Tuesday, May 10, 2005

West edges toward the sunset

It looks like Jim West is going down (if you'll pardon the expression), and the Spokesman is making sure everybody knows it. In fact, the S-R has been so on top of these developments, you'd think they had some stake in the matter themselves. They've been very careful to make clear that the story is not West being gay, but child molestation and misuse of high office. Oh, and that West voted against a liberal (read, gay) agenda in the state senate. Which makes him a hypocrite. Well, actually, it makes him a public official who doesn't vote solely in his own interest. If he were, say, a Fundamentalist who voted against posting the Ten Commandments in public places, this would make him a hero to the left. But as it stands, the S-R has made sure that the "gay community" is firmly against him by playing up his conservative politics, while alienating him from his own fairly conservative voter base by "outing" him.

Let's review the allegations:
1. Jim West has been secretly gay, and picking up partners younger than himself (but still of legal age) online.
He doesn't deny it. Puts him in a category with umpteen million other middle-aged homosexuals, not to mention the straight men who look around for young talent wherever they can find it.

2. Jim West molested two boys at a scout camp.
Two men have surfaced who are willing to say that they were molested back in the 70s. No criminal charges have been filed, and none can, under the Statute of Limitations. No civil case has been brought against West. Because it's not in the courts, no actual evidence has had to be brought into play at all. It's these two guys' word. The two men are hardly what you'd call upstanding members (again, an unfortunate phrase) of the community, although that's not a reason to assume they're lying. But why has nobody looked for corroboration? How about the thousands of other boys who were scouts at Camp Cowles in the 70s? If West really is a chicken hawk, why aren't there more recent allegations? Did he suddenly go on the kiddie-wagon? The conventional wisdom is that there's no such thing as an ex-pedophile – just ask any of the guys at McNeill Island who have served their sentences and are still being detained. Where are the other victims?

I'm not surprised the Spokesman has no answers for these questions. They've got the "money quote," and it's a lulu. But as James Carville said of Paula Jones, "Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find."

3. Jim West offered city jobs to potential partners he met online.
Ryan Oelrich seems to think it was his hot hiney that prompted West to offer him a seat on the Human Rights Commission.Of course! It couldn't have anything to do with Oelrich being the founder of a phenomenally successful gay youth organization. Or his history of organization and community involvement. No, it's the mayor's lust that netted him the job. Uh-huh. Maybe the sight of Oelrich blowing a balloon was more than West could resist.

Notice that the other guy who says he was offered a job by the mayor won't allow himself to be identified. As the SNL Church lady would say, "How conve-e-e-e-enient!"

4. Jim West offered gifts to an ostensible 17-year-old boy (actually a grown-up computer geek planted by the Spokesman).
What you're supposed to infer from this is that West knew the "kid" was underage, and was grooming him. What he actually did was hit on what he thought was an 18-year-old. In reading the pseudo-transcript the Spokesman has online, I don't see any dates that indicate the mayor had made sexual advances to the stooge once he was told he was underage. The absence of dates, I think, is telling. If they corroborated that the mayor was cruising for teens, they surely would have been mentioned. The chronology is left vague, which tells me it's being puffed up to look damning.

Now, I don't care if Jim West is a homosexual. He's got his sins, and I've got mine, and I wouldn't want to trade with him. I also don't care if he cruises for partners. Last I heard, sexual morality wasn't a prerequisite for public office.

I do care if he molested children. So let's see the evidence in a court of law. If it was a priest, there would have been whopping big lawsuits by now. But the alleged victims don't want to play it that way. Fish or cut bait, guys.

As for Ryan Oelrich's insinuations, I have to wonder if he would be saying these things had West been a liberal (read, gay-friendly) politician. West gave him an opportunity, and he repaid it by badmouthing him to the press. "A knife to the back, and more of the same..."

The one big blank spot seems to be the parking garage. It's like the elephant in the living room. Of course, with all the stories on this coming straight from the same newspaper, why would it get mentioned at all? This is why I wish more cities had two daily papers.

I've got no axe to grind in this. I'm neither pro-West nor anti-West. What I am is a newspaperman, and these people at the Spokesman-Review are making me ashamed of it for the first time.

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