The Curious Case Of David Wu

Now that the national media has picked up the story of David Wu’s instability, it’s time to recount all that’s gone on in Oregon since he became our Congressman. You see, the nation is just now picking up on what we in Oregon have known for years: David Wu is a deeply disturbed human being, and his election to the U.S. Congress remains a baffling mystery.

To recap, since he won reelection a scant 4 months ago, Mr. Wu has lost his ENTIRE CAMPAIGN STAFF. Gone are his Chief of Staff, his prinicple fundraiser, and 4 other staffers. These are people who have been with him for YEARS. These are people who hold coveted offices – after all, several hundred Democratic congressional staffers lost their jobs on Nov 2.

This is on top of his legal separation from his wife in the middle of a reelection campaign, in December 2009.

The spin has already begun, of course. Wu’s office is already in full on damage control mode, stating that he’s seeking “medical help” for undisclosed issues that stem around a single incident right before Election Day, 2010. That would be a heartwarming story of redemption, if only his history didn’t reflect decades of behavior that could be described as anywhere from odd to borderline criminal.

From an article in The Oregonian on Jan 18:

Since the November election, U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., has lost at least six staffers plus the leadership of a veteran campaign team that guided him to a seventh term amid complaints about his public behavior.

The exodus includes Wu’s longtime chief of staff, Julie Tippens, and communications director, Julia Krahe, both in Washington, D.C. Krahe left without securing a job while Tippens took a similar position with a lawmaker with far less seniority.

In addition, Wu has lost virtually his entire political team — people who have been with the Democrat for more than a decade — including his chief fundraiser, Lisa Kurdziel, and chief pollster, Lisa Grove, who told The Oregonian she wouldn’t work for him again.

“It is highly unusual for successful campaigns to change teams after the election,” said Michael Meehan, a veteran Democratic consultant who was a senior adviser to Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

So what’s going on in OR CD1?

Odd Behavior

In case you haven’t seen this before, this is must see video. Rep. Wu accused the Bush White House of being Klingons.

My first exposure to David Wu’s eccentricities came from his floor speech in 2007, where he … well … watch for yourself:


Flash Animation

Now, I’m ashamed to say that, while this was my first exposure to Wu’s eccentricities, others were aware of more and more sinister acts.

Allegation of assault on woman in 1970s in college shadow U.S. Rep. David Wu

This is an actual headline from an article in The Oregonian in October, 2004, on the eve of his reelection to a fourth term in Congress.

From the article:

David Wu, future Oregon congressman, and the woman later dated in their junior year. But that spring, in 1976, she broke things off. A few months later, an encounter occurred that neither wants to discuss.

That summer, the 21-year-old Wu was brought to the campus police annex after his ex-girlfriend said he tried to force her to have sex, according to Raoul K. Niemeyer, then a patrol commander who questioned him.

Wu had scratches on his face and neck, and his T-shirt was stretched out of shape, Niemeyer said.

Earlier, someone had interrupted a scuffle in the woman’s dorm room. A Stanford professor said the woman told him the next day that Wu had angrily attacked her. An assistant dean who counseled the woman for two months said that the woman called it attempted rape and that Wu used a pillow to muffle her screams.

Wu told police that what happened was consensual. “He said, ‘We just, I was with my girlfriend, and we just got a little carried away,’ ” Niemeyer remembered. After that, he said, Wu “clammed up.”

The woman declined to press charges. However, this episode has apparently been well known for a long while:

The Oregonian investigated a recurrent rumor that he had been accused of a sexual assault during his college years.

Versions of the story have circulated behind the scenes among Democratic insiders since Wu’s first run for Congress in 1998, when it figured in the unexpected resignation of his campaign manager.

Evidently, recurring themes include resignations of campaign managers, as well as outbursts that can charitably be described as odd.

“Generally, folks in politics are pretty loyal, particularly to paying customers, and consultants try pretty hard to keep them happy,” said Rick Desimone, former chief of staff to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and now a consultant and lobbyist. He has never worked for Wu.

Wu, who has represented Oregon’s 1st Congressional District since 1999, has been less known for his legislative achievements than his strident opposition to China and bursts of puzzling public behavior. In one instance, he warned of faux Klingons in the White House during a floor speech in 2007. In 2003, as the House was convulsing to pass the Medicare prescription bill, Wu fell into a state that one colleague described as “almost catatonic,” according to The Washington Post, as Democratic leaders frantically tried to get him to vote for the bill.

Jayne Carroll is a local radio host, and opined recently on further odd behavior by our Congressman:

What did Wu do to cause [his longtime staffers] to walk after he was successfully re-elected? Two odd campaign incidents are being publicly identified as justification for the resignations.

On Oct. 27, Wu gave a speech in Washington County that was so strident and strange that it caused a fellow Democrat to file a complaint with his office.

Days later, another complaint was filed against Wu with the Transportation Security Administration when the Congressman used his clout to demand access to a prohibited area of the airport to greet passengers as they arrived.

The dam begins to burst

Comes now the article in Willamette Week that many voters wish they’d known before the final ballots were cast.

