The Adams tempest is over - or is it?
I'll never forget the excitement I felt at the inauguration of President Barack Obama - and how quickly joy was compromised by the shocking news that Sam Adams, our newly elected mayor, had lied about having an intimate relationship with a teenage lover.
If the truth had come out, the mayor admitted to a reporter, he feared he would not have been elected, and so he had lied in order to become our mayor. He had created a fraudulent election.
Before the election, Adams had vilified anyone who had suggested such a relationship. He had played 'the gay card' - claiming that anyone who accused him of having sex with a teenager was using homophobic stereotypes. But having sex with a teenager was exactly what he was doing. Ironically, Adams himself became the poster boy for gay stereotypes, and our city became a national laughing stock.
Even after confessing, Adams and his lawyers continued to be deceitful. They convinced the teenage paramour, Beau Breedlove, to lie by omission, not revealing a kissing incident in the City Hall men's room when Breedlove was still 17. At the time, Breedlove still looked up to Adams as a kind of mentor and apparently was all too ready to go along with whatever the mayor told him. Today, in contrast, Breedlove and many Portlanders feel betrayed by Adams, as indeed we have been.
Adams clearly intended to get elected at any cost. And this is the reason I find him unacceptable as mayor. I can't accept a mayor who lies to me and manipulates my trust.
I go back to the optimism and hope I felt when Obama became president - a new era in political behavior seemed possible. A new demand for honesty and transparency in politics seemed to be at hand. A new era was being born - everywhere, that is, except here at home, where Sam Adams was playing the role of an old-school, arrogant, selfish, manipulating politician doing whatever it takes to try to save his ass.
To my disappointment, the recall issue has been misrepresented in a surprising way. Many people I know - Obama supporters, elements of Portland's progressive community - are ready to forgive Adams' errors. They are shocked that I've joined the recall movement in an active way. They give a variety of reasons: everyone lies; a man's private life is nobody's business; and most vigorously, the recall effort is driven by homophobia.
I reply: even if everyone lies, there are degrees of deception and Adams' behavior during the election and cover-up was extreme; the recall issue is about public life, not private life; and sexuality is not the issue at all - the recall effort is driven by citizens concerned about the issues of honesty and trust in the public political arena.
How can anyone embrace the ideals of Obama and a more honest style of politics on the one hand, and support the lying, the deception and the manipulative style of politics demonstrated by our mayor on the other?
To me, this is a profound contradiction. Anyone who rejoices at the election of Obama cannot support a mayor who lied to get elected without a contradiction of values. It's time for Portland to embrace the vision Obama brings for a new politics, and the first step is to recall Mayor Sam Adams.
I urge you to sign a recall petition today.
Charles Deemer is the editor of Oregon Literary Review and teaches screenwriting at Portland State University. He lives in Southwest Portland.