It’s remarkable how little of the conversation about whether indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens should keep his job has registered any flicker of recognition, even in this supposedly overboard #MeToo moment, that there is a lot more to this question than the strictly legal matter of whether or not the governor is found guilty of felony invasion of privacy.
What I want to know goes beyond that. But it’s simple, too. What I want to know is whether the woman with whom he says he had an affair told the truth about him.
She tearfully told her then-husband that their first encounter, in 2015, about six months before Greitens announced his gubernatorial run, went like this: Greitens invited her to his family home and then into his basement, where he told her he’d make her feel better, and “show you how to do a proper pullup.” She knew, of course, that he wasn’t going to be offering her workout tips. But his opening move was to duct-tape her to a piece of exercise equipment and blindfold her. With half her clothes off, she said, he took a photo, very much against her will.
“I didn’t even know,” she says, sobbing, on the recording her husband secretly made of that conversation. “I was just numb. I just stood there and didn’t f---ing know. He stepped back, and I saw a flash through the blindfold, and he said you’re never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures of me everywhere.”
That’s what she told her husband the next day. If that is what happened, that’s coercive on its face. That’s an assault, whether or not Greitens actually distributed any such photo, or even took one. And that’s disqualifying, even if he and the woman, who had been his hairdresser, went on to have what he’s characterized as a consensual relationship.
If that is what happened, do I even need to note that this was almost certainly not the first coercive rodeo for the former Navy SEAL, whose hey-look-at-me narcissism has been on display from the start? From those campaign ads in which his guns co-starred with assault weapons and a machine gun, right through to his dramatic descent into JQH Arena in Springfield, where he rappelled in the spotlight from the rafters into a bull-riding competition.
If prosecutors can’t prove that Greitens ever transmitted any compromising photo — and his lawyers insist that he didn’t — then the legal case against him may well fall apart.
But if the Missouri House committee of five Republicans and two Democrats that’s been investigating the governor finds evidence that he assaulted the woman, then he’s got to go anyway. Yes, even if a jury finds him not guilty.
Since some of you whataboutists who still think sexual misconduct is a partisan issue have already started typing, “Bet you didn’t say that about Bill Clinton!” I will once again note that yes, I did. Repeatedly.
But it’s a shame, too, that even here in 2018, even some left-leaning men I know, who think of themselves as big feminists, are content to let whatever the jury decides also settle whether the governor should stay in office.
All they’re missing is that while the guilty may walk free and the innocent serve time, if this man is found by lawmakers to have treated a woman like that, then he should not be in office. On Monday, the House committee will forward its findings to Speaker Todd Richardson, and soon after, to the public.
Whether or not they then move to impeach shouldn’t depend on party or personal relationships — and he doesn’t have many of those, on either side of the aisle — but only on what they’ve found.
If they’ve concluded that the woman was telling her husband the truth through all those tears, then that surely meets Missouri’s standard for impeachment , which involves not just crimes, but also “misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.” If that sounds like language from another time, is is; that passage was written in 1924. But while our notions of turpitude may have changed, intimidation still qualifies, and would be reason enough to impeach.