Well, let's add Congressman David Wu to the compost heap of Oregon politicians whose credibility has been destroyed through sex scandals, and whose behavior has piled embarrassment on the state.
• First, there was U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, who was accused in 1992 by 10 women of an inability to keep his hands to himself. His political maneuvering worked to keep him in office for a short time, but ultimately he succumbed to pressure and resigned in disgrace.
• Next up, Neil Goldschmidt - former Portland mayor, former governor, former U.S. secretary of transportation, and former chairman of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education - who admitted in 2004 (after his elected political career had ended) that he'd had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s during his first term as the mayor of Portland.
• And let's not forget the more recent scandal of Portland Mayor Sam Adams, who almost squandered his career over a sexual affair with an 18-year-old.
Thankfully, Wu does not represent East Multnomah County. But as a representative of Oregon in the U.S. House of Representatives, he's managed to lift the state back into the national sex-scandal spotlight.
Like these other infamous politicians, David Wu's behavior has given people across the United States reason to ask, 'what's in that famous Oregon water?' And like Packwood, Wu's troubles led him to resignation, which the Democratic Oregon congressman announced Tuesday, July 26.
It was the right thing to do for the sake of all Oregonians. We just wish he'd made his resignation immediate, rather than staying in office through the end of the debt-ceiling circus. We doubt the rest of his House colleagues will want much to do with him. That alone should call into doubt his ability to be anything other than a distraction during this national crisis.
Before we go any further, it would be premature for us to say Wu is guilty of anything illegal. He stands accused of 'aggressive and unwanted sexual behavior' with a young woman, the daughter of a close friend. At best, this is a creepy story about a middle-aged man and a young woman barely older than the age of consent. At the worst, this is about a middle-aged man who took his advances beyond the comfort zone.
But Wu's downfall had already begun before these allegations surfaced. There were the reports of strange emails to his staff members, including a picture of himself around Halloween in a tiger costume. There were the requests by staffers that he seek psychiatric help. There was the exodus of staff members after the November 2010 election, including his longtime chief of staff. There was that news story that a campaign contributor gave Wu a prescription painkiller.
Wu's resignation, while embarrassing, can be a good reminder to the rest of Oregon's elected officials that average Oregonians have some basic expectations of their elected officials - that they conduct themselves professionally and within the law, and with even an average degree of ethics and morality. It's not too much to ask.