Stay True to Yourselves, Good People!

Cody Hoesly

We all see the hypocrisy in the Republican Party, which preaches values while engaging in the worst forms of corruption, cronyism, incompetance, and cruelty this nation has seen in ages.  It's part of the Faustian bargain they made decades ago to gain and keep power.

But a news item from today reminds me of a point I've long sought to make here on Blue Oregon:  We on the left must be wary lest we fall into the same trap.  We must be as harsh on ourselves as we are on our ideological opponents.  After all, hypocrisy is not an inherently conservative value.

Maybe nobody knew about Neil Goldschmidt's "private" crimes for certain - but many, many knew enough to be suspicious, only to leave things alone for reasons of personal gain, fear of a ruined career, or perhaps fear of damage to "the Movement."

Today, it is reported that Gerhard Schroeder, Germany's former Chancellor (who just lost in the recent election to Germany's version of the Republicans), has decided to take a prominent job with Gazprom, the sketchy (at best) Russian oil company.  Turns out Schroeder had championed a dubious Gazprom pipeline, and defended Russian President Vladimir Putin against some pretty harsh and well warranted charges.  Another instance of a leftist doing something wrong.  Few in Germany are defending Schroeder.  After all, does this not speak as loudly to his character as anything else he has done? 

And that is good.  Schroeder should be shamed, and Goldschmidt should have been outed long ago.  In the grand historical picture, both men may come out titans of the good cause, as persons who did more good than evil.  But let not their evil be forgotten.  And let it not go unpunished.

For if we are content to sit idly by, and watch our leaders' corruption in silence, all in the name of advancing our "values," then we have thin values indeed, and we deserve neither power nor pride.  We must have the courage, and the conviction, to stay true to our values, even to our own cost.  To paraphrase a man of values: If it is your hand that sins, cut it off - or at least slap it in a meaningful way.
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Footnote: On a related matter, I wonder: is the opposition of California Democrats to commission redistricting just another instance of a similar problem?

Comments

  • LT (unverified)
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    Maybe nobody knew about Neil Goldschmidt's "private" crimes for certain - but many, many knew enough to be suspicious

    If someone in Portland knew about it before the statute of limitations ran out and didn't do anything, that seems like accessory to a felony.

    But when the story came out some people went overboard and acted as if any 1986 volunteer (anywhere in the state) who didn't know about the story was somehow complicit. Think about it: how much do you know about the personal life of any candidate you have actively supported in the last 5 or 10 years?
    And does anyone really believe Democrats in general (the volunteers, not the people who were close personal friends of the Goldschmidt family) would really cover something like that up if they knew for sure?

    Or (as some of the initial coverage implied) are we supposed to credit every rumor we hear until we have evidence to the contrary? Would anyone here like to have to disprove every rumor ever told, or is there better use for such time and energy absent solid information? And if you don't think there are those who try to spread rumors about the opposition, read some of the "can't we do better in HD 13?" posted comments where some people not living in Eugene say "never met her, but if she only got 10% on the scorecard, why should we believe she should run as a Democrat?"

    Rumors are not healthy. I know from personal experience that if I find out something (for sure, not just rumor) about a candidate I had supported in the past, I do not support that person unless/until the situation has been remedied, pennance done, etc. But don't tell me that just because I met Neil once during the 1986 campaign and liked something he said on a couple of issues that (living in Salem) I should have known he was a criminal. What he did was criminal. But as I have heard the couple times I have been called for jury duty, people are innocent until the evidence is presented and a court trial finds them guilty, or until they plead guilty.

    I'm the grandchild of a politician and really get angry at the attitude of some people (have heard these actual words from some in the past) that the minute a person files for office they become questionable if not corrupt. Gimme a break!

    I would warn you that people who turned 18 in 2004 and were thus old enough to vote for the first time were born in 1986. I would be a lot more worried if some Democrat were involved in the sort of 21st century financial shenaigans which landed Doyle in jail, or the late 1980s activities that lead to the long Post Office investigation of DPO misuse of bulk mail permit and resulting Post Office fine.

