Give Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens this much: He has stopped referring to members of the legislature, who he’s stuck with for four years, as “corrupt, career politicians.”
Gone is the word “corrupt.” Now it’s just “career politicians.”
At least that’s the phrase he used repeatedly in a revealing news conference after the legislature adjourned.
Greitens’ 22-minute session was his longest statehouse news conference in more than two months — and just his second since becoming governor in January. For almost exactly half that time, he read from prepared remarks. He repeatedly belittled lawmakers and stuck resolutely to his talking points, often repeating them with gusto.
Along the way, he demonstrated as much chutzpah as President Donald Trump ever has.
The key takeaway: Greitens’ campaign tactic of taking on the state’s “career politicians” will continue unabated into his administration even as his Republican Party maintains powerhouse majorities in both the House and Senate. This will remain his political cornerstone. And why not? Legislatures are never popular. They’re easy to kick.
Greitens went after lawmakers with abandon and loads of snark. He criticized them for singing “Kumbaya” on the Senate floor, even though a Democratic senator and a Republican were attempting to bring peace to a chamber rife with rancor.
He disparaged another Republican senator for quoting Shakespeare. Ironically, Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph was urging his colleagues — and the governor — to pursue ethics reform, which happened to be one of Greitens’ chief campaign planks and was in serious trouble.
“Sometimes it looked like third grade,” the governor said in describing the General Assembly. “Sometimes you had career politicians, who instead of actually fighting for the people of Missouri and fighting for jobs, they were singing ‘Kumbaya.’ … Those are exactly the kind of games that people are sick of.”
He graded the session as “incomplete.” In the next breath, he hinted that he’ll order them back to town soon for a special session to complete unfinished business. (On Thursday, he made it official. He’s “canceling their summer vacations” and bringing lawmakers back to work Monday to focus on bringing jobs back to the state.)
“You know, sometimes when you don’t complete all your work you need to go to summer school.”
That certainly qualifies as Grade A condescension.
Asked if his aggressive tactics with lawmakers were part of the problem, Greitens put the blame right back on those career politicians who make “lots of excuses.”
Greitens has learned the art of repetition that political consultants preach. He repeated four times his belief that he pulled off the most successful start of a conservative administration in a generation. And he used a form of the verb “fighting” nearly two dozen times in those 22 minutes. For example: “My job is to fight for your job.”
The one-time boxer added: “We’ve finished the first round of a 10-round fight, and we’ve hit ’em hard.”
Why any of Missouri’s 197 lawmakers would want to work with this chief executive is a mystery. Maybe they don’t have to.
They’ll pass bills no matter what the governor says because that’s what lawmakers do. The governor can still take credit for them. If he calls that special session and little gets done, Greitens can blame them for ineptitude.
Who’s the real politician here anyway?