The Affair of the Fifteen Women

At the risk of having all of my good Republican friends admonish me to get over it, I'm wondering if we are going to have any sort of resolution of Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's Affair Of the Fifteen Women.

For those of you who missed that one (or held your hands over your ears and shouted, "I don't wanna hear it! I don't wanna hear it!" shortly before the recall election), the Los Angeles Times released a story saying it had found some 11 women who said that Mr. Schwarzenegger had physically assaulted them over the past several years. After the story was published, another four women came forward with similar charges.

I deliberately use the term "physically assaulted" rather than "groped" (the term that most newspapers used when reporting the incidents) for a reason. "Groped" has a sort of teenage-boy-snicker sound to it, a sort of "yeah, she squealed but she really liked it" feel. "Assault," on the other hand, is the legal term used when someone puts their hands on you without permission (its close cousin, "battery," is used when that assault leads to physical harm).

And that's what the 15 women accused Schwarzenegger of doing: Not of being boorish, of breaking the law.

Immediately after the charges against Schwarzenegger surfaced, my conservative friends accused my liberal friends of "hypocrisy" because -- according to the argument -- liberal Democrats were castigating Schwarzenegger for the same activity that they, the liberal Democrats, so recently excused in the former President Clinton.

This type of thinking must have been filed under the "It Happened To Women And It Had Something To Do With Sex, So It Must All Be The Same" category.

I can understand (while not agreeing with) why so many of my conservative friends chose not to listen to the charges about Schwarzenegger before the election. After all, if conservatives stood up and took the charges seriously and believed them, these conservatives would face a difficult choice. If they went ahead and voted for Schwarzenegger, they would have to admit -- to themselves in the privacy of the ballot booth, if not to the public -- that all this loud, chest-beating self-righteousness they have subjected the nation to on moral issues these past few years has been so much blown smoke.

On the other hand, if they followed their consciences and moral compasses and didn't vote for Schwarzenegger, conservatives risked leaving California in the hands of either Gray Davis or Cruz Bustamante. So just say that it's all a liberal plot or a Gray Davis dirty trick. But the election is now over, and we have no more excuses.

For Californians of all political persuasions, the questions now hang: Did our governor-elect assault 15 women and, if he did, do we think that's okay?

As the father of four daughters, I'm especially interested in the answer.

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor is a regular columnist for the Berkeley Daily Planet.

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