The headline reads, “Documents Show Congressman David Wu’s Staff “Threatened to Shut Down His Campaign”

U.S. Rep. David Wu’s behavior grew so erratic in the final weeks before his re-election last November that the Oregon Democrat’s closest political advisers staged two of what some of them termed “interventions” to urge him to seek psychiatric help, WW has learned.

The episode is best encapsulated by the emails sent by Wu, along with a picture that promises to haunt him for the rest of his political career.

From the Willamette Week article:

With Halloween approaching the Sunday before the Tuesday election, sources now tell WW that campaign aides had advised Wu not to dress in any costume that could potentially embarrass him.

(He was expected to face a close contest.) They worried, too, that a goofy getup could provide fodder for last-minute campaign attacks from Cornilles, Wu’s well-financed Republican opponent. The issue arose after Wu told staffers about a Halloween party he had wanted to attend with family and friends.

What follows here is a series of early-morning email messages from Wu’s BlackBerry to multiple staffers sent on the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 30.

The emails do not offer a definitive account of why Wu’s aides fled the congressman’s office in significant numbers just after his sixth successful re-election campaign. They do reveal that Wu’s staffers apparently had confronted the congressman about his drinking. They also suggest Wu faced accusations of harassment from his employees—and that Wu wasn’t eager to listen to any of the advice. Wu, through a spokesman, wouldn’t respond to specific questions about the written content of the emails.

At 1:03 am PST on Saturday, Oct. 30, an email from Wu’s Congressional BlackBerry landed in the inbox of a female staffer. The congressman—who splits his time between Washington, D.C., and Oregon—was then in Portland.

There was no message attached to the email, only a single image. That photo, copied above, showed Wu in a plush tiger suit with orange- and black-striped mittens over his hands, a hood with pointy ears pulled over his head and a white circle split by a zipper stretched over his stomach. A seemingly red-faced Wu is sitting on a bench in what appears to be a bedroom, with his hands held in the air. A spokesman, Erik Dorey, today called the photo a private moment between family members. He further described the photo as “David Wu joshing around with his kids the day before Halloween.”

Nineteen minutes later, at 1:22 am PST, a second email from Wu’s official email address went to multiple Wu staffers under the subject line “not funny.”

The email read as if it had come from one of Wu’s two children; the name of his middle-school-age daughter appeared at the end of it as a signature. But it’s not clear whether she sent the email in the wee hours of the morning or did so at the request of her father. Another possibility—the one that apparently disturbed staffers—is that Wu sent the email on his own, pretending to be his child. In any case, the email suggests Wu had been sparring with his staff.

“You’re the best, but my Dad made me say that, even though you threatened to shut down his campaign.”

Ten minutes later a third email went to two female staffers. This time, it contained another photo and a similar “you’re the best” message. The name of Wu’s son appeared at the bottom of that email.

Whether the photo depicted a staged or real event is uncertain. Someone who appears to be Wu is in the full-body tiger costume. He is face-down on a made bed with his arms at his side, as if asleep or passed out.

A wallet and headphones are strewn next to him on the bed. Behind him, a child who appears to be Wu’s 13-year-old son stands beside the bed dressed in a T-shirt and khaki pants with his hands on Wu’s shoulders. It is not evident whether the boy is trying to wake his father, give him a back rub or play along with a joke.

Six minutes later, at 1:38 am, a fourth email arrived in staffers’ inboxes. The content related to Wu’s drinking. The subject line contained one word: “wasted.”

The email, with Wu’s son’s name at the end, said: “My Dad said you said he was wasted Wednesday night after just three sips of wine. It’s just that he hasn’t had a drink since July 1. Cut him some slack, man. What he does when he’s wasted is send emails, not harass people he works with. He works SO hard for you … Cut the dude some slack, man. Just kidding.”

(If Wu had wine that week, that would contradict a Feb. 14 statement the congressman made in response to a written question from WW. “I, as part of a weight loss push, stopped drinking last year for five months,” Wu said through a spokesman. “I have had a drink on occasion since then.”)

Then, at 1:40 am, a fifth email from Wu’s BlackBerry arrived with both children’s names at the end of the message. It appears to have been directed at one of Wu’s many longtime staffers, some of whom had worked for the congressman for about 12 years.

“My Dad says you’re the best because not even my Mom put up with him,” the email said. “[Y]ou have. We think you’re cool.”

Until announcing their separation in 2009, Wu and his second wife, Michelle, 48, had been married for about 13 years.

On Jan. 19, The Oregonian published an account of the departure of six staffers and two consultants from Wu’s political team in a piece that also addressed the final days of Wu’s 2010 campaign. The story described Wu’s “bursts of puzzling public behavior” right before the Nov. 2 election and detailed two publicly documented events. “On Oct. 27, [Wu] gave a speech so negative and loud that a Washington County Democratic Party member complained formally to his office,” the daily newspaper reported. “The outburst was followed two days later by an episode at Portland International Airport, where Wu used his influence as a member of Congress to enter a restricted area and campaign for votes from off-loading passengers.”

It is clear that David Wu needs help. David Wu has issues that require clinical medical intervention. I cannot imagine the burden on his children and his soon to be ex-wife. David Wu should do the honorable thing, as a representative of the voters of his district, and acknowledge that he is no longer able to fairly lead. It is time for Congressman Wu to step down, for the sake of his children and his family, and seek the help that will allow him to be a better father.