Pondering Wu: a few post interview thoughts

Carla Axtman

When Kari and I took the opportunity to sit down with Congressman David Wu for our interview, I expected to walk away with questions in my mind about whether or not I would vote for him again. Expecting only 10 minutes for our chat, I fully believed that we might have a chance for one, maybe two questions. To his credit, the Congressman sat down with us for just over an hour.

But even with that hour, I wish I could say that the niggling questions about Congressman Wu floating around in my head were gone.

My main concern is what appears to be a lack of good judgment. After having what he describes as a bad reaction to a mix of prescription medications, Wu popped pills of a type unknown to him from a supporter at a campaign event. He says it was for pain--and I have no doubt that he's telling the truth there. Wu described the taking of the pills as "really stupid", and he's right, it was. But it wasn't a one time thing because he kept asking for more, which he neglected to mention in our interview. It's not like there wasn't time to tell us the whole thing. This sort of half-telling of the story demonstrates to me that his judgment is still in question.

I also still find myself troubled at the exodus of staff. I don't think the Congressman is helping his case when he talks about how most of them went on to good jobs in other places. How is Julie Tippens taking a job with a Hawaii Congresswoman better because of the beautiful setting of Hawaii.... if she's probably spending the majority of her time in DC? I find it hard to believe that Tippens left just so she could take nice walks on the beach. Adding to that is the (paraphrasing) "I have to be a better boss" statements. If the staff left for "better" jobs, and some left without having another job, does that mean he was such a horrible boss that pretty much anything was better than staying there? I can't reconcile this.

Finally,there's the email from Lisa Grove. Grove had been a long time consultant for Congressman Wu. I find it credible that Grove would know a great deal about the workings of the Congressman's campaigns and events. Grove hasn't denied writing the email and whether or not someone leaked it is irrelevant, from my point of view. I don't find it credible that Wu doesn't know what Grove was talking about in her email about the need for staff to be "protected", especially within the context of Wu admitting that some of his behavior hasn't been good.

I suspect that for some of our readers, this won't be the popular view. Some of you are ardent supporters of David Wu, for your own reasons. I have a feeling I'm about to get an earful. And that's fine. But for me, too much just doesn't add up.

See Kari's post-interview thoughts here.

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    Thanks for your honesty. I don't live in his district and I'm not really that familiar with Wu, other than what I read. But I've also had some of the same questions you've had.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    Don't take this the wrong way - I really appreciate Kari always giving the disclaimer when a Blue Oregon post is regarding one of Mandate Media's clients.

    I think it's worth noting that Wu is the ONLY member of the Oregon federal delegation that does NOT contract with Mandate Media as its website provider.

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      I don't work for Mandate Media or for Kari--and this is my post and my own thoughts. I don't build my posts around who Kari works for and who he doesn't.

      I'd be stunned if Kari hasn't taken lots of heat from some of his clients after I've written pieces that they don't like. I was certainly not easy on Kurt Schrader last Summer.

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        I know you aren't involved with Mandate Carla, but it's still a post on Blue Oregon, and so it's relevant.

        As I said, don't take it the wrong way. I don't think Kari or you is out to get Wu, and I appreciate your posts. I do think it's a relevant tidbit for people to be aware of when they're reading Blue Oregon posts.

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          Here on BlueOregon, each contributor (and commenter) is responsible for their own words -- and no one else's.

          Carla is no more responsible for what I do for a living than you are.

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          Alex: I think I'm missing your point. As Kari doesn't influence how I write my posts or their content, then how is it relevant?

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            My understanding is that this is, in essence at least, Kari's blog. To me, that makes Kari's potential conflicts (and again, I'm not saying you guys are doing anything but your best to objectively report this!), relevant to every post, not just his.

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              I'm the publisher, but our editors and contributors own their own words. Other than fixing typos and occasionally making a headline a bit more clear, I don't weigh in on their writing.

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      Alex, I've posted my response to this comment over on my post, where you've posted the same comment.

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      I'm not saying he kicks his dog but....

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    Carla, I agree that it isn't relevant if/that Lisa Grove's email was leaked, but it would be nice to know to whom it was sent and what it was responding to.

    What's not quite clear is whether Grove was responding to staffer, or someone else, about recent info on Wu's actions from someone who witnessed it, or whether it was part of a discussion between two third parties about second-hand information. Was she giving advice, or expressing an opinion about what advice should be given? Base on a direct report, or on "if this true, then ..." basis?

    If I understand the timing right, Lisa Grove's last direct involvement with the Wu campaign was Oct 15 & its not clear if she was observing "erratic behavior" even then or wasn't asked to do further work or turned down further work based on subsequent reports.

    All I think I can know for certain from her email is that there were at least strongly believed rumors circulating among insiders at the point when she wrote.

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      I agree completely that it would be nice to know to whom Grove's email was sent and to what it was responding to. Wu says he doesn't know when we asked him why staff need to be "protected".

      None of that rings right to me. October 15 is only just over 2 weeks until the election. There were certainly behavioral questions about Wu prior to Grove's departure from the Wu camp. I would think Grove would have at least some direct knowledge, based on that timing.

