I’ve been so busy covering the Wisconsin Showdown and the ongoing Grievance Convergences across the country that I’ve neglected a story that should be causing ulcers among the Beltway Democrat leadership.
Many of you have probably seen this Willamette Week-obtained picture of disturbed Democrat Rep. David Wu of Oregon — whose staff has been abandoning the U.S.S. Crazy in droves:
Documents obtained by WW—emails and photographs sent from Wu’s federally issued BlackBerry in the early-morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010—reveal a bizarre portrait of Wu in the days right before the Nov. 2 general election.
Wu’s increasingly odd behavior and communication typified by this set of emails so troubled staff that sources say the employees deliberately hid him from public view during the last three days of Wu’s campaign even as his Republican opponent furiously fought for votes across Oregon’s 1st Congressional District.
That district, a largely Democratic stronghold that encompasses some of Oregon’s biggest economic engines like Nike and Intel, begins on the west side of Portland and stretches through Washington County to Astoria on the north coast.
Wu, a 55-year-old former lawyer and graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, has served in Congress since 1999.
No single event appears to have prompted staff to conduct the two interventions. Instead, a snowballing series of events in the days before Wu handily defeated GOP challenger Rob Cornilles 55 percent to 42 percent combined to cause staffers to worry about the congressman’s judgment and the possible root cause of his problem, say close observers on Capitol Hill and in Portland.
Wu’s behavior has caused Capitol Hill concern dating back to 2003. But none of the swamp-draining Democrat leaders bothered to do anything about it. And Wu has gone on a national media tour asserting he can continue to hold office.
Now, Wu’s hometown paper in Eugene has called for his resignation:
Wu claims he has been under a lot of stress lately because of the breakup of his marriage, the death of his father and the rigors of a tough campaign. That adds up to a heavy load, and there should be no shame in seeking help. Wu has had little to say since The Oregonian’s reports were published last weekend, but claimed in a prepared statement that he had sought “professional medical care.”
That’s good — though the judgment of some around him seems to be that Wu needs different or more intensive care than he has been getting.
It’s easy to understand why Wu and his staff wanted to keep questions about his condition quiet until after the election. Any suggestion of psychiatric problems at the peak of a campaign would have been political suicide. Yet at the same time, the congressman’s silence, and that of his staff members, led voters to make their decision without knowing important facts about the leading candidate.
Wu should have been forthcoming about his medical treatment when it began. Candor might have been costly, but there might also have been rewards — including understanding and sympathy. Successful treatment could also have had visible results, providing reassurance to staff members and voters alike.
Whatever the price of candor, the price of its absence is higher. Wu can recover his health, but public trust is lost forever. He should step down.
And an Oregonian columnist points fingers at Wu’s enablers:
In propping Wu up for so long, in staying quiet about what might lie behind his strange behavior, staff and the party power structure did a disservice to both the congressman and his constituents. Wu should explain his behavior. The people who shielded him for all these years as the pressure mounted should explain theirs, too.
Most ethical congressional leadership ever, eh, Weaker Pelosi?