This was all bound to end badly, and it has ended, to the relief of some and the consternation of others, mostly ambitious politicians and media types. We are talking, of course, about the tenure of Eric Greitens, the governor of Missouri, at least for the next 60 hours, or so. Greitens, in a surprise announcement Wednesday afternoon, declared that he will resign as the Missouri chief executive, bringing to an end the consequences of a tawdry extramarital affair, and a corresponding six months of turbulence in Missouri politics. Greitens stated that, while he committed no crime, he would resign his office on Friday, June 1st. Mike Parson, currently the state Lieutenant Governor, will be sworn in as the governor on Friday afternoon.
While many would now say that Greitens is right in resigning the governorship, in light of the fact that he can no longer effectively steer the ship of state, it comes as a surprise nonetheless. Greitens, once considered a rising GOP star by many, especially himself, has insisted in the past that he would never resign, and would meet and facedown his accusers. Greitens seemed to be well along the way to accomplishing his mission two weeks ago, when the Prosecuting Attorney in St. Louis dismissed charges against him for snapping an unauthorized picture of his undressed lover and using it for blackmail purposes. Greitens’ legal troubles were not solved, but he had won the first round, decisively. The question that must be asked, and answered, if possible, is simple: Why did Greitens promise in Churchillian terms to fight this thing out, and then decide, after winning the early skirmishes that he would quit the field?
There have been a number of ideas advanced to explain Mr. Greitens and his about face. The first of these possibilities is the perfectly reasonable explanation that Greitens realizes that he has lost his credibility, and cannot govern the state any longer. This echoes the refrain chanted by Missouri Democrats, and sounded by more than a few state Republicans since January, when the scandal hit the airwaves and newspapers.If Eric Greitens resigned because his ability to govern was crippled, he would have done so last winter, instead of putting the state, the citizens, his family and himself through this dreadful business. Moreover, Greitens’ ability to govern the state had been tenuous from the start. He proved to be a better campaigner than an administrator, and his oft-repeated vow to clean up the “swamp” in Jefferson City, the state capital, offended both Republicans and Democrats, in equal measure. Greitens had burned so many bridges that he had no allies, and no one to fight for him when the chips were down.
The second possibility is more intriguing. Kim Gardner, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney, and resident laughing-stock, announced today that her office had been in consultations with Greitens’s defense team, and that they had reached an “understanding,” of which more would be revealed May 30th. What was she referring to? Ms. Gardner’s judicial superiors have taken her off the invasion-of-privacy case, so perhaps she meant the concomitant computer tampering case that grew out of the original charges. Still, this is a difficult outcome to accept at face value.Greitens has indignantly rejected proposed plea deals in this case to date. Why, after winning the initial face-off, would he accept a deal that somewhat vindicates his accusers and the state, and at least implies some guilt on his own part?
So, we are left to conclude that Greitens is resigning because his political people have decided that he will not survive the legislative impeachment effort that was scheduled to begin next week. Greitens is not going because it is the right thing to do, or the honorable thing to do. He is going because he will be forced from office otherwise. He is off the hook for the moment, but has the ignominy of resigning, one step ahead of the tar and feathers brigade.
Greitens will go, and probably quietly, but there are many elements of the case that will likely never come to light. The slapstick nature of this case, in which we never saw a criminal complaint, and had a victim who never wanted to go forward with a legal action, has been humorous, but legally dubious. No one, outside of the lawyers involved, know the victim by anything other than her initials. No one knows the extent of her ex-husband’s part in tipping off a well-connected Democratic attorney about the affair, and Kim Gardner has been allowed to wriggle out of the sticky wicket she had caught herself in, with her lies, evasions, and outright perjuries.
Finally, and probably most importantly, we will never find out the extent of the Missouri Democratic Party in these shenanigans. As we mentioned in these pages last week, a prominent Democratic state representative from an inner ring St. Louis suburb contacted the victim in early January, and urged her to file a criminal complaint against the governor, promising her first-class legal representation at no cost. We now know that Kim Gardner arranged a private meeting with the victim in a motel room across the river in Illinois and also urged her to file a complaint against Greitens. The woman’s refusal to do so led Gardner to institute a Grand Jury inquiry, forcing the victim to testify, against her will. Also, Roy Temple, the former head of the Missouri Democratic Party, has been singled out, by some observers as the man behind the curtain. The Greitens defense team wanted to put Temple under oath in a deposition, but they were refused this request by the chief judge of the St. Louis Circuit, a loyal Democrat.
None of this is meant to excuse Eric Greitens. It was difficult to watch his announcement Tuesday afternoon, and to contemplate the ruin of the man, along with his career and his family life. He has, however, no one but himself to blame, and it is a sad commentary on politics, ambition, and the Sixth Commandment.