Just Out acknowledges that over his two decades as a public servant Adams has risen to become one of Oregon's most revered openly gay leaders. This publication has long admired Adams' vision, his intelligence and his tenacity. Ultimately we have concluded that these qualities cannot overcome the weakness revealed in Adams' recent admission.
In other words, the paper is putting their moral vision for the city above the needs of their constituents, since they acknowledge the fact that Adams is a promising mayor.
Many readers responded with anger to the call for resignation; the editorial itself garnered almost 400 comments. It's easy to understand why - there's a definite silencing effect when the most visible members of the LGBT community in Portland take the side that many are interpreting to be homophobic.
And I don't mean that calling for his resignation is necessarily homophobic. While there are some people who didn't like Mayor Adams in the first place and are using this scandal as an outlet for their homophobia, what I mean is that the idea that one's morality is defined by what one does with one's genitals is the exact reasoning used to deny queer people jobs and legal rights. We hear, day in, day out, from the Religious Right about how LGBT people are causing the moral decay of Western civilization because of what we do in bed, and, yes, there are many LGBT people who are adverse to judging other people by their sex lives because of our experience with the same.
And some LGBT people go off the other end as well, and decide that the solution to being told that they are immoral because of their sex lives is to claim that their sex life is moral and then put down others who don't live up to their standards. This is one comment I received to my earlier entry about Sam Adams (on another site) from one such gay man:
I hold my own people to a higher standard than I hold everyone else. Unfortunately as a minority we have to do so - I see this lame [blog post] as a big, long excuse blaming lots of other factors for what are really Sam's ethical lapses. It's not about bourgeois sexual values - it's about lying, repeatedly. And as I said - this is but the tip of the iceberg. Sam has been serially unfaithful to his partners.
For someone who says that it's all about the lying, it's strange that he would tack on the fact that Adams is "serially unfaithful to his partners." But this story starts and ends with the sex.
This is another comment from the same person, in its entirety:
Of course [this post] ignores the fact that LGBT leaders and newspapers in Portland have asked Sam to resign too.
It's a clear silencing technique - there's no attempt to engage and the authority wielded by the LGBT paper in Portland and by LGBT activists in that city is supposed to make other queer people fall in line. It's an interesting form of tribalism in which we're all supposed to be taking our cues from the tribal leaders, disagreeing opinions be damned.
Which would explain why many people would be even more upset that the LGBT paper asked for him to resign; those calling for his resignation see this as a gay issue and the LGBT paper can always position itself as the non-homophobic side.
Because if this weren't a gay issue, then it wouldn't be within the editorial scope of Just Out to be calling for his resignation, especially since they haven't called for the resignation of other prominent Portland and Oregon politicians who got caught lying. If they didn't see this as a gay issue, then there would be no need to point to Portland's LGBT paper to support their side. If they didn't see this as a gay issue, then these folks wouldn't be making claims about how Adams should be "held to a higher standard" because of his sexuality.
A few days later, the editors of Just Our responded to the disagreeing readers who just don't understand how important this sex scandal is:
Let's be clear: These were not "Who ate the last cookie?" type of lies. These were manipulative lies intended to deceive every citizen of Portland. The desire to be elected mayor was so great that Adams was willing to compromise his integrity and his values in the pursuit of the goal.[...]
Comments on our Web site, and others, consistently threw out statements like: "Politicians lie, they all lie. Get over it, Just Out." So, folks, when did that become acceptable? When did we become people who tolerate or accept being lied to? What's wrong with this picture, Portland?
With stunning lack of self-awareness, a print newspaper asks how citizens came to accept being lied to by politicians.