    I do take the general point, however. And I think the goal should be to elect as many Democrats as possible, from "R-D ratio is lousy" districts in the mid-Willamette valley (incl. Dist. 18 and 19) to similar districts in S. and E Oregon.

    And I think we should be "pro-debate". If someone likes Kitzhaber and someone likes Kulongoski, and someone likes Jim Hill and someone else likes Ben Westlund or whoever, it should be "my candidate is better because..." instead of the ol' "you must support the candidate of the in crowd without question or else". In the political sense, I think that the travesty of the 1996 Bruggere campaign (outspent primary rivals with more experience, refused to answer any questions and had debate answers like "no plan for that" or "like the answers the others gave" and then he and his wondered why so many of us chose to vote for 3rd party candidates in the fall) was more damaging to Democratic politics than a lot of other things that have happened. It took Howard Dean (and to a lesser extent the 2002 Gov. primary) to win back some of the people disspirited by the 1996 Senate campaign.

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    Most of your comment is on-topic, LT, but the final paragraph isn't. This is a thread about corruption, not internal party politics. You've had plenty of opportunities to ride that hobby horse this week.

    Please stay on topic.

  • bert (unverified)
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    One short comment from a "Germanist." The CDU-CSU party in Germany is absolutely not comparable with the Republican party in the US. I am a voting Democrat in the US, but I can tell you for certain that many of the CDU-CSU policies are, in fact, left of the Democratic party. Schroeder was a slimy, calculating, opportunist, whose time has finally come, thankfully. It took Germany 7 years to see through his lies (many quickly forgot that he booted Kohl with the statement that the Schroeder govt. would bring more jobs to Germans - was this a sick joke??) And, as long as you are on the topic of unpalatable liberal politicians, lets consider the so-called Democrat Lieberman. It'd be nice to find out what values he believes in, if any at all.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    There are two things about Goldschmidt.

    First, is that he helped create Portland as it is today. There is a large group of very influencial people in Portland who either got their start with Goldschmidt or whose success has relied in part on his nod of approval and support for their projects. Those people spread across the business community and mainstream political spectrum. Their association with Goldschmidt gives any project they undertake immediate respectability and at least a sympathetic hearing from their fellow Goldschmidt accolates.

    Second, Goldschmidt is a child molester.

    Many of the people had inklings of the the second fact. But no one with responsibility for a local institution wanted to make enemies of that Goldschmidt network by snooping around private scandals involving Goldschmidt, whether it was the Willamette Week or the Oregonian or a local TV station. Some people in that network actively worked to prevent Goldschmidt from being exposed. Others simply provided him with the political support he needed.

    So, whether they like it or not, people who endorsed Goldschmidt and want to share credit for his accomplishments also need to be asked how they missed or ignored his character flaw. They encouraged everyone to look the other way while a child's life was destroyed. And they are responsible to the extent they contributed.

  • paul (unverified)
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    Cody,

    Take LT's point about historical perspective to heart.

    You say the Republicans made a Faustian bargain "decades" ago but of course they've only controlled Congress for 11 years. It only feels like decades.

    You say this is the worst form of cronyism, incompetence, and corruption seen in ages, but of course those of us who are older remember Postal-gate, Iran-Contra, Korea-gate, the 1974 Congressional scandals, and the granddaddy Water-gate. Rewind a bit further and review the foreign policy of LBJ and you might not be too pleased.

    Where you draw the line between staying true to your values and compromising, either politically or even ethically, in order to gain and hold onto power, is one of the fundamental problems of politics. I'll play the age card and tell you that as your hair turns gray, so do political choices.

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    So, whether they like it or not, people who endorsed Goldschmidt and want to share credit for his accomplishments also need to be asked how they missed or ignored his character flaw.

    This is pure BS in my opinion. There is no way anyone who knew or worked with Goldschmidt in a political/professional capacity should be expected to have figured out he was molesting a 14-year-old for two years in his spare time. Nor is their any reason they should not take credit for whatever good they accomplished on behalf of the city or the state just because Goldschmidt was involved.

