Before we get on to juicier matters, it’s still worth trumpeting Ed Lee’s
victory as the first elected Asian American mayor in San Francisco and what it
means to our country, isn’t it?
I admit, it would be a much better story if he were the first elected Asian
American mayor of State College, PA. Then Lee’s election would be back on
everyone’s radar and I could ask him about Jerry Sandusky.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
So let’s get to the juicy stuff first.
Is everyone ready for Sandusky as the new O.J.?
Not that the alleged crimes of the ex-football coach are similar to the
ex-football player, but the gloves do fit in a way. Both men have employed the
strategy of elevating the court of public opinion seemingly above any real
In Sandusky’s case, the coach has taken to pre-empting court entirely. A kind of
end-run of the court system, if you will. He’s put his side of the story on such
public display he’s also created a kind of instant de facto living room law
school, perfect for those of us unwilling to take the LSAT and do the time.
For Sandusky Law, there’s only a suggested prerequisite: at least four years of
What O.J. did for spousal crime, Sandusky is doing for child molestation. Can’t
be done, you say? Sandusky’s giving it the old boy scout’s try. (Or would that
be scoutmaster’s try?)
By now, perhaps you’ve seen that Bob Costas interview of Sandusky on NBC’s “Rock
Center with Brian Williams.”
Of course, you have, unless you’ve been living under the same rock that Penn
State administrators have been living under all these years.
Sandusky’s phoner, as it’s called in the biz, is as close as it gets to a public
confession–enough to make a Catholic priest blush.
In the interview, Sandusky’s admitted to showering with a 10-year old and
engaging in some spirited “horseplay.”
While not exactly fun and games in a Roman spa, towel snapping the underaged in
the Penn State locker room showers is still in my mind highly inappropriate,
especially if you are an adult with some authority.
But it gets worse. There’s an incident in 1998 when Sandusky admits to lifting
up a boy, once again in the shower, which caused his genitals to touch the boy’s
Sandusky isn’t exactly sorry for that. He told Costas he was sorry for the
impression it left on the boy and how the boy felt. Not the kind of contrition
that elicits deep sympathy for Sandusky. But again there’s more.
Costas asked him bluntly: “If you’re not a pedophile, what are you?”
Sandusky said in a halting way:
“Well, I’m a person who has taken a strong interest…I’m a very passionate
person, in terms of trying to make a difference in the lives of young people. I
work very hard to try to connect with them, to make them feel good about
themselves, to be something significant in their lives. Maybe this gets
misinterpreted depending on…I know a lot of young people where it hasn’t. I have
worked with many, many young people where there has been no misinterpretation of
my actions, and I have made a very significant difference in their lives.”
This is where a vehement denouncement would have worked wonders. Instead we get
the “misinterpretation” defense.
The only thing that may have been a positive for Sandusky is when he responded
to Costas’ question of the eyewitness account of former assistant coach Mike
McQueary told a grand jury in 2002 that he saw Sandusky performing oral sex on a
boy, once again in the Penn State showers.
Sandusky curtly denied it without much elaboration, which made it far more
believable than his other denials.
Subsequently, McQueary has gotten into the act and is now talking to the media,
implying he did not just walk away but tried to stop what he saw.
And now it’s getting out of hand.
Lesson No. 1 in the Sandusky Living Room Law School is also the final one.
The media is not your friend, nor your client. Public opinion be damned.
Remember, you have a right to remain silent. Silence is your friend. Speak your
peace in court. Class dismissed.
I know silence helped make this whole thing into what it is in the first place.
But now that the courts have it, we should let justice do its thing for all
involved. I’m certainly not pro-child molestor, but I do feel they have rights
too, before and after their conviction. But going public on such a public taboo
served no one, least of all Sandusky. All he did was provide the world a nice
profile of the classic dirty old man.
But I’m sure before any of you real lawyers out there reading this would let
your client do such an interview, you’d give him a wicked towel snap. Wouldn’t
Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s actual defense lawyer, has said he thought the TV
phoner would be the best way to douse the avalanche of public opinion against
The most charitable takeaway from the interview is that Sandusky liked to take
showers with boys.
Did Amendola think that was just good clean fun? He deserves a towel snap.
SAN FRANCISCO’S MAYOR ED LEE
So let’s end on a legitimate feel good note, our original subject, the historic
election of Ed Lee as mayor of San Francisco.
In a city where the Chinese for many years were precluded from voting and owning
property, it certainly was a milestone. I’ve celebrated Lee since his rise last
year via the good kind of affirmative action, his political appointment by his
old boss, the exiting mayor, Gavin Newsom.
How Lee went from interim to elected, however, says less about Asian American
empowerment and more about Ranked Choice Voting, a bad kind of political
affirmative action intended to save government costs and stop big money
influence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cut down the influence of traditional
political powers that set Lee up perfectly for his landslide victory. The cover
for supporters of RCV is that it helps un-empowered minority communities. But
Lee, the high-ranking career technocrat, was hardly un-empowered. As an
appointee, he started his political career on home plate. Indeed, five
well-qualified Asian American candidates duked it out among 16 candidates in
all. And there was Lee in the catbird seat to cannibalize the other Asian
American candidates’ ranked choice votes, enabling him to turn a 31 percent
plurality into an instant 61 percent majority win.
On that night he was certainly empowered, all right. But would he have won a
runoff the normal way? Real progress for Asian Americans is when all the
ethnicities under our unique umbrella can come together behind one visionary,
charismatic Asian American leader, who has broad appeal throughout the
When that happens not just in Asian-tilting communities like San Francisco, but
everywhere, that would be a real recogntion that our 6 percent of the nation can
make a difference. That would be worth a lot more than a footnote.