An irrelevant pile of ‘Schmidt

Watching the local news can feel a lot like watching reruns oflast week’s local news, though it’s supposedly baked fresh nightly.The same stories rear their ugly heads time after time, with only ascant amount of new information.

With that in mind, one benefit of breaking the Neil Goldschmidtscandal is that we don’t have to look at pictures of tortured Iraqiprisoners for quite as large a percentage of the evening news – awelcome change in my book. For that, if nothing else, we shouldthank the intrepid reporters of Willamette Week. But is thereanything else to thank them for? I’ve been racking my brain for howelse this story’s coming to light benefits the good citizens ofOregon and, so far, I got nothin’.

Goldschmidt vacated the governor’s mansion in Salem more than adecade ago. The abuse he’s confessed to dates back to the late1970s. The girl in question is now 43 years old. While a parallelcould be drawn against the multitude of sex-abuse cases broughtagainst the Catholic Church, those cases involve victims who cameforward because they want their abusers to face some(well-deserved) public revulsion for their actions.

According to the Willamette Week article, Goldschmidt’s victimwas more than happy to accept a $250,000 cash settlement in 1994that included a gag order preventing her from going public. NeitherWillamette Week nor any other news organization has been able toget a straightforward confirmation out of her, despite pretty muchirrefutable evidence, that Goldschmidt was indeed the molester. Ofcourse, this has all been rendered irrelevant by his confession tothe Oregonian that he was indeed the perp, but doesn’t that givesome inkling that the whole story is irrelevant as well? If thestory isn’t being brought to light on the victim’s behalf, whobenefits?

While it may sound cynical, it seems like this boils down to aheadline grabber to move more papers, muckraking for muckraking’ssake. If a person holding elected office is burdened with trying tokeep personal scandals secret, it can exert some pretty drasticeffects on their job performance. It leaves them wide open toblackmail and having to make sweetheart deals with anyone whohappens to stumble upon their dark little secrets. This is why it’svery much in the public interest to have their secrets brought outinto the open, while they’re still in office. If Miss Amber BambiJones of Dubuque, Iowa, visiting our nation’s capitol on a fieldtrip, got shanghaied into a sleazy motel off Constitution Avenue byan inebriated Donald Rumsfeld, that would be news. Hiseffectiveness as defense secretary would be compromised by havingto keep the whole thing under wraps.

Judging by the dirt that Willamette Week uncovered, there isstrong evidence that Goldschmidt was similarly affected, having tokeep his own sex abuse scandal out of the public eye, and it mayhave been why he didn’t choose to run for a second term as Oregon’sgovernor. He had been a wildly popular leader up to that point andnobody at the time could understand why he didn’t keep going.

But he didn’t. He transitioned over to the private sector tobroker lucrative deals for the likes of PGE and others, as well asoccupying a post as president of the State Board of HigherEducation. He did have to resign his position on the board – and aschool board seems like a dangerous place for a pedophile (keepthat guy away from the Freshman Experience…) But asixty-something-old school board member and business lobbyist justisn’t going to have the same pull with impressionable underagegirls as a thirty-something mayor of Portland. “Hey, baby, I’m onthe board of higher ed. Want to *wheeze* come over to my place and,um, babysit?”

The statute of limitations has long since run out onGoldschmidt’s singularly creepy crime, so he can’t be tried incourt for statutory rape. The victim didn’t come forward with thestory out of a sense of righteous indignation that the public had aright to know; Willamette Week tracked her down.

Why such a story should matter to the public is totally beyondme. Oh, well. Back to more prison abuse stories, I guess.