On Sunday, the Oregonian's Steve Duin swung the bat on Governor Kulongoski - arguing that he's been dishonest regarding his knowledge about Neil Goldschmidt's statutory rape of a teenage babysitter in the 1970s.
It is Ted Kulongoski's good fortune, apparently, that "moral fitness" and "honesty" are standards for police officers, not governors.
And this week, right-wing radio jerk Lars Larson went one step further - taking up Duin's request that someone file a complaint with the state bar association.
The question of whether Kulongoski knew more than he is saying was raised again over the weekend by Oregonian columnist Steve Duin. "It is important for the people of Oregon to know whether the governor has misrepresented his knowledge in this matter," Larson wrote in his letter [to the state bar.]
Personally, I find this character assassination of the Governor to be horrible and wrong. The whole thing is based on a statement by one guy - Fred Leonhardt. I don't know a damn thing about Leonhardt, but I'm pretty sure the standard in journalism is to get two sources. Duin has exactly one.
And let's take a look at that statement by Leonhardt, which doesn't contain anything we haven't known for a long time:
Leonhardt has long insisted that Giusto first told him about Goldschmidt's abuse of the girl in 1989, then provided more details in 1994. He said that he first related the story to Kulongoski when the latter was running for attorney general in late 1991 or early 1992 and shared Giusto's additional details with Kulongoski in December 1994. Kulongoski denies those conversations took place.
Let's turn the clock back.
In 1990, then-Governor Goldschmidt was a popular guy - widely expected to run for re-election. Some people were talking about a run for president or vice-president in 1992 or 1996. But suddenly, out of the blue, he announced he wasn't going to run for a second term. It was a stunner in Oregon politics. A political earthquake. And no one had an explanation.
It wasn't long before his wife, Margie Goldschmidt, divorced him. She didn't even wait until the end of his term in January 1991.
There were LOTS of rumors going around. I was a high school senior - interested in politics, doing a little volunteering here and there - and even I heard lots of rumors. Crazy, ridiculous rumors.
There was the one about how Neil had a gay lover. There was the one about how Neil had an illegitimate African-American child. There was the one about a hooker in Canada. And there were a dozen variations on the plain ol' he-had-an-affair rumor.
There were so many damn rumors that it was just plain absurd. It seemed, at the time, like everyone had an explanation why the good-looking governor got divorced and gave up his political career. After all, it seemed pretty obvious that it had something to do with infidelity.
So, put Leonhardt's "recollection" in that context. Even if it's true that he told Kulongoski a rumor about Goldschmidt and a teenage babysitter, why would Kulongoski believe it? I was a kid in high-school, and I had heard over a dozen rumors - a well-connected politico like Kulongoski would have heard many, many more.
(And frankly, so would a well-connected reporter like Steve Duin. Why didn't he report any of 'em at the time?)
But wait, wasn't Leonhardt's report a bit more than a rumor? Hard to know - but when he first discussed the situation with the Oregonian, in their first story in 2004 about Leonhardt's allegation, Leonhardt described it as a "rumor" when he says he talked about it with Kulongoski.
Over the years, Leonhardt said, the two of them occasionally spoke about the rumor and speculated about whether it figured into Goldschmidt's decision not to seek re-election.
So, put Leonhardt's story in context. There were lots of rumors. He had another one, maybe the juiciest one, but there doesn't seem to be any reason why Ted Kulongoski, Steve Duin, this high-school student, or anybody else should have given it any credence when there were so many others floating around out there.
Given that Leonhardt's been peddling this shit since 2004, why is it coming up again now? Is the media just bored? Is this the equivalent of Shark Week 2007 - in the interim between the legislative session and the election season?