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Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Innocent until politically embarrassing

By JOE McQUAID
August 05. 2018 11:46PM


MUCH OF THE political reaction to the arrest of Jeffrey Woodburn last week would once have been considered astonishing but is now the new normal.

Woodburn is a state senator who lives in Whitefield. He represents the state’s most northern district. He is also the leader of the Democrats in the Senate. They are in the minority but he is sometimes looked to as a leader in the party. So his arrest, on several domestic assault-related charges, was a big deal.

I get that. The hashtag “me too’’ movement is in full flower. A lot of good has come in the wake of a light being shown on years of sexual assault of women by powerful men.

Politicians, naturally, try to either capitalize on such incidents or scramble to distance themselves from the accused.

In the case of Sen. Woodburn, calls for him to resign his office came faster than one of this summer’s cloudbursts. It is unfortunate, but it is probably the wise thing for him to do, both for the sake of his constituents and for his political party.

It’s too bad for him personally but Woodburn is better off concentrating on defending himself against the charges and letting his party find someone else to run in the general election this fall.

What was stunning was how completely New Hampshire’s political class has abandoned the once-valued tenet of innocent until proven guilty.

Atty. Gen. Gordon MacDonald, in announcing the case, tried. He noted that the charges “are merely accusations and Mr. Woodburn is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

But most New Hampshire politicians were too busy elbowing each other out of the way to hear MacDonald. Their high-and-mighty pronouncements already had the man tried, convicted, and sentenced to flogging in the public square.

Democratic party chair Ray Buckley: We “stand with his accuser and support her during this unimaginably painful time.”

Democratic candidate for governor Steve Marchand: “I stand with the woman involved and all victims of domestic violence.’’

Democrat Molly Kelly: Woodburn has to go because of “his actions.’’

Even Republican Gov. Chris Sununu jumped aboard: “This morally reprehensible, violent behavior has no place in public service, or anywhere else.’’

Why bother having a trial?

How do you “stand’’ with and “support’’ the “accuser’’ without admitting that you have already judged the accused?

I say we tie Woodburn to a dunking chair over the Israel River and keep submerging him until he admits that he is a witch.

Write to Joe McQuaid at Publisher@unionleader.com or on Twitter at @deucecrew.


Publisher's Notebook



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