Gov. Eric Greitens just completed the second-worst week of his life — the first came the week before — but at least some good news came out of it.
He survived. He’s still on the job as Missouri’s 56th governor, and that’s saying something given all that’s gone down in recent days.
In fact, a whole lot of statehouse insiders were betting that Friday would come with Greitens back among the ranks of everyday citizens.
So that makes Friday an important day. In the world of political scandal, surviving that first week after all hell has erupted is a benchmark accomplishment. To be sure, this moment comes with all kinds of caveats that fall under the category of “if there are no new revelations.”
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If there are new disclosures, Greitens’ standing will have to be swiftly re-evaluated. But for now, he’s still on the job even after another week that would’ve tried anyone’s soul.
This week, no fewer than five Republican lawmakers called on the governor to resign following allegations that he blackmailed a woman in an effort to keep her quiet about an extramarital affair. Rep. Kathie Conway was one of those. The St. Charles Republican, a former criminal investigator, said she wanted to spare the state the embarrassment of an ongoing legal fight over an unseemly sex scandal.
Greitens has denied the blackmail allegations.
The governor, meantime, blew more opportunities to get right with Missouri when he canceled a statewide tour to talk about tax reform. He also opted to release yet another statement instead of speaking directly to the state.
The crisis-management textbook dictates that in a situation like this, a public figure should speak before real citizens with his wife at his side. The public official should apologize profusely and with as much sincerity as can possibly be mustered. The official should then submit to answering questions from the media for as long as any reporter is willing to ask them.
In other words, you eat crow and insist the whole time that it tastes pretty good.
But Greitens isn’t there, and that’s troubling. A story: A few days ago, Rep. Nate Walker, a Kirksville Republican, received a call from Greitens, who has phoned a lot of lawmakers, sometimes with his wife beside him, to discuss the scandal. Walker was an early supporter of the governor’s but was troubled by their conversation.
Even in the privacy of that phone call, Greitens declined any accountability, Walker said. The governor blamed Democrats for leaking the story. He called it fake news. He took aim at the liberal media.
Walker was taken aback, even telling the governor that he had missed a golden opportunity to discuss the scandal during his State of the State address, which he delivered the same night that a St. Louis television station broke the affair story.
By Tuesday, Walker had decided to go public with his own conclusion: Greitens should resign.
“It has become clear … this scandal will make it impossible to lead the state going forward,” Walker said.
That Greitens has lost a Nate Walker is a bad sign. There’s a path forward for Greitens where he could, with time, find a way back to being a governor of consequence. But first he’s got to locate the path. So far, he’s not even looking.