For about an hour this evening at PCC Willow Creek in Washington County, embattled U.S. Congressman David Wu appeared at a public forum in front of the Washington County Dems and members of the public. Wu said he was coming before the group to "address concerns" about the news reports of what he described as things he did or said that were "not appropriate" in the months leading up to the 2010 election. After Wu's initial remarks, the floor was open to Washington County's Democratic precinct committee persons to ask questions.
Wu sought to assuage concerns by first stating that he has "sought appropriate professional help to work through the issues." He noted that he was now taking care of his kids and that his mother had moved in as well. He said that he was "emphatically well-placed to take care of constituents." He then ticked off a laundry list of issues he's worked on historically, mostly around technology, and a few of his more popular votes with progressives.
Finally, Wu said that he takes full responsibility for everything that happened "last October".
Questions for the Congressman ranged from issues of policy to very pointed questions about the reports in the media about what's been reported (and not reported) in the media. Some of the policy questions seemed like softballs to me, but I suspect for some people, they just needed to know that he could field policy questions. On the other hand, the questions about the Congressman's staff and personal health were generally very direct.
Michael Crabbe asked how Wu was going to answer to the voters in the district -- the grassroots activists who've worked for his election and the rank and file folks who vote for him. Wu replied that he has been home previously, doing a broad range of media interviews, all live at first, to answer questions about his health and ability to serve.
In answer to a question by Paul Erickson about his staff leaving, Wu said that things that he said and did contributed to some of the staff leaving. "I find that regrettable", Wu said. But in a follow-up about staff departures by Chris Davis, Wu avoided specificity on the actions and words that were the impetus for the staff exodus, once again referring to his conduct as "regrettable".
The most pointed questions of the evening came from a physician: Dr. Bob Seward. Seward noted that the issue at hand is Wu's "fitness to command" and that the burden of proof is now on the Congressman. Seward asked Wu if he'd had a full medical evaluation and a formal psychiatric evaluation. Wu replied that he'd had multiple medical evaluations "over an extended period of time", including the time between the election and tonight. Dr. Seward attempted to ask a follow-up for what seemed to be clarification purposes, but the crowd seemed to get restless with his questioning and he was asked to be seated. Washington County Dems Chair Karen Packer had laid out a "one question per PCP" rule from the outset, so Dr. Seward was outside the rules. That said, his questions were definitely on point and certainly part of what I'd been wondering myself.
Overall, it seemed to me that some serious questions still remain unanswered: What sort of conduct by Wu caused the staff to leave? How can constituents be assured that it won't happen again? What assurances do constituents have that Wu is healthy and fit to serve, beyond his own say so? I'm not convinced that questions about Wu's ability to represent the First District were settled this evening.
And I don't think I'm alone, based on the discussions I overheard in the room after Wu left.