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Wednesday, October 20, 2004  

Commentary: The downfall of a model minority

The identity 'model minority' can be a complex one. Yes, the objects of the term, usually Asian-Americans, are being flattered. But, the flattery is also a backhanded slap at other minority groups. Indeed, the model minority is being approved of in comparison to them, not white Americans. And, the approval is contingent. The approval can be withdrawn, casting the recipient back into the second-class citizenship reserved for the non-model minorities by many.

An Oregon Congressman is now feeling the backlash that is held in reserve for the model minority who offends in some way. After serving three terms in the House of Representatives, it appears Democrat David Wu (pictured) may not be returning to Washington.

The Oregonian exposed a secret that Wu, who represents the 1st Congressional District, must have thought buried in his past. Now, his opponent, an immigrant from Iran, is taking advantage of that information.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republican challenger Goli Ameri launched a new TV ad Tuesday highlighting allegations of sexual misconduct against Democratic U.S. Rep. David Wu.

The 30-second spot, airing on Portland TV stations, features excerpts from a story published in The Oregonian last week in which a former girlfriend of Wu's once claimed he had tried to force her to have sex.

With less than two weeks before Election Day, the ads are intended to call into question Wu's character and help Ameri overcome the three-term incumbent's name recognition in the 1st District.

The episode the Republican candidate may be able to ride into Congress occurred when Wu was a college student, way back in 1976.

That summer, the 21-year-old Wu was brought to the campus police annex after his ex-girlfriend said he tried to force her to have sex, according to Raoul K. Niemeyer, then a patrol commander who questioned him.

Wu had scratches on his face and neck, and his T-shirt was stretched out of shape, Niemeyer said.

Earlier, someone had interrupted a scuffle in the woman's dorm room. A Stanford professor said the woman told him the next day that Wu had angrily attacked her. An assistant dean who counseled the woman for two months said that the woman called it attempted rape and that Wu used a pillow to muffle her screams.

The passage of time, and lack of criminal charges, or a conviction, might have caused Portland voters to shrug off news of the incident. But, the revelation occurred in the wrong year for that. Just months ago, a former mayor and governor of Oregon admitted to having had a sexual relationship with a girl from the time she was fourteen. The fallout has tarnished the reputation and impacted the wallet of Neil Goldschmidt. The commonality of his behavior and Wu's is unlikely to prove beneficial.

Though he refused to be interviewed during the months reporters investigated the alleged sexual assault, Wu apologized effusively after the cards were on the table, and the story was in the paper. He says the experience changed his life, implying he emerged from it a better person.

There are two other controversial issues that will effect Wu's electability. He has not been particularly effective during his three terms by most measures. Wu has neither penned nor passed legislation. Nor has he established a reputation as a member of the House. In addition, he has alienated the high tech community he claimed affinity with as a lawyer by opposing closer ties with China. Wu is from Taiwan. But, I believe the make or break issue will be whether the attempted rape allegation is taken seriously. The clash between it and his image as a model minority will determine the outcome of his embattled candidacy.

Wu, then persuing a policy of not speaking to the press, refused to meet with The Oregonian's editorial board in regard to endorsements. It endorsed Ameri instead, but says that choice had nothing to do with the yet to break article about the incident at Stanford.

We should also note that The Oregonian's editorial board endorsed his opponent in the general election and would have reached the same conclusion -- that Wu has been ineffective in Congress -- regardless of the college incident. . . .

The questions about Wu may not be easily resolved for voters, however. Each one has to decide whether this 28-year-old accusation should follow Wu through the years.

We think it's relevant. Voters must decide whether they should forgive Wu or remove him from office.

That decision will likely be known the night of Nov. 2.

Reasonably related

Former Portland mayor and Oregon Gov. Neil Goldshmidt had a three-year relationship with a teenaged girl that would have been considered statutory rape if he had been charged. I blogged that situation here.

5:00 PM