Dammit Sam!

Ok, we can debate for years why people have a far easier time getting their bile up over politician's sexual exploits rather than far more substantive reasons such as lying about WMD's. Part of it is that we all have experience with it to some degree and have a sense for what is right and what is wrong when it comes to love and sex. Part of it is probably Dr Goebbels's big lie vs the small ones. The big ones are harder to fathom. The little ones not so much.

Which brings us to the sad case of Sam Adams. Sam is the first openly gay man elected mayor of a large American city - Portland Oregon. Now Oregon in general and Portland in particular are well known as libertarian bastions. I am a stereotypical Oregonian. What ever you choose to do is of absolutely no consequence to me as long as I am not directly involved or the innocent are threatened. Like Tommy Lee Jones in the Fugitive - "I don't care!". My friends who happen to be gay know that I don't want to hear about their sex lives. That's simply because I don't want to hear about anyone's sex life other than my own. It's none of my business as long as it's legal. In November I joined a whole lot of other people in electing Sam mayor for the simple reason that he seemed qualified for the job.

Now Sam got caught lying just a few short weeks after the election. A while back rumors circulated that he had an affair with an intern in his department who started working at age 17 (hence the part about legal). The young man turned 18 and the rumors got a little more explicit. When confronted by these questions Adams repeatedly denied the allegations that he had ever had sex with this young man. Furthermore he took a sanctimonious approach to the denials calling it the worst kind of stereotypical smear campaign against a gay man. Now it turns out that he lied repeatedly.

On the eve of the inaugural a notorious independent rag called the Willamette Week was about to break the story. People rail against this paper all the time but everybody reads it - for the simple reason that even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a great while. And the WW sometimes comes through when the rest of the media falls flat. So Adams came clean on the eve of publication. He admitted to lying. He admitted to getting the young man to lie as well. He covered up the truth. And he admitted that he lied because he didn't think he'd get elected if he had been truthful. Maybe so, maybe not, this was Portland after all. Then he poured gasoline on the fire by not showing up to work yesterday. Sam you are the mayor of a big city - deal with your personal crises on your own time. (A bit of irony - He had to cancel a talk at the local university last night - the topic was on ethics in public life.... The Q+A session would have no doubt been very interesting.)

It's hard to know but there is little doubt that his actions have in fact fed into the stereotypical prejudices against gay men that he piously decried as unfair in the minds of some. But Sam that's not why people like me are pissed. We're mad because you lied about it. Hey, we're adults - we know that affairs of the heart can be tricky and personal decisions don't necessarily impact one's ability to govern, but bold faced lying does. His actions at the very least showed questionable judgment (yes, like Clinton's as well). A person in power is treading on dangerous ground when they engage in any relationship with someone who works for them particularly when there is such an age difference. Then, there is the issue at what age did this relationship become physical. Sorry Sam but your denials ring a bit false based upon your level of credibility with the voters. And like it or not 17 and 18 mark a black and white line with respect to the law and one side or the other is the difference between piss poor judgment and a label of sexual offender. Even Portland ain't that progressive.

Now delving into all that wouldn't have been comfortable and dealing with his age might have been tough. You might respond that your private life is none of our business but here's a fact that many politicians seem incapable of understanding - the voters get to decide what is their business and what isn't if you want our vote. We'll never know if we'd have gotten past it or not since you didn't trust us to decide. Yes it might have cost you the election, but I suspect that would have been better than what's happening now. You'll either resign or likely be recalled for lying. Oregon has a long tradition of recalling politicians who fall from grace. Sex and sexual politics is the one thing that everybody understands. You've created questions in the minds of all those women out there who's bosses come on to them because they can. In all those troglodytes who imagine gay men hiding in the shadows waiting to pounce on young boys. And all those people who know that the city faces a myriad of problems that need honest government to address. You've touched off battles between those who would defend you for your orientation and those who do not. None of that is really relevant - it's just about one guy who screwed up and then lied about it.

