The Oregonian editorialized on Sunday about Governor Ted Kulongoski and the latest developments in the sex-abuse scandal surrounding former Governor Neil Goldschmidt.
Whatever memory may be, it is mostly imperfect. And maybe that, more than anything else, explains the unproductive, unseemly and now apparently unending discussion of what Oregon's current governor might have known when about the sexual abuse of a teenage girl by our most infamous former governor.
You might not want to be the first one on your block to suggest this, though, because most everyone has moved on to Act 2 of this public melodrama. This is the part where it is presumed that someone must necessarily be lying. This is a satisfying presumption, in a certain self-righteous way, and it might even be true, or at least true-ish.
What about Fred Leonhardt, the former speechwriter who alleges that he told Kulongoski about it in 1994?
Here, too, is where we find Fred Leonhardt, an earnest, talented man possessed of the quality of believability. He has been saying since 2003 that he told his then-friend Ted Kulongoski, a minor functionary in state government and two-time loser of statewide elections, the story of Neil Goldschmidt's abuse of the teenager. ...
The main problem with Leonhardt's story is that Kulongoski denies hearing it back then. Categorically and vehemently. Leonhardt, disaffected and long-estranged from Goldschmidt's political circle, where he was once a speechwriter, had a ton of stories about Goldschmidt, says the current governor. This one was true, it turned out. But it's not a story Kulongoski remembers hearing anytime before it broke publicly in 2004.
Kulongoski is specific and consistent -- and, as of last week, oath-bound -- on this point. The stuff about Fred Leonhardt telling him about Goldschmidt and the girl? Didn't happen -- period, says Kulongoski. "I could have done what everyone expected [which was to say] I heard a rumor," Kulongoski told The Oregonian's editors in 2006. "But that isn't the truth. I would have remembered."
But is it possible that Kulongoski is lying?
To believe that Kulongoski, with years of political, legal and judicial experience, knew about these things is to believe he knowingly set aside the knowledge and appointed Goldschmidt to lead higher education, the central initiative of the new administration. It is also to believe that, when Goldschmidt quit, citing poor health -- when the jig was nearly up -- that Kulongoski fairly begged him to stay. Think what you may about Kulongoski, but there is simply no way to square such an accusation with any other aspect of his life and career.
Could we say for certain he did not know the story? Of course not. It is impossible to prove a negative.
That is very much the governor's problem, too. Kulongoski has been asked about these events over and over, and he has denied knowing the story. Is it fair to him to ask him again to prove the negative? Is it good for Oregon?
We don't think so.