Editorials

The Navy doesn’t need Eric Greitens. Former governor’s return sends ‘disturbing message’

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announces his resignation in Jefferson City

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on May 29 announced his resignation just as abruptly as he had arrived on Missouri's political scene, his career buried under an avalanche of scandal and felony charges.
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Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on May 29 announced his resignation just as abruptly as he had arrived on Missouri's political scene, his career buried under an avalanche of scandal and felony charges.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is now a member of the Navy’s active reserve.

The presence of the disgraced former governor in the U.S. military sullies the reputation of the nation’s armed forces and will do nothing to help accomplish the Navy’s mission to protect the country.

U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, or a designee, should rescind approval to allow Greitens to return to active status as a naval reserve officer.

Greitens resigned from office a year ago after a Missouri House committee heard credible testimony from a woman who said Greitens slapped, shoved and grabbed her during sexual encounters in 2015.

The governor was also investigated for alleged misconduct relating to a charity he founded and campaign fundraising efforts. He and his staff used secret messaging software that critics said circumvented the Sunshine Law. He resigned after the legislature convened a special session to consider impeachment.

Since Greitens’ departure from office, Missouri politicians have generally focused on issues — not a deluge of scandals that overshadowed actual governing — to the state’s benefit. His reemergence, on the other hand, prompted a torrent of criticism on social media Thursday, a reminder of his divisive and unproductive public life.

Veterans are rightly concerned. “The Navy had a choice whether to allow an accused sex offender and disgraced former politician to join the fleet,” said a statement from Don Christensen, a former Air Force colonel and military prosecutor. “Allowing him to return to the active Navy sends a disturbing message that the Navy does not believe survivors.”

Navy officials say anyone asking to return to active status faces a legal review to determine whether any records would bar re-entry. In Greitens’ case, none were apparently found.

But the Navy’s decision flies in the face of its own standards, even in the absence of a criminal conviction. “As a Commissioned Officer in the Navy Reserve,” the service’s website says, an applicant “must meet the mental, moral and physical standards for Navy service.”

What might those moral standards be? “Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking full responsibility for my actions and keeping my word,” the Navy’s core values charter says. “Conduct myself in the highest ethical manner ... Be honest and truthful in my dealings within and outside the Department of the Navy ... Fulfill my legal and ethical responsibilities in my public and personal life.”

It’s abundantly clear that Eric Greitens has failed to live up to those standards.

That may be one reason Greitens was not readmitted to the service as a Navy SEAL, the elite force to which he once belonged. The SEALs code requires “uncompromising integrity,” which Greitens lacks. He’s now assigned to an office in St. Louis but has told friends he wants to return to the Middle East, where troops are engaged in combat.

There are hints Greitens wants to resume a political career, perhaps seeking office in 2020 or 2022. We’re confident Missouri voters would reject the dishonorable former governor, but he should not be allowed to use the Navy as a stepping-stone in a political reformation.

Greitens’ story is tragic, but the grave harm he did to his political career and his reputation was self-inflicted. He is responsible for his actions. And he resigned in disgrace.

The military doesn’t need him and shouldn’t want him. The Navy should reverse its decision to return him to active status, and Greitens’ future, whatever it holds, should be as a civilian.

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