If Eric Greitens wants to govern, he must actually face Missouri voters

Gov. Eric Greitens has shown a propensity for only speaking to friendly audiences. But he’s going to have to change that if he somehow manages to remain in office.
Gov. Eric Greitens has shown a propensity for only speaking to friendly audiences. But he’s going to have to change that if he somehow manages to remain in office. AP

Gov. Eric Greitens visited Licking, Missouri, last weekend to bask in the glow of a crowd that still thinks he’s swell.

In a 15-minute speech, Greitens claimed credit for more jobs and higher pay. Left unsaid was even a word about the multiple scandals enveloping his administration and, by extension, Missouri’s entire state government.

“No matter what they throw at me … I want you to know that when I look to my left, I see you. And when I look to my right, I see our friends, families, neighbors and communities. We’re moving forward,” Greitens said.

The governor’s view of “moving forward” is an odd one. He’s chosen to remain in office when so many leading Republicans and Democrats and newspaper editorial boards, including this one, have demanded that he resign following the bombshell report that chronicled allegations of Greitens’ abuse of his former mistress.

If he won’t resign, we believe he should be impeached.

But if Greitens remains determined to do his job, he must move beyond the deep red corners of Missouri. Instead of visiting the safe confines of rural or suburban Missouri, as Greitens has done so many times, he also needs to visit the bluest swaths of the state he claims to still lead. That includes Kansas City.

If the governor ultimately is cleared of the multiple charges that have been tossed at him, as he so confidently predicts, he is going to have to do what he’s resolutely refused to do — and that’s talk about all of this, even to crowds who are not predisposed to like him.

He’s got a whole lot of explaining to do. He’ll have to acknowledge his mistakes and his ideas for salvaging his scandal-plagued administration. He’ll have to offer a realistic plan to move his state forward, as he claims to want. He’ll have to explain how he’ll repair relations with the dozens of Republican lawmakers who have abandoned him over his repeated campaign-trail exhortations that the state is run by “corrupt, career politicians.”

That phrase, which defined Greitens’ bid for office, has left him as the loneliest governor maybe in Missouri history. He’s got no friends and no allies who can move a Greitens agenda forward.

In fact, the comment around the Capitol for weeks now has been that any bill that the governor blesses is instantly DOA.

He’s that powerless.

Above all, Greitens must show contrition. Even some lawmakers who continue to give him the benefit of the doubt marvel at his ability to deny responsibility for the havoc he’s caused.

“Probably the thing that may be hurting him the most is there doesn’t seem to be much of a spirit of repentance over some of the activities (that he’s accused of),” state Sen. Ed Emery, a Lamar Republican, told St. Louis Public Radio.

There are templates out there to follow. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s town hall meetings in the most Republican parts of Missouri come to mind. So does Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s appearance at a CNN town hall meeting following the Parkland tragedy.

The governor first must contend with his upcoming criminal trial for felony invasion of privacy before this can happen. But he should begin planning his trip now, and he should tell Missouri that he’s coming. Greitens should not remain in office. But if he wants to show that he can govern, this is the only path forward.