by Robert Herold & r & To Steve Smith and the Spokesman-Review, regarding your coverage of the Mayor West scandal: Enough already! About those computer images, spare me. I don't need to see any lewd photographs. I don't want to know the details. I don't care.
Trust me, you've gone way past the duty to inform the public. And why? You tell us that the First Amendment and freedom of the press hangs in the balance. Are you kidding? We have seen enough to make a decision about the mayor; piling another helping of lurid stories on the front page is overkill, and may itself be pornographic.
And about that Moto-Brock sting, I remain ambivalent. On the one hand, yes, newspapers always should confirm their stories, and you had a story when that young man came in telling of his "date" with the mayor. That acknowledged, no one has explained to me the distinction between your Internet sting and, say, accomplishing the same thing by tapping the mayor's phone or maybe just sending over a disguised reporter who misrepresents himself. Whatever happened to the old fashioned approach: "Hello, I'm Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post..."
And by the way, why did you treat the mayor's current Internet escapades and alleged sexual molestation charges from 25 years ago as a seamless story? Aren't they really two separate stories? Readers might conclude that you were after the desired effect of convicting him in the court of public opinion with one blow.
But OK, let's say that for now at least (until some other newspaper tries this stunt) that your choice of tactic is beside the point. The fact is that Mayor West walked right into your trap; you had the goods on him in the form of that transcript on which our mayor openly solicited a sexual relationship with someone he thought was a boy (reported as being seventeen at the time, no less) and did, to my way of reading the transcript, offer this boy an internship. Were we operating under a parliamentary form of government, any elected public official caught in such a gross indiscretion would resign on the spot. But we don't have the luxury of such an obviously superior governmental system, so the mayor didn't resign but the courts upheld the recall petition and now the votes are coming in.
After all the legal mumbo jumbo is over with, that's what a recall is all about -- it's a clumsy attempt at parliamentary democracy. You get the same result, but it takes longer and costs a lot more money. Just ask Gray Davis. At the end of the day, Davis was tossed not really because of malfeasance, but because the voters just didn't want him to continue as governor. Notably, it seems that our state Supreme Court decided the West recall issue pretty much on these grounds -- they focused narrowly on the alleged offense, then used that as the legal foundation to permit the recall to go forward.
Most voters understand exactly what's going on and have already made up their minds, one way or the other. Some will vote to toss Mayor West because they have come to judge him a pedophile (and, he most certainly invited such judgment). These voters have decided either, a) to dump West for moral reasons, period, end of story; or b) to dump West because they don't believe that a person with that kind of baggage can be effective.
Other voters may conclude that his offense, while perhaps not all that serious (it was largely in his head and for the most part took the form of titillation), is creepy enough to be worthy of recall. Many will vote to toss him because they believe that West has disgraced the city and for that reason can no longer provide necessary political leadership if for no other reason than the voters, civic leaders, the City Council and the staff no longer have confidence in him.
On the other hand, some voters appreciate West's equanimity (critics might call it denial) ever since the exposure, will accept his explanation and will give him a second chance. These voters believe that he can still be effective once reaffirmed. They will take as evidence of this the success of the tax measures voted up just a couple of weeks ago. These voters may shrug their shoulders and say to themselves, "No other mayor we have had in Spokane, strong or weak, could have done that." Still others will factor in the mayor's courageous battle against cancer and choose to cut him some slack. No doubt other voters will vote against recall just to vent their displeasure at the Spokesman-Review. One person whose opinion I value expressed the wish that the mayor would survive the recall then resign.
This sad and embarrassing issue has been around since May, and the recall will thankfully settle it one way or the other. In the meantime, however, would you people at the Review call off the vendetta? Please? With the Christmas season underway?
There is no need to smear the lurid with the lewd. Muckraking is important, in that it exposes us to things we need to see and hear. Well, we've seen them, we've heard them, and are we really doing any good by seeing them and hearing them again, and again, and again? Not only would such overexposure heap needless embarrassment on our community and Jim West, but the story produced would be ever so boring.