The long goodbye

    In our season of dysfunction, the happiest guy in Washington has got to be David Wu.If we weren’t embroiled in an historic fiscal crisis, his serial antics would surely be dominating the 24/7 news cycle. The Oregon Democratic congressman would have been the perfect summer pinata, a worthy successor to Anthony Weiner, the Twittering exhibitionist who owned early June. We already know, of course, about the “unwanted sexual encounter” that Wu, age 56, allegedly inflicted last year on a teenage girl (Wu insists the sex was consensual), and we already know about his lofty decision last autumn to use his congressional Blackberry at one in the morning to send a photo of himself in a tiger suit to a female staffer. But if we weren’t so focused on the debt debacle, then who knows, maybe by now someone would have found online images of Wu dressed as, say, a gopher or an aardvark; or maybe someone would have unearthed more details about the incident last year when he totaled a rental car while driving on the wrong side of the road.But thanks to a bit of fortuitous timing, Wu is managing to exit Congress by the proverbial side door. We’ve barely had time to re-litigate the summer ’76 accusation, lodged by a college girlfriend, that Wu had attempted a sexual assault (he later insisted it was consensual); or to ponder the other Blackberry messages he sent to female staffers (he’d talk about his divorce; pretending that he was one of his kids, he wrote that “not even my Mom put up with him”). Wu has imploded so far under the radar that we haven’t even had time to argue, yet again, over which political party leads the league in sleazebags (OK, there was one such story).Heck, there hasn’t even been time for political junkies of a certain age to dredge up the Steely Dan song “Doctor Wu,” and tweak the lyrics ever so slightly:Are you with me David WuAre you really just a shadowOf the man that I once knewAre you crazy, are you highOr just an ordinary guyHave you done all you can doAre you with me David…David will not be with us for long; to quote the song, he will soon be “on the other side of no tomorrow.” After predictably declaring over the weekend that he would not resign his seat, Wu naturally announced yesterday that he will resign his seat. (In Washington scandals, the vow to soldier on is always followed by surrender.) And that’s good for his colleagues, because the last thing they wanted to do was offer citizens a fresh reason to hate Capitol Hill. But here’s the weird part: Wu has orchestrated a long goodbye. He said yesterday that he will stay on the job in Washington until the debt crisis is resolved.Well, gee. At the rate that Washington is moving to resolve the crisis, what with all competing partisan agendas and predictable trash talk, Wu might be able to stick around indefinitely. But let’s think about the deeper implications. Wu clearly needs immediate psychiatric help (when his staff tried to stage an intervention last fall, and brought a shrink to the meeting, he reportedly walked out and went to a movie) – yet, under his exit plan, he intends to be statesmanlike for the balance of our national crisis. His apparent message is that we can regain our fiscal and political sanity only with the aid of his back-bench wisdom.Or perhaps Wu believes that his vote will be crucial if or when the cacophonous House finally sends a deficit-reduction plan to the floor. It’s hard to imagine that any such plan would hinge on a single House vote, but, hey, we’re already dwelling within the realm of the strange. Perhaps the nation’s fiscal destiny will rest in the hands of a guy in a tiger suit who canoodled with a teenage girl. What more perverse metaphor could there be for our current dysfunction?

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.