With apologies to Ted Koppel (whose Nightline started in the late 1970s as a nightly update on the Iranian hostage crisis), here's my own six-week update on our very own civic hostage situation.
ITEM Mayor West says he is sorry for having "embarrassed" the community -- a statement that seems to have everything to do with having been caught.
ITEM West "formally" launched his defense at a non-press conference-press conference, orchestrated both as regards to who could attend and what questions would be considered appropriate (a format right out of G.W. Bush's campaign playbook). But actually, through statements here and there, plus his "performance" with Matt "Softball" Lauer on The Today Show, Mayor West, over these past weeks, has been running out many possible lines of defense. As best as we can reconstruct, here they are:
1. I am not gay. (Meaning what? It's all a mistake?)
2. Well, OK, I'm bisexual. (So I troll for teenagers in chat rooms; but, hey, I was married awhile back, and I'm not a pedophile.)
3. Yes, I'm gay (and damn proud to say so -- now), which makes this attack on me an attack on my lifestyle (and we all know what that means -- homophobia!!!).
4. I'm a victim of a conspiracy, and I might even sue because my privacy has been violated.
5. In response to a question about the morality of what he was up to, I paraphrase his response: I've never had sex with a boy under the age of 18. (What about 18 and one day? Two days? Birthday tomorrow? Close enough for government work?)
6. Finally, West tells us that if necessary he will have to borrow money from his "79-year-old father" to fight for his reputation. (It's a statement that recalls another Richard Nixon deflection moment: the Checkers Speech and the line about Pat's Republican cloth coat, which dripped with sanctimony.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- and after considerable dillydallying -- our business leaders, City Council and local Republican party guys and gals finally got around to asking Mayor West to resign. (Former Country Commissioner John Roskelley, on a KSPS panel show, referred to our slow-to-act business leaders as money-grubbing wimps.)
Given all the calls for resignation, one would think that the author of the recall petition, Shannon Sullivan, should be leading a charge rather than carrying the civic lantern all by herself. But, noticeably, we don't see any lines forming to help her out. She seems left standing alone. Roskelley's wimps gone to the lake, maybe?
Speaking of her recall effort, Mayor West did say that if the voters want him to leave, he would. (Very generous of him --spoken like a progressive leader of a banana republic). Then, after reassuring us that he would obey the law, he sends his lawyers to court to contest the recall petition, thus lending credence to the long-held suspicion that when a person claims to seek only justice, but then hires a lawyer, what he really seeks is an escape.
So here's a suggestion: If his e-mails are running 2-1 in his favor, as he claims, maybe Mayor West would be up to negotiating changes in the language of the recall. In exchange for Sullivan agreeing to take out all the stuff about abuse of office, how about a statement that goes specifically to the conduct he acknowledges -- seeking sexual relationships by trolling the Internet for teenagers. We boil recall down to one question: Do residents of Spokane say that it is OK for the mayor to do this? Just a thought.
Meanwhile, as the recall trudges forward, the realization mounts that this is one lame-duck mayor.
ITEM Former Mayor John Talbott was chillingly on the mark before the City Council when he called attention to the many times that as mayor he would visit elementary schools and speak to young kids. How could Mayor West ever again perform these duties?
ITEM Our fair city still receives more national attention than our boosters want. Nationally syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts had a column in the other day in which he compared gay social conservatives like West to Black Klansmen. And, yes, we hit the big time of public ridicule when Jon Stewart and The Daily Show caught up with us. After revealing all the anti-gay legislation that West had supported over the years, Stewart suggested that if we want the names of all the gay Republicans, all we have to do is identify the loudest gay bashers. (You have to think that the family values party is now in a state of perpetual cringe.)
But through all this turmoil, Mayor West continues to reassure us that he loves Spokane so much that he will stay in office and continue to "make the trains run on time." What a relief.
Publication date: 06/16/05