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Wu survived at the pleasure of our political system

by: Christopher Onstott ELECTION NIGHT - U.S. Rep. David Wu speaks to supporters after he was reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives last November, three weeks before an 18-year-old California woman says he made unwanted and aggressive sexual contact with her.

Though he had slipped out of the media limelight since his controversial flare-up last fall involving staff departures and images of him dressed in a tiger costume e-mailed to staffers, the latest revelation involving Congressman David Wu - one in which he has been accused of an unwanted sexual advance on a young California woman - has proven too much for him to weather.

On Tuesday he announced his intention to resign, which he says will occur once the national question of the debt-ceiling has been resolved.

Unfortunately it has taken serious, potentially criminal accusations to pry Wu from his position of influence as Oregon's first district representative. An argument could be made - and has been made - that he should have stepped down much sooner.

Though it was evident Wu's ability as a lawmaker had been compromised, Democratic party leaders dismissed calls for his resignation last spring under the pretense Wu's purported mental illness and strange behavior were not sufficient reasons for him to step down.

His lack of admission and candor, however, had been sufficient reason. In this capacity we agree with The Register-Guard editorial published in February that reiterated the many instances in which Wu shirked responsibility for his actions in order to maintain his position.

When his staff encouraged him to seek psychiatric help, he balked. He inappropriately used his clout to sidestep security measures at Portland International Airport for campaign purposes. His staff tried to keep him out of the spotlight in the days and weeks leading up to the November election out of fear voters would catch on to his erratic behavior (for which his former staff should be doing its own soul-searching). He admitted to receiving and taking pain medication without a prescription - an offense that would land those with less societal standing in jail.

Yet, despite it all, it's safe to say the recently re-elected Wu had successfully drifted back into his comfort zone in Congress with little incentive to demonstrate his effectiveness to his constituents.

As The Spotlight editorial published in March expressed, 'A person such as David Wu, or any elected official, deserves further scrutiny. When behavior interferes with a legislator's job, it reduces clout within his or her respective agencies, compromises public confidence in performance ability, provides political enemies with ammunition to torpedo any proposal regardless of merit and, in general, renders the elected official suspect in all of his or her capacities.'

Wu has been compromised, and his resignation is a positive development for the residents in Oregon's 1st congressional district, such as those in Columbia County, he has pledged to serve.

Regarding his purported mental illness, Wu had conveniently held it up as a shield to deflect scrutiny of his bizarre actions, yet when pressed he withheld disclosure of the specifics of that mental illness, publicly stating it was a private matter - one that very much affected his job performance as a public official.

Time and again, Wu maintained he was more than capable of doing his job, despite examples to the contrary. Though he was able to slip into somewhat obscurity since the spring revelations about his behavior, on some level we all knew it was only a matter of time before news would again break about Wu's damaging behavior.

Wu has reportedly said he is innocent of any wrongdoing tied to the latest accusation against him. We hope that is true, as we hope his political career is the only casualty resulting from it.