Thursday, January 22, 2009

Politics as Usual

So, while the national scene has a bright-and-shining moment as Barack Obama becomes President and immediately starts to kick ass and take names, the local politics offers a kick in the nuts. Local, as in Portland, a city in which I am not living, but of which I reside in a bedroom community thereof.

Sam Adams, the first openly-gay man to be elected mayor of a big city in the U.S. and who just took office, is about to become yesterday's road kill. Worse, he ran over himself. Worse still, every time he tries to explain, he winds up rolling a radial over his own foot again.

The story is this: A while back, whilst he was in the throes of running for the office, Sam got into a relationship with a much younger man. Nothing serious, just sex. They went their separate ways, no harm, no foul.

That Sam is gay is not a problem. Voters knew this when they elected him.

However, the much younger man under discussion was on the legal fence, age-wise when the two men met, and the mayor, feeling that nobody would believe him if he said they'd waited until the boy turned eighteen to commence their carnal carnival, denied that any such thing had ever happened. I was a mentor. We were just friends. How dare you say such a thing!

Told the kid to keep mum and deny all, too.

Getting irate and righteous looks really lame if it turns out you were lying. Which Sam now admits he was. The local muckraking paper, Willamette Week, responsible for bringing down the shining reputation of a former governor who, when he was mayor, nailed a fourteen-year-old girl, had enough to run a story, and when Sam found out, he knew the jig was up and came clean.

A public apology while under the gun sounds more than a little hollow. If he really meant it, maybe he should have fessed up after he was elected, and when he could put a good spin on it.

So there's the cover up. Even if the lad had been of legal age -- which Sam says was the case -- then Sam's actions were, not to put too fine a point on it, ill-considered. They have come back to bite him.

(If the kid hadn't crossed the rubicon into legal adulthood, then that's much worse, because that's criminal. And there is an investigation cranking up to see. Might be difficult to prove, if there's no -- ah -- dripping gun to be found. If they do, Sam is really screwed.)

A sad situation, in that Sam is a bright fellow, politically experienced, and until now, adept. Turned being gay into a virtue and not a vice. Only now, he probably won't survive the heat. And it is his own damn fault.

On a personal note, some years ago, I had a chance to see how Sam operated. He was Vera Katz's campaign manager when she ran for mayor of Portland, a couple mayors back. My wife was a fund raiser for her campaign, which Vera, then Speaker of the Oregon House, won handily. Now and again, I'd be down at campaign headquarters with the mostly-volunteer staff, putting direct mail literature into envelopes and other grinding chores, and I had, on a couple of occasions, a chance to see Sam speak and behave in ways that I found, um, less than inspiring. I saw him lose his temper and scream at a volunteer -- happened to be me -- and heard him ask workers to do something that, while not illegal, wasn't entirely kosher.

If you are nice guy and you make a mistake, you have a lot of people willing to stand in your corner. If you aren't so nice, some of the people around you are going to be laughing up their sleeves if you stumble, and rooting for you to fall.

Karma always comes round. Now and then, it does so in the current incarnation ...


Dan Gambiera said...

The t-shirts are already out:

"Oregon: Where you only have to be 18 to enjoy a Sam Adams"

Steve Perry said...

Didn't surprise me at all he decided to stay. I think the remorse, and possibility he might resign were all for show and never a real consideration.