The Oregonian on Wu: Revisionist history? Or hiding what they really knew last fall?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Either the Oregonian's editorialists were hiding what they really felt about David Wu's fitness to serve -- or they're engaging now in revisionist history.

I'm still sorting out my feelings about whether Congressman David Wu should remain in Congress (and appreciating very much all the discussion here on BlueOregon).

But amidst all the barrels of ink that the Oregonian newspaper has spilled on the matter, there is one very troubling statement that I am not all conflicted about.

From the O's editorial this week:

Anyone who spent even an hour with Wu last fall, as we did in an endorsement interview, could see clearly that he was not someone who should be representing Oregonians in Congress.

The Oregonian's editorial board could "see clearly" that Wu shouldn't be in Congress? That he was, at least at the time - in their best judgment - facing physical, mental, or emotional issues that called into question his ability to serve?

Really? They said nothing of the sort at the time.

Let's review their editorial endorsement from last fall. To be sure, the O endorsed Rob Cornilles - Wu's GOP opponent.

But the Oregonian said nothing - absolutely nothing - about Wu's fitness to serve. Their entire editorial was about their view that Wu wasn't as effective a legislator as they'd like. Here's the toughest hits:

Not a word about his fitness to serve. In short, either the Oregonian's editorialists were hiding what they really knew and felt about David Wu's fitness to serve -- or they're engaging now in revisionist history in light of these new allegations.

Those are the only two options for the Oregonian's editorial team. There is no way to reconcile those two editorials.

Which is it, my dear friends at the O?

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    Kari, you aptly made the point I posted on FB right after reading The Oregonian's editorial and going back to read its endorsement piece. It's galling to read The Oregonian harshly criticize everyone from other newspapers to the Democratic Party of Oregon for not stating what the editorial board found "obvious", but left unstated. Honestly, it has been obvious for a very long time even to a casual observer like me. But I cannot help but call "hypocrisy" for The Oregonian failing to take any responsibility.

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    Rochelle, if obvious for a very long time even to a casual observer like you. Who did you vote for?

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      Todd, fortunately I did not have to make that decision since I do not live in that district.

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        So please explain exactly what has been so obvious for a very long time even to a casual observer like you?

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          Sure, see my comment below in reply to Rus Neese. I have spoken to a number of people over the years about it. I have to be more honest than The Oregonian has been here and tell you that almost no one saw it my way, or at least would admit it. I don't claim any magical powers of observation, I am just pointing out how obviously irrational and disconnected Wu has appeared to me for a long time. It's a sad thing.

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    Is this the same Oregonian that kept the Packwood story under wraps until AFTER he won his election, too? What a coincidence. That was 16 yrs ago. Guess old habits die hard.

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      As the bumper sticker said, "If it matters to Oregonians, it's in the Washington Post." (not the O, as their mid-90s ad slogan would have you believe..."

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    You know, Dave Wu has had a number of interviews, and I can't say that any that I've heard made me think "this guy is unstable". I've heard a number of interviews with other Representatives in Oregon (and beyond) and thought "this person has no idea what they're doing" or "this person is dangerous to the people they represent". But not really from Wu. From time to time, he says or does something a little off...but we all do that. All people do something a little weird from time to time, and don't realize that they're doing something weird until someone calls them out on it. His staff walked out because they felt he was acting strangely. A lot of people act strangely after a divorce or if a parent passes away. I've been in that same position, so yeah, I can sympathize. However, if you look at the guy's voting record, he's been right in line with his party. There's no solid evidence that he's committed a crime or anything that could be considered putting his constituency in financial jeopardy. If the guy had an erratic voting record, was frequently bellicose on nightly news and in Congress, then yes, I'd think there was something seriously wrong...but he hasn't been. We keep siting one situation where he made a Star Trek reference as if he makes it every week. He did it once.

    I just don't see a reason to get rid of him, unless the Democratic Party of Oregon feels that he might not be electable again and feel strongly that they could do better with a different candidate. So far, he's won most of his elections with fairly solid margins, so they'll have to make a pretty serious case for me to buy into replacing him as a candidate. He's done a fairly good job in keeping high tech jobs in his district...if he didn't, I would have moved to the east side of town where rents are cheaper a long time ago. I'm a tech pro, and I just keep getting work out in his district. Heck, the company I currently contract at is moving our office from Clackamas out to Washington County this year because it's just a better area for us.

    I'm starting to think a lot of this is just a conflation of fatigue with a Rep that has been in office for 13 years, and remnants of a reactionary backlash against the current party that was in control of the House last year. People are looking for any little way they can effect some change because the problems we're currently faced with aren't solving themselves fast enough. They see David Wu have a few odd things happen, and they pounce on it.

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      You know, Dave Wu has had a number of interviews, and I can't say that any that I've heard made me think "this guy is unstable".

      Same here. Which is why the O's fresh take - suggesting that they saw it last fall (but failed to tell voters) - is so darn troubling.

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      Interesting commentary on how we all see things differently. From the first time I saw him on the campaign trail years ago, I found Wu's speech to be rambling, disconnected, often pointless or off-point, and not that of a lucid thinker. An acceptable voting record just isn't enough.