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        Ok, I haven't been following that closely & what I had seen was mostly focused on Halloween weekend. Just today I saw Jeff Mapes long review of Wu's career which raises entirely other kinds of questions for me. He's always seemed a little erratic in terms of predictability as to where he'd stand on issues I care about, in contrast to say Earl B., with whom I know more or less when I can count on him and when not.

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    Mr. Tinker's well discussed comment aside, let's get back to the issues raised by Carla and Kari.

    I read the interview series here at BO about Wu and felt he was being evasive in some of his responses but let's be honest here, many politicians do the same. It is high art to learn how to say nothing at all, verbosely, when pressed on a question you don't want to answer. But this isn't a policy debate.

    Technically, it is a crime to take others' medications. To Wu's credit, he admitted much of what happened but this is beginning to not pass the smell test.

    Congressman Wu, if you are reading this and know more will come out that you don't want us to hear, maybe consider taking the higher but safer road and submitting your resignation. If you have drug-seeking behavior in conjunction with a "past" psychological "allergic reaction", sir you may not be fit to sit in one of the highest offices in Oregon. The scandal arguably is hurting us. It's too much pressure on you and way too important to the entire first district. I live your district; I have voted for you a lot. I've met you; I like ya' and from person to person, I am worried about your well-being. And ours.

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      I know almost nothing about Mr. Wu, and trust Carla a lot and pay attention to her opinions. But I would like to say one thing. Living in chronic pain, if (and I don't know) that is the case with Wu, is something that most people know very little about, and the kind of behaviors it can generate can be so very easily mislead. I speak as both a psychotherapist and as someone who has lived in chronic pain much of my life (not anymore, thank god.) It is just not easy to judge someone on this issue who lives in this kind of limelight, not even what is "good or bad judgement." Not saying there is no such thing as good judgement, but that it is hard to identify without being pretty intimately connected to the person. People who struggle with depression, pain, ADD, and others can still make huge contributions to society and even function well as high level public figures. Think of Kennedy. Do we understand what he went through with his pain, his meds, no not really. Wu even less so. I neither defend nor attack him; I do not know enough. I would rather judge him on his other, plainer actions as a politician.

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        Good points and thank you for your contribution to the discussion as a professional. I'm not saying he should be entirely dismissed from public life or making some sort of contribution; he does have to support his family and all and you are right about people making a contribution to society who have mental challenges. For example, folks who are bi-polar are some of the most creative people on Earth in my understanding.

        But what I am saying is if he is secretly dual-diagnosed or something and clearly is not being entirely truthful, I don't want him voting on nuclear arms treaties and such. See where I am coming from?

        Further, there is just too much other political talent in Oregon to settle for that kind of a distraction in leadership. And it is a distraction.

        Glad your chronic pain went away BTW.

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    Given the Congressman's recent forays into public events, to try and explain all of this, it's a little surprising that he (or a staff member on his behalf) is not responding directly to these posts.

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    Carla Axtman: "My main concern is what appears to be a lack of good judgment."

    In many instances of mental illness the ability to exercise "good judgment" is affected. The public perception of mental illness and all it portends is an extremely difficult concept for most of the public to "get their heads around." Unlike physical ailments mental illness and the degree of affliction are not very well understood. Most of us know that "stage 4" cancer is critical, but we also know that many so afflicted still function albeit sometimes in a limited manner.

    I spent my career working with disadvantaged persons many of whom had varying degrees of mental health issues they had dealt with, were dealing with, had yet to recognize or were in denial of such a problem. No one outside of Congressman Wu's treating professional and accurately ascertain where the Congressman was and/or is on this continuum. Be that as it may, the overarching question is whether or not Congressman Wu is effectively representing Oregon Congressional District I.

    As an observer it appears there is almost a "feeding frenzy" similar to sharks sensing "blood in the water." I wonder how many of us recall the vilification of then Vice Presidential Candidate Thomas Eagleton. It was tragic that he had received treatment to a point he was functioning quite well, but unlike a person who had recovered from a broken leg, he was relegated to the political sidelines as a pariah because of prejudice which emanated from ignorance. Are we now engaging in the same public "feeding frenzy" as we did then? I submit we are.

    The electorate needs to determine if Congressman Wu has represented them well. If the answer is yes, then leave him alone. If not, then do what is necessary so he is not reelected. Whatever the voters choose, the witch-hunt should stop.

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    Not to be a rumor monger, but I have read in several other places that there is more coming down the pike on Congressman Wu and the next foot to fall is a big one. I am new to the Oregon political scene and hope it isn't true, but I am bracing myself for more bad news to come. I have enough questions from what I have seen and heard (from Wu himself) that there is no way I could vote for him 1 1/2 yrs from now. We need to hold our elected leaders to a higher standard in order to advance our progressive views. I for one don't want to spend time we should be talking about the issues apologizing for Wu's drug or marital problems. I hate that we have a President who embraces so many progressive causes who can't tell the truth about the time of day (especially about his neoconservative globalist actions) Surely Wu isn't the best person we have for that position; from everything I have read his record after a decade in Congress is unspectacular at best.

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