The third time’s the charm, at least by the Oregonian’sstandards. Twelve years after being scooped by the Washington Postconcerning Sen. Packwood’s sticky fingers and months after beingblindsided by Neil “likes ’em young” Goldschmidt, Portland’shome-grown paper has finally found its very own political sexscandal in David Wu. And they are never going to let us forgetit.

When Sen. Packwood was outed by the Post for his gropingtendencies and red-hot sex diary, the Oregonian seemed as shockedas the rest of us, despite the fact Packwood had very openly forceda kiss on one of the O’s own reporters in Washington. The paper wastotally out of the loop – an embarrassment for its editors and anirritant to Portlanders, who immortalized the issue with bumperstickers reading, “If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in theWashington Post.”

Then, earlier this year, ex-governor Neil Goldschmidt came toThe Oregonian with a heavy heart and heavier confession. However,it turned out to be not so much a confession as a preemptivestrike, choreographed just days before the Willamette Week ran astory revealing that Goldschmidt, while mayor of Portland, hadsexually abused the 14-year-old daughter of a neighbor over athree-year period. The humiliating aspect of the whole affair wasnot that the Willamette Week scooped The Oregonian, but that theOregonian was snowed by Goldschmidt, painting him in a reverentiallight of his own design. It’s this humiliation that seems to befueling the Oregonian’s coverage of David Wu.

It seems that way back in 1976, while attending Stanford, Wuassaulted an ex-girlfriend in her dorm room. The woman never filedcharges, and Wu was disciplined in-house by Stanford andreceived counseling for the event. It was something I’msure he hoped was only a hiccup on the road to political stardom,but then those sleuths at the Oregonian had to go and dig up thestory and run it just three weeks before elections and one daybefore endorsing his competitor for the District 1 congressionalseat, Republican Goli Ameri.

The Oregonian claims that the decision to run the story so closeto election time was not a politically motivated one, but a resultof Wu’s shiftiness. They had, after all, tried to get a statementfrom Wu twice since June and were rebuffed both times. They had nochoice but to run the story, still without comment from Wu or thewoman he assaulted, right now, totally by coincidence, one daybefore the endorsements.

According to an Oregonian editorial last Wednesday, “This becamea verge-of-the-election question because Wu made it one.” Afterall, the Oregonian couldn’t have run the article in July, August orSeptember without statement. That would have been preposterous, butnow, in October, it was imperative.

In the same editorial, the Oregonian claimed that its editorialboard didn’t know the details of the Wu story when it decided toendorse Ameri. They didn’t know if the story was going to run andmost likely not even the reporters working the story knew, becauseagain, neither Wu nor the woman he assaulted would comment.

Not that this is in any way a defense of David Wu. Hisperformance in the House has been lackluster, but not asineffectual as the Oregonian would have you believe. He has been astrong supporter of education in Oregon and has a solid votingrecord on environmental issues. But after spending three terms inthe House, his record could be exponentially better, and hispandering public fa�ade, bungee jump and all, is likefingernails on a chalkboard.

As far as the assault is concerned, Wu repeatedly implores us toremember that “the incident” happened 28 years ago, when he was amere sprite of boy attending Stanford. But that means he was 21 atthe time, and last I heard 21 was well within the confines ofadulthood, ivy-league or no. Sexual assault is an unforgivable act,without question, and one for which no amount of roundaboutapologizing can resolve. But how this affects his role as acongressman is beyond me.

At least the Oregonian has finally given Ameri an issue aroundwhich to focus her rhetoric. It would be a shame if she couldn’tjoin in the name-calling and hair pulling that has characterizedthe campaigns of her Republican mates.