But Dammit Sam, you didn't have the luxury of human foibles. Like it or not, your actions reflect on a greater population of people than yourself. And you've just made it harder for them. I'm not talking about sexual orientation here. All the people of this city deserved better.


Stacy said...

What is it with men? Are sexual urges so hard to control that they no longer think clearly? Do they know that what they are doing is going to cause them trouble, but risk it anyway? Is it a gambling problem?

I'm not being sarcastic - I'm truly curious.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I think it is basically our failure to recognize the importance of biology in our actions. My wise old father shocked the hell out of me when I was getting ready to start work. He said '"son, the sad truth is that the big difference between a faithful husband (which he was and is) and one who isn't is recognizing that we are all vulnerable to urges. The only way to avoid it is to actively avoid putting yourself in positions where you can fail." In the years that followed I have tried to follow that advise and have seen countless examples of good people who didn't see it coming and hadn't been looking for it. The problem may have been that they weren't actively trying to avoid it. Kind of like drugs and alcohol I guess. Just a thought.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I guess I've spilled the beans - I'm a Portlander YOOOHOOO!

Harvey said...


Men, unlike you ladies, have two "heads". Unfortunately we think with and/or respond to what the "small head" tells us, rather than to what our "big head" says. Pliny's comments are right on. I have managed to live through (the second one yet continuing successfuly) two marriages without ever having violated my commitments to either of my two wives. This is because I have managed to realize that no transitory assignation can possibly be as satisfying as keeping my long term relationships intact or that passing it up can avoid huge amounts of later pain (to me, of course). That being the case, I (and apparently Pliny, as well) have chosen to "be somewhere else", as my father put it, when temptation or other trouble is likely to occur.

mac said...

Well, I certainly cannot blame Sam for his sexual indiscretions...I'm big in that department myself- not gay, but yeah, my life has changed drastically these past few months over my desires and urges. I am an addiction prone kind of guy.

Booze - kicked that one 17 years ago. Weed - gave it up with the booze. Ciggies - stil enjoy one occaisionally. SEX - not a chance I'm giving that one up.

Thye problem with your Mayor is his lies to cover-up his ILLEGAL activities.

I was just as disappointed with Bill Clinton over the whole Monica Lewinsky thing. Not that he got a BJ from a young ADULT lady, but his attitude about it all. As if I was the prevert for thinking such a thing of my president.
Yeah, I would have done the same thing with THAT WOMAN, Miss Lewinsky.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Thye problem with your Mayor is his lies to cover-up his ILLEGAL activities.

I agree with you there Mac - that is absolutely the issue.

Stacy said...

Pliny, say "Hi" to the redwoods for me. :-)

Sam isn't married though, right? So it's not a matter of cheating - just stupidity.

I am surprised that age of consent in Oregon is 18. Kids can get married in Florida at 15 with parental permission.

It's not fair somehow.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Stacy: No he's not married and it is a case of stupidity.

Kids can get parental permission here as well to get married.

We are more of a Doug fir / Cedar / Ponderossa Pine kind of town ;).

There is a great story about redwoods here though. There is an avenue on the south east side of the river that has about a mile of giant Redwoods lining it. The master gardeners group in town fields calls on horticultural questions. Every few years, Sequoias drop their needles and replace them with new growth. People always call in frantic that the trees are dying. The gardeners used too try and explain it but no one would listen. Now they just assure people that they have treated the trees and they should expect them to recover in a few weeks...

Stacy said...

I lived very close to the Avenue of the Giants - in Humboldt County (CA) - but that's to the South/West of you.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

That is some beautiful country - hard to beat the NW.

GearHedEd said...

Stacy said (in the "Ethical Dilemma" thread),

"P.S. @Gearhead Ed - I'm cuter than she is so you can change your answer now. :-)"

Well, now... you have any photos? I mean, Ann Coulter's OK, if you're into anorexia....

GearHedEd said...

(combing my last three hairs over the top, and splashing on some "Old Spice"...)

Stacy said...

" Well, now... you have any photos?"

I had this one on my front page until about a week ago .

See ... I told you so. ;-)

GearHedEd said...


Very nice!