As rumors of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' sex scandal spread through the Capitol before Wednesday's State of the State speech, it must have been difficult for Missouri legislators to muster enthusiasm, knowing the hypocrite who would stand before them. It must have been doubly difficult for Greitens to deliver the speech as he contemplated the imminent destruction of his once-promising political future.
Many in the Legislature have long awaited a humbling moment of contrition from a governor who spent his first year in office insulting and belittling them. Now his many detractors, including fellow Republicans, are savoring Greitens' comeuppance.
When it came time in Greitens' speech Wednesday to ask legislators to forgive and forget, it was already clear the message was landing on deaf ears. The question going forward is Greitens' ability to govern, given the deep political hole he previously had dug for himself. It would be remarkable if any legislator, Republican or Democrat, remains willing to advance Greitens' agenda in 2018.
"Tonight, I want to ask the members of this body to do something straightforward: Put politics on hold. Set any differences you may have with one another, or with me, to the side," the governor pleaded Wednesday as he requested their help advancing legislation to reform Missouri's adoption and foster care systems. The governor asserted that his agenda is all about helping kids.
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It's there, not in the tawdry details of his sex scandal, where the story of Greitens' hypocrisy begins.
This governor has systematically worked to dismantle social services and public education systems that benefit kids. He campaigned to cut business taxes, knowing that Missouri couldn't afford the resulting drop in revenue. A $250 million budget deficit forced deep cuts, including money for school buses, higher education and social services. He fought a St. Louis minimum wage law that would have helped struggling families pay the rent and feed their kids. He even cut the very aid for foster care that he's now asking legislators to support.
While Greitens talked about being transparent and accountable, he has done the opposite, installing a phone app that automatically deletes text messages and keeping secret the sources of his dark-money campaign contributions. We now know why he was so obsessed with secrecy.
Greitens sent his nonprofit attack dogs to harass elected officials who challenged his agenda. State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, was inundated with harassing calls after a Greitens nonprofit posted the senator's phone number on an advertisement in April.
Schaaf is in no mood to forgive and forget. "Stick a fork in him," he tweeted Wednesday night after the sex scandal broke.
Amid deep personal anguish as he watches his political fortunes crumble, the best Greitens can hope for is the public compassion he requested in a Facebook posting. He should expect none.