Sam’s supporters fight back

by Steve, January 22nd, 2009

Say what you will about Sam Adams, he’s got a lot of friends and supporters. I have never been one of them; I’ve always considered Adams to be overly-motivated by personal ambition, and in the pocket of Portland’s real estate developer mafia.

So I see this scandal in the light of somebody who wanted to advance his career so badly, he was willing to lie publicly and vociferously, and coach others to do so, too, regardless of whom those lies may have hurt.

Like I said in my initial reaction, this isn’t about sex, it’s about the cover-up. Sam’s supporters want to make this about sex and sexuality, which would make this whole thing a sanctimonious, Victorian which hunt.

The Web site Sam Is Still My Mayor couches it like this:

  1. Consensual sex between adults does not impact one’s ability to serve in public office;
  2. The personal affairs of gay officials face a level of scrutiny that is not equal to that of their heterosexual counterparts;
  3. We acknowledge Sam Adams’s dishonesty in this matter and do not endorse it;
  4. Sam Adams is the person we want to lead our city.

I can agree with number one, to the extent that the law is very clear on this. But since the matter is still under investigation, we don’t know the facts. But this is not just about law, it’s also about ethical judgement.

The issue is clouded by the fact that even if Sam waited until Breedlove was 18 and legal, he may have groomed him for sex when he was a minor. At the very least, even if legal, this shows a colossal lack of ethical judgment. This is not a question of sex, it is a question of use (or abuse) of power and position for personal gratification.

Number two is easily dismissed. How about Packwood? Goldschmidt? Clinton? In Clinton’s case, there was no question that the relationship was between consenting adults, yet he was nearly hounded out of office for it. (Packwood and Goldschmidt clearly engaged in criminal activities.) How is Adams facing a higher level of scrutiny?

If Tom Potter had befriended a high school girl, had sex with her as soon as she turned 18, then lied about it, coached her to lie about it, and engaged political allies to defend him at the outset of his mayoral campaign, would we have given him a pass when the truth came out? Would we be saying things like “some young women seek out older men for sex” or “consensual sex between adults does not impact one’s ability to serve in public office”?

Acknowledging Adams’ dishonesty and refusing to endorse it is a cop out. How about addressing how this may impact his ability to lead the city? What about coaching Breedlove to lie? Abusing the loyalty of Randy Leonard? Smearing opponents as homophobes? Trashing the trust of the LGBT community?

Finally, Sam was never the guy I wanted to lead our city. His sense of inevitability as our next mayor was distasteful to me, as was his predilection for high-end, glitzy development in the central city, while poor neighborhoods lack basic services and infrastructure like paved streets and sidewalks.

But I was willing to work with him. I was cautiously optimistic about his 100 days plan, and met with his education team last Friday to discuss how his education agenda relates to the work I’m doing with Portland Public Schools. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see much progress on that now.