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        I have heard Wu speak many times in the past and I found your description to not at all fit what the rest of us expereinced.

        While he, like many other Congresspeople were not exactly profiles of courage in defunding the war crime that is the Iraq invasion and occupation, such borderline dissembling is hardly rambling, disconnected, nor often pointless or off-point.

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          Mitchell, as you will see in my comment above, you appear to have the majority view here, which is why it got this far. I am not criticizing your alternative perspective, just noting that I never shared it.

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            First of all, my "view" is not so much an "the alternative perspective" but the majority since he was elected repeatedly over the years.

            Second, because Congressman Wu for years holding lucid discussions in public on different subjects, from being a strong advocate for Measure 47 to the need to expand U.S., and specifically Oregon, exports to China came across to you (who may very well hold political opinions that Wu is a crypto-muslim Asian radical for all we know) means that "something" was obvious for a very long time?


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          Mitchell... please don't speak for what "YOU" heard and the 'rest US experienced." The others of your collective US can speak for themselves!

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    It's simply revisionist history on The Oregonian's part Kari. The Oregonian endorsed Cornilles for political reasons and, as you rightly point out in this piece, they are talking out of both sides of their mouth on the matter now.

    The Oregonian is simply being opportunistic in trying to hitch their train to whatever they think might ‘unerring’ the election results bell that rang in November where their guy lost. It is a similar dynamic over the Sturm und Drang of Sam Adams in the first recall effort. I heard numerous people, many right here in some of the comments on Blue Oregon, bring up 100% non-germane rants on why Adam's should be recalled. From investments in South Waterfront development, to bioswales and sewer improvements being combined with bike path expansions proving “malfeasance”.

    Sorry, but when a properly elected official steps in “controversy” on one matter or another, bringing up political or policy differences as a reason to undue an election simply doesn’t hold water (which I am fairly certain what is actually motivating The Oregonian board is engaging in, in the here and now).

    It is the same tripe that we hear from most of the GOP-aligned voters getting the vapors about Wu’s situation currently. Their guy lost (and by a healthy margin) and they use this with crass, naked opportunistic glee are simply trying to re-litigate the Oregon’s 1st Congressional election in the court of public opinion.

    As to Wu himself and the current questions surrounding him, I am a bit in the same boat as you Kari. I can't arrive at a clear position on this until he is forthright about what is going on to the public.

    If it is, as I have heard, a substance abuse issue, and he is actively seeking treatment for it, fine, tell us. We are adults and can weight the situation about his ability to function in office based on the situation... if we know what it actually is. Which seems to me to be where Carla is coming from as well.

    If nothing else, this is some seriously bad political course Wu's office is engaging in if they want to get back on track.

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    Five posts on the same topic with minor variations over two days seems like a lot. Not sure we're adding a lot here other than making this seem like more news is coming out, which there is not.

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      Actually this post is on the topic of The Oregonian]'s dishonest spin and not really about Wu.

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      Um, each post has included new information - either news or analysis. The reax post is probably the least "new" but it included some reax that I wanted our readers to see.

      In any case, posts aren't a scarce resource to be conserved at all costs. Personally, I'd like to see more posts - from our other contributors, sharing their own unique takes (including yours). This is a commentary site, not a news site.

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    I don't live in the first congressional district and wouldn't have voted for David Wu if I did. However, as a congressman he doesn't have his finger on the nuclear button and isn't responsible for sending people their social security checks on time.

    Representatives in the legislative branch of government are selected for different reasons than those in the executive branch. How else can we explain congressman and senators in their eighties and nineties getting reelected by voters who apparently value their seniority and voting records more than an independent assessment of their continuing mental accuity?

    If David Wu suddenly started voting to cut spending and support free trade, I could see where Democrats might feel betrayed. As it is, I don't see where he's really doing his job that much differently than he ever did.

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      Why would Democrats feel "betrayed" by Wu (or any other Democratic Cogressperson) for voting to cut hundreds of billions out of the massive, bloated And grossly wasteful DoD sink hole... or vote to expand exports to China and embracing fair trade agreements so American businesses can compete on a level playing field?

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        I think Jack's point is that Wu isn't doing anything different than what he's always done - for right or wrong.

        (I don't know what vote you're talking about, but Wu's been one of the leading critics of trade with China.)

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          That's right. And I understand your point about effectiveness depending on more than just showing up to vote, but let's face it, David Wu was never exactly a congressional dynamo before this.

          I've heard many Democrats say for years they'd like a stronger person in that seat--as long as it wasn't a Republican. So maybe you guys will get serious about finding a primary challenger next year. I just think calling for his resignation would be overkill based on what we know so far.

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          I was pointing out that what Jack calls cuts in spending and "free trade" are loaded talking point buzz words which don't match reality.

          Most Democrats (particularly in the base) are all for making substantial and real cuts where they matter, like the bloated DoD budget. And "free trade" is hardly "free" when you have a country like China who not only subsidizes, a trade imbalance via it currency manipulations, and massive spending in its special economic zones, worker abuse, etc.

