The woman declined to press charges, and Wu was never formally arrested. But apparently the decision by the Oregonian to publish the story, which they claimed “figured in the unexpected resignation of his campaign manager” during his first run for Congress in 1998, forced Wu’s hand. Citing “inexcusable behavior on my part,” Wu released in a statement on the matter. “As a 21-year-old, I hurt someone I cared very much about. I take full responsibility for my actions and I am very sorry,” he said. “This single event forever changed my life and the person that I have become.” Despite the admission, Wu was re-elected in 2004 by voters who said they disliked his opponent’s attempt to use the incident against him.
Yet the person David Wu became was hardly exemplary. Three days before the November 2010 election, Wu’s senior staffers became so concerned with the congressman’s erratic behavior, they demanded that he be hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. Words such “loud and angry” and “kooky” were used to describe his behavior in private and, of more concern to the staff, in front of potential voters. ”This is way beyond acceptable levels and the charade needs to end NOW,” wrote Lisa Grove, a senior campaign pollster, in an e-mail to colleagues after four days of weird behavior by the congressman. “No enabling by any potential enablers, he needs help and you need to be protected. Nothing else matters right now. Nothing else,” she added.
The tipping point apparently occurred on Oct. 30th when a photograph of Wu dressed in a bright orange tiger suit with a wide grin on his face was sent to a female staffer at 1 am from his congressional email account. Included was a message intended to make it seem like his daughter sent it. “You’re the best, but my Dad made me say that, even though you threatened to shut down his campaign,” it read. One half-hour later it was followed by an equally strange email ostensibly from Wu’s son claiming that “what he does when he’s wasted is send emails, not harass people he works with.” After his re-election campaign was over, six staffers resigned.
In an interview on Good Morning America last February, Wu admitted sending the photo and the emails. “Last October was not a good month, it was very stressful. I did some things, I said some things which I sincerely regret now. And as a result of those things I saw fit to consult professional help, I got the help I needed then. I am continuing to consult medical help as I need it and I’m in a good place now,” he told George Stephanopoulos.
The Oregonian reported that Wu’s strange behavior can be traced back as far as 2003 when he appeared to “go catatonic before a crucial vote on Medicare.” The paper further noted that his behavior ranged from normal to disturbed over a period of years, with each episode growing “increasingly erratic.” Wu, who was hospitalized on election day 2008, reportedly as the result of an adverse reaction to a prescription drug taken for “anxiety and stress,” claimed last year’s odd behavior was the “culmination of a period of mental health challenges that began in 2008 as marital issues led toward his separation from his wife.” He further claimed last year’s outbursts were the result of “stress from a tough campaign, a dissolving marriage and taking care of his children, ages 11 and 13.” Emails from his staff prior to the 2010 election indicate Wu may have had a drinking problem as well.
And now it’s over. “It has been the greatest privilege of my life to be a United States Congressman. Rare is the nation in which an immigrant child can become a national political figure. I thank God and my parents for the privilege of being an American,” said Wu in a statement released by his office. Thus ends the career of the first Chinese American to serve in the House of Representatives. For Democrats recently buffeted by Anthony Weiner’s equally bizarre behavior, it is no doubt a blessed relief.
In today’s politically charged atmosphere, there is no doubt that some will attempt to extrapolate a bigger meaning from this. That is unfortunate. By all reasonable accounts, Mr. Wu’s demons are not particular to one political party or the other. Mental illness is an equal opportunity affliction. If the current accusations rise to the level of criminality, by all means prosecute him. As for bizarre behavior, Mr. Wu is hardly alone. Voters who would re-elect a man after an admitted sexual assault have demonstrated some rather odd priorities of their own.
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