As if there aren’t enough real sex offenders in WA, the state GOP is apparently fictionalizing new ones.
Yesterday I did a quick hit on the state GOP’s vile “sex offender” mailing, not realizing that the image I used came from VanBlog, the new blog from Vancouver, WA’s Vanguard weekly newspaper. This oversight on my part is doubly disappointing, because I’ve been meaning to plug VanBlog and writer Jon DeVore, whose now defunct (and much missed) Columbian Watch was one of my favorite WA state blogs.
Jon is working on a piece about the scandal for Vanguard, and has provided updated information in my comment threads. And yes… I think it appropriate to start calling this disgusting misinformation campaign a “scandal.”
In my original post I said the Republican hit piece was “based on a lie,” an assertion perennial HA reader/GOP candidate Richard Pope objected, I had not backed up with facts. However, the lie to which I referred was the general lie of this whole campaign of lies… that the Democrats’ rejection of a procedural stunt on the first day of session was in any way a rejection of a particular policy or objective. I had actually assumed that the “sex offender” shown on the post card was an actual “sex offender” who actually lived in Rep. Deb Wallace’s 17th district. I mean… the Republicans wouldn’t be so stupid as to mock up a fake sex offender, would they?
Well… apparently… they might.
Jon explains in my comment thread that he has been trying to match the man pictured to known sex offenders, without any luck:
I did have someone sit down and go through ALL of the Clark County Level II and Level III sex offenders (the ones there are pictures for) on the state web site. (http://ml.waspc.org/) He found NOBODY that even remotely resembles the person in the mailer in Clark County.
I personally went through every photo of someone listed for “rape of a child” in Clark County myself today, with no matches.
Looks like the GOP mailing will backfire and generate a bunch of negative publicity. I can’t believe they were so stupid as to make up an alleged offender out of whole cloth. I wonder whether any of the 62 REAL Level III sex offenders listed for Clark County are quite as bad of character as the fictional fellow’s history portrays him to be.
Unfortunately, lost in the Republican’s cruel, insensitive, and stunningly stupid misinformation campaign — what Seattle P-I columnist Thomas Shapley calls “a cheap and shameful political stunt” — is a rational public debate over our sex offender laws, and what can be done to strengthen them.
For example, one of the most controversial provisions of our current law offers shorter sentences to offenders who abuse family members, as opposed to strangers… what our friend Richard cynically denigrates as a “Friends and Family discount.” But as Shapley points out, there’s actually a rationale behind this provision.
Coursing though all those debates is the understanding that the toughest prison sentence can be irrelevant without a conviction. Especially when family members are accused, there are demonstrable links between the severity of the potential sentence and the child victim’s willingness to testify or even report the sexual abuse. Do you really want to send Daddy or Uncle Harry to prison? It’s just another facet in the victimization of the child, of course, but it is a factor.
The true predators take smarmy advantage of this conundrum, using their position of trust and affection to prey on children, only to have the relationship they have perverted to their own gratification serve as a shield against prosecution or as a get-out-of-jail-free card into deferred prosecution and treatment.
“What’s a little child sexual abuse between friends and family?” … one might assume that’s the Democratic platform according to the vile, Republican rhetoric we’ve been hearing. But in fact, our current law was crafted the way it is at the urging of prosecutors. It may make for good political demagoguery to call for harsher sentences, but if the result is that fewer offenders are convicted, we’ll only be putting young victims at even greater risk.
And that, of course, is the larger risk of exploiting emotional issues like this to vilify your opponents: it short-circuits an informed public debate, raising the potential of bad policy and unintended consequences.
The truth is, this postcard was never about urging Rep. Wallace to protect children, it was about defeating her in the November election. So instead of conjuring up a fictional child molester, why not just cut to the chase, and paste Rep. Wallace’s photo onto the postcard? After all, that’s the message Republican strategists are really trying to send to voters.
Further evidence of the GOP’s fake “sex offender” comes from a diary on Daily Kos that shows the exact same postcard, but this time addressed to voters in Rep. Bill Grant’s 16th District.
The postcards boldly warn voters “This violent sex predator lives in your community.” I hadn’t realized that the GOP’s sense of community was so broad that it spanned multiple legislative districts.
Collect them all! We now have images of postcards from the 16th and 17th districts. If anybody has a postcard from another district, please send me an image.