This past weekend, the Congressman of Oregon's 1st District faced the growing media scrutiny by having a few sit-down interviews with local journalists as well as with national personalities like George Stephanopoulos. Both The Oregonian and the alternative weekly newspaper Willamette Week featured Congressman Wu in major cover stories. The Willamette Week even went so far as to publish two photos that the Congressman had sent to staff members the weekend of Halloween, just days before the election. The scandal surrounding the Congressman has only grown in the weeks since it was reported that six of his staff members had resigned their jobs, a couple of them without a job offer in hand. This mass defection served as blood in the water for the media sharks. Because mass defections rarely happen in politics, of course its going to get attention.
The story has even made The Huffington Post and it was interesting to read people's comments, some truly ignorant. A few people wondered what the big deal was, because they thought the scandal surrounded the photos of the Congressman in a tiger costume (as seen above). As ridiculous as the photo looks, it is NOT about the photographs. The photographs only represent the tip of the iceberg. It serves as a visual symbol and summary of ALL that is wrong with this Cognressman and why he must do the honourable thing and RESIGN IMMEDIATELY!!!
The Congressman is in a public relations fight of his life and it is truly remarkable that this scandal has caused him to give more media appearances than in several years of representing the 1st Congressional District of Oregon. He is admitting to having some "mental health" related issues, but when pressed by a journalist, he invoked his right to privacy, which is ludicrous. Public office is a PRIVILEGE, not a right. The public does have a right to know when the elected official has any reason why he or she might not be an effective representative for the district. It is for this reason alone that he should resign his office and take care of his "mental health issues." The reason he doesn't, though, is because he is an example of a person who works in government because he likely can't hack it in the business world. Not that everyone in government is incompetent, most are not. However, government work is pretty safe with better job security than the business world offers. The power and prestige of being a Congressman is probably a perk that he has become all too used to, so he'll never have it as good anywhere else. So, he clings to his job no matter what.
The revelations about Congressman Wu in the local papers only confirms for me just how right on my first impressions of people tends to be. From the time that I moved to Portland in August 2006 and mistakenly moved into his district (I had no idea at the time that the apartment I chose was not in Congressman Earl Blumenauer's district, who is a member of Congress that I have liked since I met him in 2000 during my White House internship), as I learned about him, I was not impressed. There was an incident during his college years where he was accused of raping his girlfriend. It came up in every election, but he still won reelection quite easily. Yes, he is a Democrat and yes, I am a Democrat. I'm also a pretty loyal Democrat, too. However, because I'm party loyal, I believe that candidates and politicians reflect the party by their behaviours and when they become a liability, they have to go for the good of the party. Party members should only expect candidates and elected officials to live up to the standards and values of the party. If they are unable to, they need to resign and let someone else take their place. Can you imagine the integrity that would occur if the Republican Party engaged in this practice?
When I meet people, I usually have a favourable or a neutral opinion about them. On the occasional chance that the person I meet registers a highly unfavourable impression, I still try to give the person the benefit of the doubt. However, in every case, a person who gives off a negative first impression ends up proving my intuition correctly. There's a reason why they registered so negatively with my intuition. Congressman Wu is one such person. I did meet him briefly at the 2006 Democratic election party in Portland, when the whole hotel ballroom erupted into cheers that the Democrats had finally handed Bush his first major rebuke. My impression of Wu is that he is a vacant personality. There is nothing under the surface. He is soulless and bland. His tenure in Congress is unremarkable (he was elected to his first term in 1998, when I was a college student at BYU and dreaming of my big D.C. career as a loyal political aide in the Gore Adminstration).
Last year, I supported the campaign of another David (Robinson), who had a Navy background and ran in the Democratic primary, but got trounced by the incumbent. After that happened, I knew that if I remained in the 1st Congressional District on election day, I would be voting for the Republican opponent, Rob Corneilles, who got his degree from BYU, is a Mormon, and is married to an Asian lady. There was concern last year that Wu might actually lose. The Congressman claims that the stress of last year's campaign really took a toll on him. Gee, I wonder why? It is infuriating, though, that none of the information about Wu that has been well known by journalists, party officials, and campaign staffers came to light. If the voting public had access to this information, we might have a new Congressman. Granted, he would be a Republican, but based on his background in business, it might not be a bad thing. The 1st District covers the city of Portland west of the Willamette River, all the way west to the Pacific Ocean. Basically, the northwestern corner of Oregon. My solution to not being forced to vote Republican was to bite the bullet and move east of the river into Congressman Earl Blumenauer's district. If I still lived in the 1st, I would have voted Republican because I can't stand Congressman Wu, even though I did vote for him in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
So, for those who don't have access to the local news, what was it about Congressman Wu that has created this scandalous uproar regarding the costume photo? According to his departing staff and those who had contact with him on the campaign trail, Congressman Wu's behaviour has been erratic and uncontrollable. It got so bad in the month of October that his staff forced him to endure an "intervention" where he was requested to seek psychiatric help that involved an overnight stay. He was told not to dress in a Halloween costume, for fear that a photo might be taken and find its way to the Republican candidate and used against him. What did Wu do? He had photos taken in the costume (the other one features him lying face down on the bed while a boy is choking him) and emailed them at 1 a.m. to his staff. A couple emails followed that were sent from his official Congressional email account, but written from the perspective of his son and signed with his son's name.
