David Wu's bizarre behavior

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Last month, the Oregonian reported that Congressman David Wu lost nearly all of his senior staff leadership in the days after the November election. Now, the Oregonian and Willamette Week are telling us why.

Wu's behavior in the closing days of the 2010 election was so outrageous and bizarre that one staffer told the O, "the only thing worse than losing the campaign would be winning it." It got so bad, according to the O, that staffers tried to convince Wu to seek psychiatric hospitalization:

Earlier and gentler efforts had failed, so the tight-knit group of high-level staff took other steps, including quiet inquiries about the availability of beds in hospitals in Portland and Washington, D.C., multiple sources familiar with the effort told The Oregonian.

Several staff members confronted Wu for the final time on Oct. 30. Wu’s psychiatrist was brought into that meeting as well, joining the group at the Portland campaign headquarters by speaker phone. The meeting was held after four consecutive days of troubling behavior that led the staff to agree that Wu needed a higher level of medical care, according to people intimately familiar with the events of that period.

"This is way beyond acceptable levels and the charade needs to end NOW," wrote Lisa Grove, a senior and long-serving campaign pollster, in an e-mail to colleagues that day. "No enabling by any potential enablers, he needs help and you need to be protected. Nothing else matters right now. Nothing else."

Wu, however, remained defiant, sources said. He left the meeting and said he was going to a movie.

The Oregonian's reporting details the day-by-day of what happened in those closing days - including his belligerent speech at the Wash Co Dems on Wednesday, a confrontation at a downtown pharmacy on Thursday, his bizarre behavior at the Portland airport on Friday, and a series of late-night emails at 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

Willamette Week has extended quotes from five emails, which are deeply strange:

Nineteen minutes later, at 1:22 am PST, a second email from Wu’s official email address went to multiple Wu staffers under the subject line “not funny.”

The email read as if it had come from one of Wu’s two children; the name of his middle-school-age daughter appeared at the end of it as a signature. But it’s not clear whether she sent the email in the wee hours of the morning or did so at the request of her father. Another possibility—the one that apparently disturbed staffers—is that Wu sent the email on his own, pretending to be his child. In any case, the email suggests Wu had been sparring with his staff.

“You’re the best, but my Dad made me say that, even though you threatened to shut down his campaign.” ...

Six minutes later, at 1:38 am, a fourth email arrived in staffers’ inboxes. The content related to Wu’s drinking. The subject line contained one word: “wasted.”

The email, with Wu’s son’s name at the end, said: “My Dad said you said he was wasted Wednesday night after just three sips of wine. It’s just that he hasn’t had a drink since July 1. Cut him some slack, man. What he does when he’s wasted is send emails, not harass people he works with. He works SO hard for you … Cut the dude some slack, man. Just kidding.”

Willamette Week also published a bizarre photo of Wu that was attached to one of the emails.

After the events of the week, and the early Saturday emails, the big intervention was on Saturday. Neither WW or the O have any additional details about the next 72 hours - until Wu's election night victory speech on Tuesday night.

I'll have more thoughts about all this later. For now, I'll simply ask you: What should be the next chapter in David Wu's life and career?

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    If these stories are correct, then Congressman Wu has some fairly serious mental health issues & should step down. He can't possibly represent us in office under these circumstances. He needs to get well not just for himself, but for his kids.

    It's not fair to them and its not fair to us, his constituents.

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      In this condition? I agree. In the care of doctors? I disagree. People with mental illness under control can, and should be encouraged to, be fantastic contributors to society. With that said, his constituency certainly has the right to know what is ailing him if it is impacting his leadership.

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        I'm not saying Wu can't contribute to society. Nor would I presume such a thing.

        I'm saying that it's our job, as his constituents, to ask some pretty tough questions of him. He has a very serious, important and unique job--and we're sending him to represent us to carry out those duties. We need to know that he's okay to do this job.

        My comments should not be construed in any way to slight anyone with mental illness, in treatment or not. I have a lot of compassion for folks dealing with the these extremely tough issues. But Wu also owes it to us, his constituents, to be honest and forthright about whether whatever is going on with him is (or has been) interfering with his ability to represent us in DC.

