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Locke’s speech both insulting, embarrassing

Had former Gov. Gary Locke’s remarks last week at the annual fundraiser for Kitsap County’s Boy Scouts merely been tactless, the appropriate response would have been for the event’s organizers to simply conclude it was a mistake to invite him in the first place and make a note not to repeat the same mistake next year.

But Locke’s performance went so far beyond the pale that we feel obliged to heap just a little more scorn before moving on.

A former Eagle Scout himself, Locke probably seemed like a reasonable choice as guest speaker for the Bremerton event, and officials of the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which hosted the gathering, no doubt anticipated an uplifting address about the benefits of scouting and a few harmless anecdotes about how the organization had enriched his own life.

What attendees got instead was a nakedly political diatribe accusing the United States in general and the president in particular of trampling on civil rights, along with Locke’s observation that the only way to remedy the situation was by electing a new president from his party.

Among the other lowlights of Locke’s jeremiad was the accusation that during World War II the United States confined Japanese-Americans to “concentration camps.”

While not technically inaccurate to call detention camps like the those memorialized on Bainbridge Island concentration camps, the term is deliberately calculated by zealots like Locke to equate the American camps with the death camps operated in Nazi Germany — a truly despicable comparison.

A 1998 New York Times article quoted no less an authority on the subject than Aiko Herzig, who spent three years herself in the camps and later served as the researcher for the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment.

“Concentration camp is not an inaccurate term to describe what happened,” Herzig explained. “But it must be understood that there’s no comparison between that and the horror that happened in Europe.”

Would that Locke had appreciated that distinction. Not that accuracy or reason were hallmarks of his rant.

Not surprisingly, a number of those who attended the fundraiser opted to leave before the presentation was even finished. Others expressed their disapproval to the event’s organizers afterward, leading scouting officials to wonder whether Locke’s address would actually have a negative effect on donations this year.

It shouldn’t.

Scouting is about as positive an activity as a young person can engage in these days, and its benefits shouldn’t be trivialized just because one apparently unhinged former Eagle Scout had the bad manners to poison a nonpartisan fundraising opportunity with the sort of overheated political rhetoric more appropriate for the fever swamps of his favorite far-left Internet blog.

Simply put, Locke’s graceless, intellectually bankrupt address was an embarrassment to himself and the honorable organization that invited him with the expectation a former governor would know how to conduct himself.

Sadly, he didn’t.

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