Other odd behaviour included a speech he gave on the floor of Congress comparing Republicans to Klingons, getting a TSA employee in trouble by using his position as a member of Congress to go past security at the airport to greet disembarking passengers and asking for their votes, and most baffling of all: accepting pills from a campaign supporter while claiming not to know what they were. The official story was that it was just Ibuprofin, but news reports are claiming that it was Oxycodon. During his local media interview this past weekend, he's now claiming that he had been using Ambien to get to sleep and Valium during the day. What the hell? Our Congressman is on drugs?!? For what???
He claims that the past year has been difficult for him with his divorce, having to raise two young sons by himself, as well as taking care of his 88 year old mother, all while having to campaign for reelection (last year, his district became one of the major targeted ones by the Republican National Committee). All the more reason why he should resign. The pressure is obviously too much for him. He has been known to yell at his staff and send threatening emails. Yeah, I would definitely say that he has major mental health issues. He should not be let off the hook for trying to deal with his mental health crisis. A lot of people are having mental health issues, but I expect better of the one person elected to represent about 750,000 people in his Congressional district. In that number of people, there ought to be at least one person who would serve as a more effective member of Congress.
My theory is that Congressman Wu's "mental health crisis" is rooted in whatever happened during his college years regarding the rape allegation. If he has a pattern of being aggressive towards women and this was a primary factor in why his wife left him, then all the drugs in the world (Ambien, Valium, Oxycodon, Oxycontin, Ibuprofin, Viagra, whatever) is not going to help him solve his mental issues. Its a psychological problem and it has manifested itself in a spectacular meltdown in the past several months. Its not going to get better for him so long as he remains in the high pressure atmosphere of Washington, D.C. His solution depends upon getting away from the stress and rediscovering his soul and making amends to anyone that he has hurt in the past.
It is stunning that his staff were so concerned that they forced an intervention on him, but he was in such denial that he responded immaturely (by defying their advice and wearing the tiger costume and emailing it to them in response). Usually, you read or hear about staff members being sycophantic enablers, which only swells the egotistical head of the person in power to the point where they become blind to their own faults and unable to see danger zones until their hubris leads them into scandalous behaviour that finally gets the press attention.
In the aftermath of the resignation of six staff members, I did entertain the thought of sending in my resume to work for him. However, the fact that he couldn't listen to the staff members who had been with him since the start of his career means that he wouldn't listen to a newbie staff member. Its sad that it has come down to this, even sadder that he does not have the decency to resign. From what I've read, it sounds like he's still planning to run for relection in 2012.
That means 2012 will be a very interesting political year for Portland, as I'm certain that viable candidates will come out of the woodwork to run against the scandalous mayor (who has not regained credibility after he was exposed for the liar he is in the first month in office) and the scandalous Congressman. I am hoping that Steve Novick will run for the 1st Congressional District in 2012. He had run for the Senate seat in 2008 but lost in the primary to Jeff Merkley, who I supported because I felt that he had the best chance of defeating Senator Gordon Smith. Novick had also expressed interest in running for Multnomah County Chair in last year's election but dropped out without a real explanation. My guess is that he was promised support for a future political office. I believe that his personality is right for Congress and he would make an excellent one. His campaign volunteers are enthusiastic and fun, so they will likely be out in full force to support a run for Congress. I would not only volunteer on such a campaign, but I would also move back into the 1st Congressional District so I could vote for him.
But I hope we don't have to wait until 2012 to get rid of our ineffective Congressman. He needs to RESIGN NOW. Its in the best interest for himself, his family, the Democratic Party, his constituents, and the state of Oregon. After he takes some time off to get mentally well, perhaps he can find a new career as Tony the Tiger, advertising for Frosted Flakes cereal. "They'rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttt!"