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Schwarzenegger's Decision

Posted by Kara Miller, Culture Club  May 17, 2011 11:41 AM

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The Maria Shriver/Arnold Schwarzenegger breakup has been a double-barreled story: awe and then anger.

It was only a week ago, after all, that we heard the two were splitting. I was in the car alone, but I reflexively gasped and pulled back in my seat. Though I had no right to be shocked - I don't know anything about either of them, except what I read in the press - I was still floored.

After 25 years of marriage, you figure that spouses know each other pretty well, so it's hard to imagine what sorts of personality defects wouldn't have been laid bare long ago.

Which brings me back to 2003, when Maria rallied to Arnold's defense after the L.A. Times published well-sourced reports that the then-gubernatorial candidate had groped a series of women.

But Maria, like Hillary, stood by her man. "You can listen to people who have never met Arnold, or who met him for five seconds 30 years ago," she said at the time, "or you can listen to me."

So today, when I woke up to the bombshell news that Arnold had long ago fathered a child with a household employee, I was angry. Angry that Arnold could have let his wife defend him so publicly during the gubernatorial campaign - given what he was hiding. Angry that he had let her step away from her work at NBC in order to indulge his political ambitions. Angry that he had subsumed her ambitions and ignored her feelings.

And there are echoes, of course, of John Edwards in all of this, another politician who lied in order to maintain power and viability and, in the end, lost everything.

It makes you wonder about the glare of the political spotlight - who it attracts, what sort of secrecy it can encourage, what it asks of candidates' spouses, and, ultimately, what we look for in our politicians.

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About the author

Kara Miller is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in journalism, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She also serves as a guest panelist on WGBH-TV's “Beat the Press” and contributes to 89.7 FM WGBH (NPR). More »

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