Had to put those scare quotes around scandal in the title of this post, because I really don't know how much to make of all the brouhaha swirling around Oregon's Governor and "First Lady" (more quotes -- they're engaged but not married, which adds to the intrigue).
My knee-jerk reaction, being a liberal/progressive who is a strong supporter of Kitzhaber, was that the Portland Oregonian's editorial calling for him to resign was a bunch of baloney. As is the outrage being expressed by Republicans in this state, including the guy Kitzhaber beat last November, Dennis Richardson.
But it bothers me when conservatives excuse stuff done by a right-wing politician that they'd freak out over if a leftie did the same thing.
Consider George W. Bush's "I'm the decider" attitude.
He claimed that he didn't much care about public opinion. He just acted according to his heart, decisively and without backing down from criticism. Yet when Obama issues executive orders in a similar fashion, cries of Imperial Presidency! ring out from the GOP.
So I'm trying to avoid falling into the same psychological trap: ignoring facts about Kitzhaber and his partner, Cylvia Hayes, that would be red meat for liberal me if our Governor and First Lady were Republicans, rather than Democrats.
At the moment I'm in a nether zone, unsure whether there is anything substantial behind the allegations of wrongdoing. For sure, this is a mini-scandal in comparison to what's gone on in other states and Washington, D.C.
Being an avid fan of House of Cards, a Netflix series about Washington politics, it's clear that Kitzhaber and Hayes are the immoral equivalent of T-Ball baseball players compared to the Big League shenanigans of Frank Underwood and his equally sleazy wife.
I just read through the latest breathless revelations posted by Willamette Week's Nigel Jaquiss, a top-notch investigative reporter. It's just tough for me to find much, if anything, that warrants Kitzhaber's resignation.
Yes, Hayes acts in ways that suggests she has a healthy ego, desire for power, and ambitions to change the world while also benefitting herself. Which describes just about every person in high political office. Along with, often, their spouse.
it seems to me that Governor Kitzhaber mostly is being charged with guilt-by-association, due to his obvious closeness to Cylvia Hayes.
However, his now-fiancee didn't tell him about a spurious marriage to a man wanting a green card to stay in this country, nor her involvement with a planned marijuana grow that went awry. So I'd find it easy to believe that much of what Hayes did as First Lady passed under his gubernatorial radar.
Not all, but much of it.
Go Local PDX has reported that one of the supposed scandals, Hayes' lobbying for clean energy after getting a $118,000 fellowship, actually was on the up-and-up. So there goes one reason for outrage.
As shocking as it is to me, being a frequent and passionate critic of the Salem Statesman Journal, I like the editorial that will be in tomorrow's paper: "Voters could try to oust Kitzhaber -- but not so fast."
Legislators hire fiancees, spouses or other family members as their legislative aides. Current legislators or past officials are hired by colleges, community colleges, nonprofits and businesses because of their connections. After politicians are elected, they often hire their campaign workers for government positions.
Those realities do not excuse any missteps by Hayes or Kitzhaber, whether intentional or inadvertent. But it would be wrong for Oregon to excoriate the first couple for behaviors that were deemed acceptable for others.
Let's see how the Oregon Ethics Commission rules on this issue next March. Let's not make premature judgements based on incomplete information. Let's remember that a few editorial board members at the Oregonian calling for Kitzhaber to resign are just that -- a few individuals.