          Jack was floating mythical tropes about "cutting spending" and supporting "free trade".

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            I don't know if there is a blogger anywhere who consistently misses the point as often as you do, Mitchell. I could have just said "changed his votes on major policy issues" and it would made the same point. But no, you want to quibble over my examples as if that's what this thread is about.

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              First, I didn't "misses" the point at all (such as it was).

              And second, damn right I "quibble" when your use of Luntz framed talking points are subtly injected into your posts.

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                I never use Luntz framed talking points. Your paranoia is showing.

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                  No paranoia at all Jack. The very term "free trade" is focus group poll tested terminology.

                  For example, everytime you use the words "tax relief" you are using a Luntz talking point wether you are aware of it or not.

                  But if it makes you feel better believing it is "paranoia" on my part, so be it.

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                    I didn't use the term "tax relief" and as for Wu's position on "free trade" that is well known. In fact, I talked to him about it when he ran for Congress the first time in 1998. It is one of his signature issues and he is not at all apologetic about it.

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                      Hi Jack,

                      I know it's off topic, but can I ask, where do you stand on unregulated trade? I have to admit your posts are pretty solid and it's hard not to always be sizing you up as a "McCall Republican" candidate of some future office flavor, and that makes it pretty important.

                      Empirically it seems all the original arguments in favor of "Free" trade have been disproved: it doesn't lift wages; it doesn't create more jobs; it does increase the GNP, but all of the gain is realized by the most wealthy, seriously jeopardizing the political balance of our republic (see Wis.). 60,000 Oregon jobs have been liquidated to date (directly, more in the multiplier) and America's manufacturing base has shrunk back to a pre-1942 footprint.

                      If you support reverting to a pre-1900s regulatory structure as abusive and inhuman as China's, why? It seems that the arguments I hear currently in favor of unregulated trade always amount to "red herrings" designed to accuse anyone who points out the clear fallacy of the descriptor "Free" of being against trade in general. Are there fresh arguments from unbiased sources (with supporting data) that still make the case that this is somehow good for America? Most proponents of unregulated trade now just call it "Trade" w/o the "Free" to sidestep the issue. Where do you stand on it?

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      Jack, as I said, I'm still undecided, but I'd have to say that a Congressman's role extends beyond a voting record.

      Members of Congress are expected to lead on policy issues that matter to them (and the voters), to provide constituent service (which is largely staff-led, but member involvement can matter when it's most critical), and more.

      So, the tough question is sorting out what impact all this stuff has had on his performance - and what impact his lack of candor will have on his job performance going forward.

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    Kari, to your main point, I do not think an editorial writer (or board) needs to be complete or comprehensive in their reasons for taking a position. They are not reporting. They are arguing and they get to pick their arguments. And it was not a lengthy endorsement.

    If they had endorsed Wu, given their recent admission, that would raise more profound issue about their judgment.

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      I agree that they get to pick their arguments.

      But they are now saying that he was "clearly" unable to perform his duties. That there was something dramatically wrong with him.

      It would seem clear to me that that should rise to the level of something that should be shared with the voters -- if not in the endorsement, then handed off to the reporting staff.

      The fact that they didn't tells us that they are revising their memories in light of new allegations, or that they failed to share something that was absolutely critical and pertinent before an election.

      This matters because the Oregonian has a history of failing to inform voters about critical issues that they are aware of, immediately prior to elections.

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    What struck me odd was not the Oregonian’s judgment that Congressman Wu was unfit for the job, but that David gave them an hour. The Oregonian’s editorial history is not favorable to Wu so what possible rationale would lead anyone to expect a different outcome? I read the statement as an attempt to be witty.

    I asked a candidate who failed to get the endorsement about bringing an observer to the interview. I got the impression that the question was really dumb. However, a many-on-one interview can be very intimidating and an observer might catch the nuances of questions and answers that a candidate would miss.

    And, wouldn’t be great to have the actual transcripts of the interviews and not just the endorsement team’s recommendation? Openness and transparency is probably too much to ask, but perhaps the candidate should have an opportunity to address the endorsement questions to us. We might judge the questions and the process unfit.

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    I've known Wu since his first campaign. He has always been intense about getting elected. The scurrilous lies the RNC ads told about him during the 2010 campaign were quite enough to drive me up the wall and I wasn't the candidate! Calls for Wu to resign are a product of the fervid, dishonest, job-killing Republican mentality. Needless to say, The Oregonian remains on the wrong (i.e., job-killing Republican) side -- and that's not news. Also needless to say, Wu will and should survive the current hysteria through the rest of his term.

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    Kari, what's the problem? If the good of the country (meaning keeping the job-killing Republicans at bay to the extent feasible) is important to you, then it ought to be a slam dunk decision. Wu is at least as rational as all of the tea party Rs in Congress and a heaping measure of the rest of the job-killing Republicans in that pit of vipers. And, in his own way, he is at least equal in productivity to the rest of the Democratic Party caucus in the US House. So, Kari, what's the problem?

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