"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's Only About Sex

A fascinating politico-sexual drama is being played out in Spokane.

The Washington State Supreme Court has just allowed a recall effort to proceed against Spokane Mayor James E. West. In the wording of the recall petition are allegations that West cruised the internet for gay lovers, and dangled the prospect of city jobs as a reward for amenable fellows.

Of legal relevance is that the charges are still unproved in a court of law. Of moralizing relevance is that West is a Republican and further has publicly opposed the gay political agenda, which I imagine includes gay marriage and the like. (I find the legal part of more interest than the moralizing, but permit me to move on, as they say.)

As for the political principle involved, with which it's hard for any to disagree, "(the) petition alleges that West used his elected office for personal gain," according to the article.

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Wayne's World-type Flashback
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The year was 1988, and I wasn't terribly crazy about Ronald Reagan's anointed successor, the philosophically inert career pol, George H. W. Bush. Michael Dukakis seemed like a good man and had pulled off the Massachusetts Miracle, so I gave him my vote.

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Fast Forward, But Still a Flashback
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It was 1992. Bush 41 had done OK in a caretaker sort of way, but I still wasn't diggin' him. Gov. Bill Clinton of Bumfunk, Arkansas was his opponent, and was a much cooler guy than Dukakis. I mean way cool, like Ferris Buehler. Now, I wasn't surprised when his ideological ally, the American press, detoured the story, but one thing kept bugging me---

Governor Clinton had undeniably given a state job to his mistress, one Gennifer Flowers (who had the tapes), and whose only qualification (reputedly according to the governor himself), was that she "could suck a tennis ball through a garden hose."

The feminist and democrat in me just found it all so totally offensive that I voted for the loser for the second election in a row.

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Present Day
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2005. I'm trying to puzzle out the fundamental and essential differences between the two cases, but I'm suffering from a lack of imagination. The vision thing. Perhaps our resident sophists can help.

Otherwise, if there are no legal or moral objections, I think I'll run for governor myself. Secretary of State Paris Hilton has a nice ring to it. Folks tell me she's highly qualified---they have the tapes.

15 comments:

James Elliott said...

As far as I can tell, if either story is true, then there is no difference. What a man or woman does in their own time is their affair. If they use their governmental position to reward cronies, or lovers, then they should be punished for it if the voters of their state so choose.

James Elliott said...

Of course, Clinton lacks the hypocritical angle and merely mirrors the philandering one, so you decide: Who's more contemptible? The man who rewards lovers with positions or the man who gay-bashes to get a leg up politically, then trawls for gay lovers incommunicado, and THEN uses his position to reward said lovers for their ::ahem!:: talents and silence.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Who's more contemptible? The man who rewards lovers with positions or the man who gay-bashes to get a leg up politically....

Much as it pains me to admit it, my political nerditude does not extend to being intimately familiar with the policy positions of the mayor of Spokane. That said....the article merely describes Mayor West as a "gay-rights opponent." Now that can mean many things, extending from "God Hates Fags" to opposing court-ordered same sex marriage. It's a little difficult for me to believe that a city like Spokane would elect a Fred Phelps clone mayor, so I'm guessing we're closer to the second. Is there some a priori reason that a gay man cannot believe that court-ordered radical rearrangement of a social institution thousands of years old is a bad idea?

James Elliott said...

Actually, if you had followed earlier reports of the case, you'd see it's closer to the former.

James Elliott said...

And we can argue about marriage as we know it being thousands of years old some other time.

Hunter Baker said...

If a public officeholder has abused the position to reward lovers (cronies are a different matter entirely), then it doesn't matter whether the voters CHOOSE to punish him/her. That's where the law is supposed to kick in and we start talking about prosecutors.

Cronies have to be split into categories. A lot of them are worthy of being rewarded with jobs and must be to ensure the executive can enforce his/her will via friendly employees. Cronies of the kind who get noncompetitive highway contracts, on the other hand, are also of the type who should summon the good old prosecutor.

Tlaloc said...

"A lot of them are worthy of being rewarded with jobs and must be to ensure the executive can enforce his/her will via friendly employees."

Why couldn't you apply that same argument toward a lover? In either case the person is getting a job for their relationship with the boss rather than their capacity to fill the position (no pun intended).

Kathy Hutchins said...

If the mayor of Spokane said to a paramour: go to bed with me and I'll get you a cushy government job then what he did was exactly what Bill Clinton did to Gennifer Flowers, and the public outrage ought to be the same. His supposed gay-bashing is extraneous data.

That's not the same thing as Bill Clinton saying to Dee Dee Myers: I've known you a long time, we're friends, I trust you, and so I want you to be my press secretary. Sometimes being a trusted friend is an essential part of being able to fill the position. That's why there's a bright line in Washington between political and career appointees. Everyone understands the need for political appointees, but everyone also understands that career appointments are both necessary and should have some protection against being used as political appointments.

All that said, I'm now about half-way through the third book of The Baroque Cycle and am wondering if the way the things were handled in the Court of the Sun King was not both more honest and more consonant with human nature.

James Elliott said...

Isn't The Baroque Cycle awesome? I haven't started The System of the World yet. Have you read Cryptonomicon?

Kathy Hutchins said...

Neal Stephenson is quite simply the most amazing writer working in English today. No, I have not read Cryptonomicon yet; my husband has, and I'll get to it sometime this fall. (If Hunter and Jay and Sam will quit throwing out new mystery novel suggestions and distracting me.)

James Elliott said...

Highly recommended. It's fun to read Stephenson's early work, like The Big U and Zodiac, and then read his later works. There is a clear progression as his abilities improved with practice and experience. His work starts off as fun and interesting and in the span of little more than a decade progressed to his current stature. I agree, he is the modern master of the novel.

Tlaloc said...

Personally I found cryptonomicon grating, I could only read about fifty pages before I couldn't stand it and had to find something else. YMMV. I haven't read any of his other stuff.

Hunter Baker said...

Cryptonomicon was awesome. Anything not read for scholarly purposes that is like 800 pages long and keeps me going is pure gold.

I reviewed it for Karnick's old mag.

S. T. Karnick said...

I recommend Stephenson's The Diamond Age also.

Tlaloc said...

Since we've meandered into discussing literary interests I started reading the Magician's Nephew to the kids last night and both I and they liked it substantially more. Maybe it's just the Lion the Witch and the Wardobe that I didn't like by Lewis.