There is no coincidence like great coincidence. Especially in politics. It was one of those days on the campaign trail with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The L.A. Times dumped its long-anticipated negative research story on the gubernatorial front-runner on Thursday morning. Three reporters, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, labored the better part of two months and came up with a less salacious sequel to a notorious Premiere magazine story of 2001. It was all about Arnold, as you don’t want to know him, talking crudely to women, unwantedly touching women. Six women, over a course of 30 years, four of them anonymous. It was less than anticipated given the buildup, but troubling.
And, by coincidence, of course, it was a bad start for Schwarzenegger at the very moment he launches his big statewide bus tour of California.
So Schwarzenegger, at the kickoff rally in San Diego at the early hour of 9 a.m., does the unexpected. He apologizes. Saying that much in the article is untrue, he admits that he has engaged in unacceptable behavior on “rowdy movie sets” with some behavior he “thought playful” but may also have offended people. “I have to prove I will be a champion for women as governor,” he declares, to loud cheers from the crowd of 800.
The assembled traveling press corps of 200 is surprised. If he is not going to be defensive, it is hard to see where the story goes.
Where the story goes is on to a rally with several thousand roaring supporters at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. There, as Schwarzenegger is wrapping up, a small band of protesters, several of whom say they were organized by the hotel and restaurant workers union (HERE) in L.A., show up to demonstrate.
At the very same time, the Democratic Party holds a conference call with the press to fan the flickering flame of the Times story. And a woman, who says she is a member of HERE, starts talking to a growing crowd of reporters at the back of the rally.
She sketches a stunning story. In 1978, when she was 16, she said she was in a Santa Monica restaurant. She notices that Schwarzenegger is there, too, with friends. All of them leave except for one, who says Arnold wants to meet her and proceeds to “drag” her into a parking lot, where he roars up in “an SUV-type vehicle” (there were no SUVs 25 years ago), rolls down the window and says: “We are all going to rape you.” Somehow, she gets away. No rape occurs, and that is the extent of her alleged encounter with Schwarzenegger.
It is hard to hear in all the post-rally music and tumult with journos pressing in and cameras rolling.
So here is where coincidence cascades on coincidence. With the Times story failing to destroy Schwarzenegger, the Democrats hold a press conference call to re-ignite things, protesters who say they are organized by HERE come down from L.A. to Costa Mesa, and a woman who says she is a HERE member surfaces to say she, too, was a victim 25 years ago of Schwarzenegger’s crude behavior.
HERE is run in L.A. by Maria Durazo, who is married to L.A. Labor Fed chief Miguel Contreras, who serves on the executive committee of Gray Davis’ anti-recall campaign.
Remarkable coincidences abound in politics. It is that time of the campaign.
How does the press respond, you ask? With some befuddlement. The charge is wild and hard to evaluate. And few know of the coincidental link to Davis. CNN won’t air it. Friday’s newspapers will be interesting, but the attack seems likely to fall short.
Look for more such coincidences on what may be the last Friday of Gray’s last campaign.