Are You With Me, David Wu?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 25 2011 11:18 AM

Are You With Me, David Wu?

If we're being realistic, Rep. David Wu's political career probably expired in the spring. That was when the Oregonian broke stories about Wu's mental breakdown and prescription drug use in the waning days of his 2010 re-election bid. Wu ducked attention, then resurfaced with a new line: He wanted to talk about what he'd gone through and end the stigma. He talked to me about this at the time.

If by speaking out, some people are encouraged to seek the help that they need, but also to be as open about it as they want to be, then something very positive has come out of this episode. As for my own life? Shoot, there was a longer period of difficulty. The last two years have been difficult. There was a rough patch in October, when my domestic situation and a very difficult campaign for Democrats in general, me in particular, all came together.

A "rough patch in October." The contrition didn't much help Wu; a poll after this showed that voters were ready to replace him in the Democratic primary or the general election. But this was the story -- he melted down in October, won re-election, started to sort his life out.

That's why this story about a voicemail from a 2010 high school graduate, accusing Wu of an "unwanted sexual encounter," is unsurvivable.

Two people with knowledge of the recording and the later conversation with Wu said the alleged incident took place over Thanksgiving weekend. Sources said they were told that the woman went outside and Wu left after her. The sexual encounter followed, they said.

His troubles lasted a little longer than he admitted, and one of the people who'd disturbed was still, by March, disturbed by how he was conducting himself. So Wu had ignored the advice of his staff, who had wanted him hospitalized before the election, and at least one of his reactions to the post-election staff exodus was... this. I've got all the sympathy in the world for someone who breaks down over personal problems, but if Wu wanted to be an advocate, he could have come out with all of this and dished. It's ugly. It's embarrassing. It's worse if its left to reporters to scan for a young girl's Facebook page to tell your story.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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