Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Neil Goldschmidt will never repair the damage to his reputation caused by the revelation, in 2004, that he sexually abused a teenage girl in the 1970s.

Yet Goldschmidt, the former Oregon governor, Portland mayor and head of the state's Board of Higher Education, seems determined to burn even the tattered remnants of his dignity.

This week the news came that Goldschmidt's victim died Jan. 16 at age 49.

In response, both Willamette Week, which broke the story back in 2004,

and The Oregonian, which had been investigating allegations against

Goldschmidt but didn't publish them until after Willamette Week did,

printed stories detailing the victim's troubled life after she was

abused by Goldschmidt.

The Oregonian also printed Goldschmidt's responses to a series of questions the newspaper posed to him.

Which is where this already sordid story gets uglier still.

In his response to The Oregonian, Goldschmidt included the sorts of

platitudes which, though meaningless, are the least that society

expects from a person who has acknowledged doing despicable things.

He expressed sadness at the victim's death.

He apologized for his "shameful conduct" and the "damage" he caused.

He admitted that "a lifetime of penance will not erase" the "debt of my own creation."

Had Goldschmidt stopped there, his terribly tarnished legacy would at

least include the footnote that he did apologize in a manner which, so

far as anyone can know, was sincere.

But he didn't stop there.

Goldschmidt also made a pathetic, and to us an inexplicably callous,

attempt to simultaneously diminish the severity of his crimes and

further besmirch his victim.

In the first paragraph of his response he refers to "the woman with whom I had an illegal sexual relationship 35 years ago."

His victim was of course a woman when she died. But she was a teenage girl when Goldschmidt sexually abused her.

And "illegal sexual relationship" is a ridiculous euphemism for rape,

the crime Goldschmidt should have been convicted of based on state law

at the time. He was not convicted, however, nor even charged with any

crime, because the statute of limitations had expired many years before

he admitted having sex with the girl many times.

Yet as abhorrent as his use of the term "illegal sexual relationship"

is, that's actually an improvement over how Goldschmidt described his

crime to The Oregonian in a 2004 interview.

He called the rape an "affair" then.

Goldschmidt isn't finished, though, with his vain campaign to minimize his actions.

He claimed to The Oregonian that the girl was 15 when he first had sex

with her, not 14, as was reported in 2004, or 13, as the victim told

Margie Boule, a former columnist for the newspaper.

"The reality," he wrote, "is that it does not matter because she simply

was not old enough to consent to sex and it was my moral and legal

obligation to be the responsible adult."

You're right, Neil: It doesn't matter whether the girl was 13, 14 or

15. So why did you mention it? Do you think the public considers the

rape of a 15-year-old not quite as awful as the rape of a 13-year-old?

The truth, it seems, is that Goldschmidt cited these discrepancies in

the girl's age because, in the midst of his ostensibly heartfelt

apology, he also sought to portray his victim as a liar.

"Sadly," he wrote, "it appears that much of her account is fabricated

and I can only speculate as to her reasons." The accusations that The

Oregonian gave him, he wrote, "vary substantially from the truth."

So let's give Goldschmidt what he doesn't deserve: the benefit of the doubt.

Let's assume, although there is no proof that this is so, that his

victim wasn't absolutely accurate with every date and timeframe she

related to Boule during their many interviews.

Even if this were true, it's just as irrelevant as the question of

whether the girl was 13, 14 or 15 when Goldschmidt first raped her.

He did rape her. He admits that he did. And yet he has the unbelievable

gall to accuse her, posthumously, of lying about "much of her account,"

as though her honest mistake about a minor detail might somehow

mitigate his guilt.

It doesn't mitigate it. Nothing can.

And frankly, we hope this disgusting and self-serving "explanation" is

the last we hear from Neil Goldschmidt. We hope too that his successes

as a politician will forever seem trivial compared to his failures as a