Missourians have every reason to be shocked and horrified that their seemingly upstanding governor, a former Navy SEAL, is now under felony criminal indictment. But no one should be surprised. During 13 months in office, Republican Gov. Eric Greitens has blazed a trail of abuse, flaunting of the state’s Sunshine Law, heavily relying on dark-money campaign accounts to attack opponents, and flippantly dismissing anyone who called for his public accountability.
This is not the person Missourians thought they were voting for in 2016. Missourians have every right to demand a full-time governor who is here to serve our state’s best interests. Greitens cannot effectively represent Missouri as governor while defending himself against the serious charges that caused him to be led away by sheriff’s deputies Thursday. He should resign.
His grand jury indictment stems from an extramarital affair with his former hairdresser in 2015, exactly as he was preparing to run for governor. Greitens has not denied allegations that he took photographs of his partially nude and blindfolded hairdresser while she protested. Her hands were allegedly duct-taped to exercise rings in his basement. He does deny having threatened to distribute the photos if the woman exposed their affair.
Greitens’ lawyer denied the charges. Like any accused felon, Greitens deserves his day in court and must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. But he cannot run the state’s highest office while defending himself in court. He might once have regarded himself a superhero, but Missourians are no longer so easily fooled.
He campaigned by portraying himself as a devoted husband and father. That, of course, was a lie. His shoot-em-up videos were designed to wow voters, but Greitens in office has consistently yielded one disappointment after another.
Despite the advantage of a veto-proof GOP majority in both houses of the Legislature, Greitens nonetheless finds himself without many political allies in Jefferson City. He ran as a party outsider and ceaselessly insulted the experienced lawmakers who should have been his champions in the state Capitol.
“I’ve never been in politics before,” he wrote in a campaign message to his supporters, “but even in the brief time that I’ve been running for Governor, I’ve been exposed to some of the worst people I’ve ever known. Liars, cowards, sociopaths. They are often deeply broken and disturbed people, who — like criminals who prey on the innocent — take their pleasure and make their living by victimizing honest people. They are drawn to politics as vultures flock to rotting meat — and they feed off the carcasses of vice.”
Given what we now know, he was in no position to cast judgment.
Even after taking office, Greitens continued feuding with GOP lawmakers, using anonymous campaign contributions to attack Republican senators and the Democratic state auditor. To say there’s some schadenfreude in the Capitol over his troubles would not be an overstatement. His defenders are hard to find.
Greitens relied heavily on Facebook, not the party apparatus, to get his message out. He avoided answering questions from reporters and ordered his staff to do the same. He always appeared to be looking beyond the governor’s office.
With the indictment, Greitens’ once-bright future is now in question. Greitens, who holds a doctorate in Greek ethics and philosophy, has been brought down by what in Greek tragedy is called “hubris,” excessive pride in defiance of the gods.