brown doubled down, saying that Schwarzenegger’s conduct after the initial transgression was motivated by his desire to “shield his family” and in this way he was “doing the wrong thing partly for the right reason.”

It’s pretty easy to point out why Brown is wrong. Sure, Schwarzenegger is human, but his actions were reprehensible – we’re allowed to judge him for that. For ten years, he was trusted by his wife and children. They gave him that trust in part because they assumed he was being honest with them. He wasn’t being honest and he didn’t deserve that trust. By waiting 10 years till the story came out in the media – I’m not sure if Schwarzenegger told Maria and the kids himself – Schwarzenegger expanded his betrayal exponentially, especially considering that this lady worked in the house during that time and the child was probably known to the family. Not telling his family immediately made things worse, not better as Brown contends.

Brown gestures at an argument that public officials are held to a higher standard than other celebrities in regards to their personal leaves, and that this is unfortunate. It makes sense that we hold public officials to a higher standard because we put our trust in them, and their conduct in their personal lives can demonstrate that they are worthy or unworthy of that trust. Furthermore, even if we do hold public officials to a higher standard, it doesn’t change the fact that Schwarzenegger’s actions were dishonest, cowardly and immoral. If he had remained a movie star, he’d still be a douchebag, just with (perhaps) less media attention.

Either way, Brown’s column shows he is afflicted by the same disorder as Schwarzenegger, that of powerful men who believe the rules are different for them. He should stick to name-dropping and movie reviews.

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