    Anyone who knew and helped him cover up his crime is, of course, responsible for that and few people would dispute that that was wrong. However, the attempt to smear everyone who worked with him on anything at all is ludicrous. We do so love to go all holier-than-thou whenever anyone "important" proves to have done something wrong that we just can't help but get carried away it seems.

    It's not hypocritical for people to eschew listening to or spreading rumors about other people. If a people have reason to believe a crime has been committed, they should report that to the appropriate authorities. If reporters or editors fail to pursue a story because they don't want to take the heat, shame on them. But promoting rumor-mongering is a sign of our lack of virtue, not a weapon in our defense of it.

  • Steve Schopp (unverified)
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    This old piece is quite a read about Goldschmidt. Boy does it ever read different now than when it was written.

    http://www.wweek.com/html/leada082698.html

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    Well I definitely put some of the old youthful naivete (and general lack of critical thought) into that post! Paul's 100% right that the same "c"s that have plagued us under the current administration were ever-present in past decades, and arguably worse...see his examples.

    With regards to Goldschmidt, I'll just clarify: The only ones morally blameworthy here are those who knew enough to have had second thoughts, who should've investigated or told authorities, but who chose not to for improper reasons, such as ensuring personal or political success.

    Lastly, as to Paul's point as to how aging grays morality, not just one's hair, well I can only say that, at least for me, I hope I can find a balance that keeps me true to my values while advancing them. I hope, and would like to say I'm sure, Paul would agree with me that there's a difference between compromise and selling out. Whether the discussion turns to the Greens in Germany, to the latest punk rock band to hit the big time, or to Ginny Burdick, we all can agree that there is, eventually, a line.

    That line may not always be obvious - indeed, it may often be very hard to draw - but as long as you can look yourself in the eye and say you did not sell out, but compromised, you're okay. Otherwise, I think you fall into the Schroeder trap. (Not that he's the only or best example, but the most recent.)

  • Becky (unverified)
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    It's an awful lot easier to slip into dirty politics than one would expect, particularly when you are surrounded by it, when the political culture is to accept or even expect it, and when you believe your opponents are doing it, too.

    I'm encouraged by this post if for no other reason than I think the public needs to continuously and persistently hold a high standard of expectations of our political leaders. Otherwise, the corruption that is so tightly linked with politics becomes accepted, expected, and embraced. We need our politicians to know that if they're caught breaking the rules, they're going down. The entire atmosphere of corruption in political circles, if left to run at will, works to groom new corrupt politicians with each new generation. As anyone who's watched the evolution of Karl Rove knows, the wrong sort of mentorship, combined with youthful drive, creativity, intelligence, and energy can ultimately have devastating consequences.

  • Winston Wolfe (unverified)
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    Cody-

    I'm a big fan of what you wrote but I think you are missing a very important point: Politics naturally attracts ego-maniacal, self-absorbed, power-hungry, relativists.

    That’s why you get Dan Doyle, Neil, Matt Hennessy, etc… involved in politics.

    The same qualities that make a successful politician are the same qualities of a two-faced SOB.

    The things you have outlined are not exclusive to a party but rather politics in general.

  • LT (unverified)
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    I like what Becky said but will just add one thing. Any political organization is in trouble if their members take offense to someone politely saying "sorry, but I cannot in good conscience vote for your guy". Seems to me that should be a warning if the person hearing that sentence can't politely say back "well, I am sorry too".

    That I was called names for saying that sentence is why I spent 6 yeas as an Indep/NAV and could easily do that again. And to Cody, I will just say this: In 1982 I actually worked for a candidate whose last name was Gray. At an event he was asked a "would you vote yes or no on this?" question, and answered "Sure, if the bill was written that cleanly I would vote no, but often bills (in Congress, what he was running for) are more complex than that, and here are the tradeoffs I would make...".

    Not having the volunteer or other support of some of the other candidates (multicandidate primary) he did not win but by the end of the primary the other candidates had conceded he was "best on the issues". And that is what I think is meant by gray hair/gray choices. Some things are binary--good vs. bad--and anyone with a moral backbone can publicly state what those are. But some are like the tradeoffs in legislation. The interesting time comes when people don't hear the nuance in the tradeoffs.

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