Arnold Schwarzenegger is going through the painful experience of public exposure of a private scandal. He isn't the first officeholder to be so humiliated and, human nature being what it is, he won't be the last. Grover Cleveland went through a similar embarrassment in 1884.
Governor Cleveland was called Grover the Good because of his anti-corruption actions - going after Tammany Hall crooks in New York State. He didn't win that title for his Boy Scout moral life. "We love him for the enemies he made," said Empire State reformers about their champion, Cleveland.
But when he was nominated for president, those enemies got hold of an old scandal in Grover's past. He had fathered a child out-of-wedlock in his early days in Buffalo. Cleveland's Democratic campaign aides urged him to put the blame on John Folsom, his late law partner. Mr. Folsom, they said, had spent time with the mother of the child; he might well have been the father.
Grover turned on them in fury. He would never drag his dear friend's name through the mud to save himself, he said. Besides, John Folsom had entrusted Grover as the legal guardian for his daughter, Frances.
Republicans snickered. "Ma, Ma, Where's my Pa?" When his campaign aides gave Gov. Cleveland incriminating evidence against his opponent, Republican James Gillespie Blaine, Grover threw the documents in the stove.
What should we do, they asked Gov. Cleveland. "Tell the truth," he ordered them.
The truth was he had fathered the child out-of-wedlock and had provided funds for her care. That was what was expected in the 1880s.
Soon, the truth of Blaine's misdoings became public. As Speaker of the House, he had become entangled in a railroad scandal, in which he pocketed $100,000. "Burn this letter," Speaker Blaine had written in his own hand on an incriminating document.
"Blaine, Blaine, You Oughtta be Ashamed/A Continental Liar from the State of Maine," cried the Democrats, more than happy to throw some mud of their own. One editorial writer, endorsing Cleveland, said his public reputation was untarnished while Blaine's private life was unstained. Therefore, send Blaine home and Cleveland to the Executive Mansion. Joseph Pulitzer editorialized in his New York World. There were four reasons to elect Cleveland: 1. He is an honest man.2. He is an honest man. 3. He is an honest man. 4. He is an honest man.
Cleveland won handily. His jubilant supporters answered that Republican taunt: "Ma, Ma, Where's My Pa?" He's gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!
It gets better. The lovely young Miss Folsom soon became the bride of the beefy bachelor president. It wasn't quite as romantic as the recent nuptials of young Will and Kate. Wags said the stylish Mrs. Cleveland was half the president's age (and one-third his weight!). Still, they had a long, happy, and by all accounts faithful marriage. They were blessed with devoted children. One of them, Baby Ruth, even got a candy bar named for her.
Former Gov. Schwarzenegger isn't going to the White House anytime soon. The Austrian Oak is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Neither is former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan. She was born in Canada. That's because the Founders in their wisdom decreed that no foreign-born person could become president.
Still, Grover Cleveland's example is a good one. For many of us, Arnold Schwarzenegger's marriage was the best thing about him. What lends special poignancy to this story is that Maria Shriver's late parents, Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, were loved and honored by all.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has done this much right. He has acknowledged his wrongdoing. He has not tried to place the blame on anyone else. Now, let us pray that he can restore the bonds of love, loyalty and trust that are indispensable to married life.
Pundits are wrong to dismiss these matters as "baggage" and seek to sweep them under the rug. Americans know better. If we care about children, we know that marriage still matters.
Family Research Council