Kroger and the Straw Men

Allow me to scold you for spinning controversies about the new president (“The Advocate,” September) into straw men under the title “The Kroger Conspiracy.” In addition to amusing them, why not also allow readers to consider serious efforts to help understand an unusual choice for Reed president?

Unusual? Kroger is the first Oregon resident to become Reed president since E.B. MacNaughton [1948–52] and the only elected politician from any state in its 100-year history.

Without quoting the many critical reviews of Kroger’s tenure as Oregon attorney general in the local press, it is not sufficient to dismiss them as just so many “ruffled feathers in Salem.” It was in the midst of political and legal actions against Kroger’s leadership of the Jusice Department, some of which were upheld in court, that he announced he was resigning for health reasons and became publicly incommunicado. You deny the speculation that he quit to avoid the need to defend his record in a reelection campaign, but since we were all relieved by your report that he has fully recovered, the question remains why he chose to seek another job rather than recover during medical leave and run for another term. 

The “conspiracies” you ignore are an honest effort to understand why Reed chose a local political figure at a time when it might profit from mending fences or rebuilding bridges with Portland that had fallen into disrepair over the decades as Reed developed from a local to a national institution. In recent years, Reed has had to confront local charges of having a lax drug policy. Could Kroger’s Oregon experience and connections run interference against such criticism and help fix the longer-term problem?  

Perhaps significantly, his choice to succeed himself was a prominent prosecutor with almost unanimous support from the law enforcement establishment and who called Oregon’s medical marijuana law a “train wreck.” To the delight of many Oregonians, Kroger’s candidate was soundly defeated in the Democratic party primary by Ellen Rosenblum, the daughter of former Reed president Victor Rosenblum [1968–70], who considered the Oregon law just fine and declared that chasing after marijuana would not be her priority. 

All this is not to prejudge Kroger’s prospects as Reed president. He deserves our best wishes. Anyone who received the Leo Levinson award for teaching several times from graduating classes at Lewis and Clark Law School has earned himself some slack. Levinson was one of the courageous attorneys who represented Oregonians hostile to infamous HUAC’s infamous political interrogation in 1954. You know—the “Velde” hearings that got Professor Stanley Moore fired by the Reed trustees.

—Michael Munk ’56


Editor's Note: When one is being scolded by the likes of Mike Munk (a virtual institution unto himself), the prudent response is silence. But I will point out that the “Kroger Conspiracy” sidebar was intended to add a little levity and a few facts to the discussions, rather than ignoring them. As the profile noted, and as Mike now reiterates, some of Kroger’s decisions as AG drew criticism. I chose not to plunge into the minutiae of Oregon prosecutorial politics, with its cavalcade of rivalries, turf wars, and teapot tempests, because I felt that there were more important issues in Kroger’s background that clamored for our readers’ attention. To print the extra pages required by even a cursory glance at the squabbling would have condemned a forest to the axe. I invite readers to pursue their own research and suspect they’ll reach similar conclusions.
I don’t think the recent primary has much relevance to Reed, except that as loyal Reedies we naturally applaud Rosenblum’s victory. Nor do I subscribe to Mike’s conviction that the roads of human history invariably converge on the Stanley Moore affair. However, I do share his hope that Kroger can help Reed mend some fences in Portland.