Gordon Smith, the former Republican Senator from the state of Oregon, lied in a series of campaign ads this past summer saying that his opponent, Jeff Merkley, voted against a bill to increase the statute of limitations for rape. One commercial shows a woman talking about her own rape and pretty much accuses Merkley of being responsible for it, even though it occurred before the bill in question was passed, even though Merkley voted for the increase. The ads were "manipulative lies intended to deceive every citizen of" Oregon, which includes Portland, and it was clearly due to his desire to be re-elected Senator. As a side note, I would say that this lie is much more manipulative, meant to pull on people's heart strings as this woman discusses being raped.
In the same campaign season, Gordon Smith said, "Mr. Merkley is challenging me to go to all of Oregon's counties once a year. Well, I do that." When pressed by the Oregon Democratic Party for proof, a campaign spokesperson claimed it was a mistake, that he doesn't even come close to doing that. That was another lie, and Smith didn't even apologize or acknowledge his lie. And, it was clearly to manipulate voters into thinking that he was a salt-of-the-earth Real American who knows rural Oregon better than his opponent, caused by his "desire to be elected."
In that same campaign season, the NRSC, on behalf of Gordon Smith's campaign, ran an ad that accused Merkley of voting to take away a $1 billion tax refund from the state of Oregon. The claim was false, and the NRSC was forced to pull the ad after the media started discussing its lies. Smith never rebuked the ad, and the NRSC kept it on YouTube. Another lie, intended to manipulate voters (with the real third-rail of politics: increased taxes), in order to try to win an election.
And I'm not even going to get into those shady Gordon Smith ads that make the very strong implication that he was endorsed by Barack Obama, so strong that the Obama campaign had to release a statement reminding Oregonians that he endorsed the Democratic candidate in that race. Or his denials that his food-processing plant employed undocumented workers, even when faced with the fact that many of those plant workers lacked social security numbers.
Gordon Smith was a serial liar in that race, telling lies that were far bigger than "I did not have sex with that man." And yet Just Out managed to overlook all of these lies and never called for Smith to resign from the Senate or quit his campaign. While they at least had the decency not to endorse Smith (The Oregonian, which also called for Adams's resignation because he lied, endorsed Smith, a known serial liar), they didn't even mention Smith's lying in their endorsement of Merkley.
Lying, which is apparently important enough to end the long career of a man most people seem to agree would be great for the city of Portland, didn't even merit a footnote in their coverage of Gordon Smith.
So when Just Out asks us "When did we become people who tolerate or accept being lied to?" I suppose we're expected to ignore reality, accept that up is down, and fall in line and demand Adams's head along with them.
For me personally, I know that I'm upset by the editorials calling for his resignation particularly because American media are so reticent to call a politician out for his or her lies. To them it's an expected part of the game, not worth even mentioning half the time in news articles that reprint those lies. In fact, David Gregory went so far as to say that it's just not a journalist's job to point out when politicians are lying, and he's been promoted to Tim Russert's old spot on Meet the Press as a clear sign that he's toeing the company line when it comes to journalistic integrity.
And I live just fine knowing that the media don't care at all about lying and have accepted it as a part of the reality we live in, but every now and then that reality comes crashing down as major and minor papers rally a mob together for a good, old-fashioned kangaroo court against one politician caught lying. Invariably, the lies are about sex (if they're not accompanied by other wrong-doing). Are we not supposed to notice a trend? Are we supposed to pretend that these papers aren't trying to act as moral magistrates when they petulantly demand resignations lest the masses be led astray by the ruling class's lack of sexual purity?
That's why people are protesting in Adams's favor. They know that this is a non-issue. They know that civic leaders and media figures are merely trying to enforce a nonsense moral code in which lying about sex is an absolute non-starter while lying about policy is fine.
Sam Adams is a human being. We can't expect him to live up to a standard of sexual purity that almost no one lives up to, and when the reaction from media outlets is like what we've seen here, it's no surprise that politicians are going to lie about sexual issues.
But what can stop happening is pundits attempting to overrule democratic elections with whatever issue they want to press. Sure, they can call for resignations in egregious situations, but having a consensual sexual relationship with another adult doesn't rise to that level.