Editorials

Eric Greitens blames Josh Hawley for this mess? Is the governor serious?

In this March 28, 2018 photo, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, of Missouri, speaks at his Columbia, Mo., campaign office. Hawley is among the Republican Party's most-prized recruits, but things get complicated if you ask the Missouri Republican Senate candidate about President Donald Trump. Hawley supports the president's policies but sidesteps questions about his behavior. (AP Photo/Summer Ballentine)
In this March 28, 2018 photo, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, of Missouri, speaks at his Columbia, Mo., campaign office. Hawley is among the Republican Party's most-prized recruits, but things get complicated if you ask the Missouri Republican Senate candidate about President Donald Trump. Hawley supports the president's policies but sidesteps questions about his behavior. (AP Photo/Summer Ballentine)

Well this is rich: Having personally constructed quite an uncomfortable little box for his fellow Republican, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens now blames Attorney General Josh Hawley for the no-win spot Hawley’s in.

How unfair, screams Team Greitens, that Hawley is investigating the governor’s use of a charity’s donor list while the attorney general is also running for the U.S. Senate. Hawley can’t do that, Greitens’ lawyers have argued to Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem, because Hawley’s campaign itself constitutes a conflict, as does the fact that Hawley has called for Greitens to step down. On Friday, Beetem ruled that Hawley could continue his investigation.

And if Hawley’s conflicted, it’s because Greitens has left him no other option. The fact that Hawley would much prefer not to be taking Greitens on at all, but especially during an already tough campaign against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, seems not to trouble either the governor or his dead-ender defenders.

Why it’s Hawley, who still has a future to preserve, who is in effect being asked to sacrifice both his integrity and his political life for a tribe member who has neither of those things is unclear.

But here are Hawley’s choices: He could defend Greitens’ outrageous alleged behavior with the woman the bipartisan House committee investigating the governor found credible. She accused him under oath of coercing her sexually and abusing her physically.

But defending Greitens would be wrong, and would cost Hawley with voters who believe her. Or, Hawley could do as he has done and call out the governor. Righteous as that is, taking on one of his own will hurt him, too, with those who see any attack on a Republican as one that must be defended.

McCaskill, who is narrowly leading in the most recent polls, accuses Hawley of only criticizing the governor now that it’s politically expedient. It’s isn’t that yet: Greitens still has a 57 percent approval rating among Republicans.

But those in the GOP who favor a cede-no-grain-of-sand defense of the indefensible will only hurt their party in the end. (Ask the Catholic Church how that strategy worked out for them. Or USA Gymnastics. Or Baylor University.) And since Greitens faces a jury next month for allegedly threatening his hairdresser with distributing a compromising picture she says he took of her without her consent, the end may not be long in coming.

Greitens continues to insist he’s done nothing wrong. But Bill Cosby’s guilty verdict, and the fact that sexual assault victims are more often believed, must have set off a tremor in even the most unshakable of Greitens’ defenders.

Greitens’ personal lawyer says Hawley’s public comments are hurting Greitens’ ability to get a fair trial. Just like Greitens’ alleged actions are hurting Hawley’s ability to run the campaign he’d planned to run, or to get a fair look from voters?

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