Wu makes nice with Washington County Dems

Carla Axtman

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.

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    Thanks, Carla. This is good coverage of the meeting. I was tweeting in real time, as was the O's Dana Tims, so I've assembled all those tweets into a storyline over here.

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    I'd like to hear from Washington County Democrats who were in the room. Did you get your questions answered?

    Do you feel like you have enough of an explanation of what did or didn't happen -- or at least enough of one to make a judgment about your future support for Congressman Wu?

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    Fortunately, there are two options open here. First, Blue Oregon can seek out and interview the staff members who have left. It would be interesting to compare statistics on staff tenure for all members of the House.

    Secondly, if Kari and Carla feel that Mr. Wu is a danger to himself or others under Oregon law they can innitiate Civil Commitment procedures.

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      Mr. Knudson: You presume #1 hasn't been tried. It has.

      <h1>2: This isn't about Wu being a "danger to himself or others." It's about whether he's physically & mentally healthy enough to serve in the seat. Those are two entirely different thresholds.</h1>
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      Um, what?

      Marvin, I've said nothing of the sort. In fact, on KPOJ today, I said that Wu was clear and concise in his answers, looking good, etc.

      The fact is that there's a controversy afoot with respect to an Democratic politician in Oregon. No one should be surprised that a blog called BlueOregon is intensely interested.

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    For a legislative position like a congressman, I am uncomfortable asking for confidential medical and mental health information. It is not an issue of "fitness to command." Wu does,IMHO, not "command". I think Dr. Seward was out of line if he were asking for confidential information.

    I do think Wu should be judged on his public behavior.

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    For the most part I thought Congressman Wu was very straightforward with everyone at the meeting.

    He handed some of the questions a lot better than I would have, Dr. Seward's question seemed a little too inquisitional for my tastes. It probably could have been worded better.

    As per some of the questions posed in this post, I don't think the former staffers are going to be talking to anyone. People who work for elected officials rarely enjoy the media spotlights pointed in their direction.

    What constitutes being mentally and physically healthy enough to serve in congress? As far as I could tell from last night he seemed pretty healthy. Then again I'm not a doctor that has access to his history. At the meeting he was very open without getting into details that are for him and his doctor.

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    Actually, I do not recall, Carla, reading on BO about the failure to successfully interview any of the departed staff members. It is also true that I have only read the items on this site; some items have been from the Oregonian.

    Your term, "Mentally Healthy enough to serve", suggests to me that you seem to feel that, for reasons that have not been made clear, mental health is an issue. For you.

    Having watched what has happend over the last several weeks I see no suggestion that Mr. Wu should be used as a measuring stick to determine how in touch with reality a person should be to qualify to be a member of Congress.

    The Constitution prohibits a religious test for serving if I recall the objections being raised tby Mickey Weinstein to efforts to indoctinate at the Air Force Acadamey.

    Generally speaking, however, if doing the same thing continually and expecting different results is a broad definition of "insanity" then I would offer up as candidates for consideration all those who continue to support Supply Side Economics as a surefire way to reduce the debt and provide jobs. Thom Hartmann does a pretty good job explaing the sane alternatives to Voodoo economics.

    BO, Barack Obama, campaigned against extending the Bush era tax cuts for the richest 2% but whiffed or punted on first down. Pick your favorite sport metaphor. Sane? Politically corrupt? A second term? BO should be part of that discussion too IMHO.

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      If I can't get someone to go on the record because they want their identity protected, I would not mention that in an article. For me, that would be a breach of ethics.

      And yes, the mental health (or whatever has caused his self-identified inappropriate words and actions) of my Congressman--who has historically had issues in this area, matter to me. It speaks to his ability to appropriately serve his constituents. That seems like an obvious thing.

      I can't really divine the meaning from most of the rest of your comment, so I'll let it lie. Suffice it to say that the burden of proof is on Congressman Wu to demonstrate his fitness to serve. Based on my observations after the meeting last evening, I'm not the only one who believes this to be the case.

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