The Adams tempest is over - or is it?
The hysteria over Mayor Sam Adams' romantic life has mostly died down. Except for a few die-hards who can't seem to get Adam's sex life out of their dreams, most Portlanders have moved on.
We are worried about the city's unemployment rate - now over 11 percent - budget cuts that are threatening our schools, continuing erosion of the Oregon Health Plan, not to mention the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the brutal repression in Iran, and a violent military coup in Honduras.
After having already spent taxpayer money on a five-and-a-half month criminal investigation, a band of conservative anti-tax activists led by environmentalist Jasun Wurster is spearheading an effort to spend more taxpayer time and treasure to try to recall Adams. The recall organizers and the anti-Adams right wing faction insist that they are not upset about the fact that the mayor had a mutually consensual sexual relationship with an adult, but instead claim they feel betrayed because Adams lied to them when he told voters that he did not have a relationship with Beau Breedlove.
I also felt betrayed by Adams. But I got over it. Why? Because the issue of Adams' sex life has nothing to do with his job as mayor.
Politicians lie about sex, just as everyone else lies about sex. Republicans, Democrats, and even Green Party politicians have probably done things in their private lives that would make us cringe if exposed in a press conference. Imagine what it would be like if the details of your sex life were exposed to public scrutiny.
Oregonians have a proud history of social libertarianism. We don't want the government telling us what to do or whom to do it with. We should extend the same courtesy to our elected representatives. Let them serve us, make policy, suggest legislation, and then let them go home to their private lives.
Some people don't approve of a relationship between a 40-year-old and an 18-year-old, some find homosexuality reprehensible, and still others are put off by sex out of wedlock. But we don't legislate personal preferences in the United States. We live in a democracy where our political leaders do not determine what we can wear walking down the street or what we do in our bedrooms. Let's maintain the liberties and freedoms that make the United States what it is.
What have we learned over the past few months? Yes, Sam lied to voters when he claimed that the rumors of his relationship with Beau Breedlove were untrue. In the aftermath of Sam's revelations about the relationship, rumors swirled in the media maelstrom that Sam had sex or sexual contact with a seventeen-year old, that Sam hired a former reporter to squash her investigation, and that he used government resources to silence Breedlove.
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger concluded that none of the allegations of criminal behavior warranted prosecution, given the evidence he uncovered. While the pundits and the Lars Larsons of the radio waves will go on believing what they had already decided before the investigation, the rest of us should take heed and move on.
Sam is certainly not alone among politicians for having a sex scandal rock his career. We have to begin to ask ourselves why politicians' private lives and particularly their romantic lives are of such concern to voters. A recent Gallup poll found that more than half of Americans disapprove of homosexual sex. And yet, whatever the personal moralities of individuals in this country, we should not legislate private behavior.
Sam Adams was elected with a healthy majority to be the mayor of Portland. Citizens are completely within their rights to use the democratic process to try to recall the mayor. But given all of the other pressing concerns, is this really the issue on which we want to focus?
Elliott Young is associate professor of history at Lewis and Clark College. He lives in Southeast Portland.