        Honestly, I'm pretty concerned right now. I voted for Wu (every time he's run, btw). I hope he's okay--and I really, really hope he'll talk to us about what's going on.

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    Adventures in the underbelly of congressional staffers rarely come to light. Staffer's claustrophobic view of their Congressman or woman is usually a mix of pride and late at night resignation to the boss's histrionics. Staffer's guard their boss and territory with a sometimes slightly paranoid zeal.

    It is remarkable the staffer's stepped forward. Their Congressman should be grateful they cared so much.

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    I have heard the rumor from a trusted source that this is a substance abuse issue. If true, how that plays out as an officeholder, even if treatment is sought I don't know.

    Off the top of my head I can't think of a past case where a sitting elected official at the Federal level went into treatment while in office.

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      Pat Kennedy iirc. Drugs and mental illness go so hand in hand I doubt it is one vs the other. Who knows? All speculation at this point but obviously something is "off."

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      There have been plenty politicians over the years that have gotten treatment AFTER they left office. While in office, they had so many handlers that observers might have suspected something was wrong, but his people would have had him locked up so tight nothing would have leaked out. Guess you could chalk this one up to the freedom of expression afforded to individuals by the web. That, and Rep. Wu never seemed to have the sort of handlers that would lock him down like that. Those guys are usually doing that because they have a substantial financial stake involved...and while there are certainly companies involved that benefit from Wu's leadership, it's not like there's a plentiful number of corporate execs who've put all their chips on him.

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    David needs to have an honest discussion with the press and not do his normal dissembling avoidance of the facts. If he cannot do this and come clean with whatever was going on he needs to resign or at least announce that he will not run again. We need a Democratic Congressperson who can be effective and have the trust of their constituents. At this point there is no way he could win another election. David needs to acknowledge that and move forward.

    There will be time for healing and renewal once his issues are fully acknowledged.

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    Plus what about the conspiracy to keep this quiet until after the election? It sounds to me that could be considered abetting malfeasance of office.

    The losers are the constituents in CD 1 who are not being effectively represented right now. Of course they did vote for him, so I guess they are stuck with him.

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    I wish him good luck too, whatever the problem may be. I hope his brain is ok and that he has had regular health check ups with his doctor. Brain problems can get worse fast. I am very grateful for his public service and It is a shame that this has to play out publicly.

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    So, the question is, is he in treatment now and are his problems being addressed? Is he able to function?

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    Wu has an opportunity to get help, improve his image and to help others. Step up! Share our blog article: http://positiveimagenetwork.blogspot.com/2011/02/can-this-congressman-be-saved-david-wu_19.html

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    Back in the 1970s and 1980s, this was called "having a nervous breakdown". In this case, from having a divorce, being a single dad with a day job 3000 miles away, and probably with a bunch of other incredibly stressful things.

    Today, a nervous breakdown is something far more terrible - signs of some permanent mental illness. Even more scary because there is no actual scientific basis for making that finding! We just know it's bad because that's what science is... doing sciency stuff.

    And next thing you know we'll be impeaching an extremely good President over having a mid-life crisis from hell and getting a little head from some willing floozy.... ...oh ...wait

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    The difference between Patrick Kennedy and David Wu is that Kennedy recognized his problem and took steps to deal with it. From what we've seen so far, Wu is in denial. If the issues are as bad as characterized -- and all those staff don't resign unless they are -- Wu is not capable of continuing to represent the district and should step down. As his constitutents, we DO get to judge. And if we are measuring the job he's doing, with all due respect, Dylan, it's marginal and has been for some time. Congress.org's ratings put him near the bottom for non-freshmen, and he has a thin record of accomplishment for a congressman of his seniority. I haven't voted for David since the Stanford issue came to light in the Ameri campaign. I've left the ballot for 1st CD blank. I've felt for some time we've deserved better. I hope David will let a new and effective Democrat take his place and let him get the help he apparently needs.

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    So, David Wu is having a hard time, and it's not his fault. And we should all be nice to him. And we should support him for his reelection. --- And that's why most American's think that politics is dirty and immoral. We can do better. But we won't.

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