Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 10.30.08

Political Smears
From the White House to the Courthouse
by Edwin Coleman

With Nov. 4th’s final campaign bell fast approaching us, we are seeing orchestrated efforts to distort and demonize worthy candidates — from Barack Obama to Lane County’s Bobby Green. 

Automated calls paid for by McCain campaign and national GOP funds are ringing in millions of American homes attempting to mislead voters into thinking that Obama somehow is sympathetic to “domestic terrorist” William Ayres. Swiftboating all over again? 

For months, attempts have been made to impute anti-American and “elitest” sentiments to Obama. For months also, local veteran County Commissioner Bobby Green, the state’s only African-American commissioner and a life-long Democrat and champion for children and families, public safety and human rights, has been subjected to a nonstop barrage of sniping and slashing personal attacks (“empty suit,” “arrogant tool of the rich with no record of leadership,” etc.). Creating a gross caricature of a decent public servant seems to be the craze these days.  

Elections must be more than tools for political vendettas and ugly, no holds barred, power grabs. Elections have real life consequences for our future. 

 As a political liberal, retired UO English teacher, Democrat and supporter of human rights (who also happens to be African-American), I am ashamed that some on the left have been so unfair and myopic in their efforts to destroy Green’s good name and distort his outstanding record of unmatched leadership. 

 Of course all issues like land-use or public safety are fair game and should be debated. But are we well served by single issue extremism and political distortion? Green’s moderation on land-use decisions and one courageous vote in the past to refer a tax measure to preserve safety-net services is some cardinal sin for which he must face defeat? Unfair. 

 I have observed Green’s career for more than 30 years, from his being a student in my UO English classes, to his city, county, state and national leadership positions. I can’t recognize the person whose very character is being assassinated in this campaign. That troubles and saddens me. 

 Where has the slightest respect been given to Green’s incredible passion for helping our youth avoid careers in crime or his record of delivering millions for north Eugene and Lane County? 

Any nod of recognition for his recent leadership which has helped deliver more than $100 million in federal forest payment dollars to Lane County during the next four years? Or Green’s recent service as president of the Association of Oregon Counties? And what about Green’s crucial role in helping bring the Olympic Trials to Hayward Field? Or being appointed by Gov. Kulongoski to chair the Juvenile Crime Prevention Advisory Committee? Or serving as vice-chair of the National Association of Counties Public Safety Steering Committee? 

What about the 1,400 Monaco Coach local jobs which Green had a direct hand in saving from being moved to Indiana? Or helping land the Enterprise Rental Cars Call Center? Or Glory Bee Foods expansion? Or Green’s service on state and local commissions on children and families? Would it have been too much to acknowledge Green’s successful trip to Baltimore which helped bring a federally qualified health clinic (Riverstone) to serve Lane County’s low-income citizens?  

Does Green’s having played a key role in building the Barger/Beltline Interchange or winning funds for improving Chambers, Roosevelt and Barger count for anything? Was winning $500,000 for the Babe Ruth and skateboard park too parochial an accomplishment for single-issue politicos and donors seeking his defeat? No, it all boils down to a single agenda. 

 Green’s crime is being a moderate on the environment. Yes, he’s backed the Florence dunes protection and purchase of property next to Mount Pisgah. But he’s also voted to supply ample land for low-income, affordable housing, in keeping with Oregon land use statewide goals. Appeals of Green’s and the board’s decisions on land-use votes to  the Land Use Board of Appeals have been upheld 95 percent of the time. For this, Green has been targeted for defeat and political demolition. 

 Perhaps Green is too idealistic. Perhaps he should have responded in-kind and taken issue with his opponent’s willingness to explore a restaurant tax (R-G, 5/3) or tried to paint him as an enemy of seniors who eat out most often. But that wouldn’t be the Bobby Green I know, the one whose honorable service is being ignored and distorted for political gain. 

Haven’t we voters learned our lessons about the politics of personal destruction yet?

Edwin Coleman,Ph.D., of Eugene is a retired professor of English at the UO and former bass player with the Cal Tjader Quintet, Peter Paul and Mary, and others.