Welcome Back, Eric Greitens, You Creep

Ex-Governor Eric Greitens is out of the basement.
Ex-Governor Eric Greitens is out of the basement. COURTESY ST. LOUIS POLICE

He's back. He's back. Eric Grei-tens is back!

This is the journalistic equivalent of winning the lottery. Greitens ascending from his basement was as deliciously perverse as President Trump descending that famous escalator.

Last week, the most consequential debate in the General Assembly involved an obscure thing called the "statute of repose." Now, with any luck, we'll once again be talking mistresses in repose.

Gov. Mike Parson is must-not-see TV. With his first celebratory email, Greitens reminded us that state government could be fun again.

Greitens fearlessly re-mounted his bicycle of bile so effortlessly you'd never have known it was the same vehicle that his fellow Republicans ran into a ditch two years ago with their Ford F-150. Let us not forget: Greitens was pressured from office not by the liberal media, not by the Democrats, not by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, but by his own political party, whose members mostly despised him.

Greitens resigned May 29, 2018 — little more than a year into his term — under a breathtaking panorama of dark clouds including, but not limited to, Olympian hypocrisy in an extramarital affair, unprecedented corruption of political dark money, obvious abuse of his own charity's resources, campaign finance abuses, inaccessibility, lying, bullying and sanctimony. Aside from that, he was just another mediocre Missouri governor.

It was the resolution of one of the least-compelling dark clouds — ethics violations — that occasioned Greitens' triumphant return to the public stage last week. The state ethics commission had acted upon a complaint filed in July 2018 by one of Greitens' Republican colleagues.

It was a split decision. Greitens was found to have committed "no evidence of any wrongdoing." This prompted our boy to blare out the now-customary Trump-speak cry of "total exoneration!" which, if you're old enough to remember last week's column, translates to "you didn't catch me." Yes, Greitens was every bit as "exonerated" as Sen. Josh Hawley was in last week's episode after a blistering state audit found he misused political operatives to turn his attorney general's office into a campaign headquarters but hadn't committed a crime.

As in Hawley's case, one needn't read the fine print to understand the conduct at hand was morally repulsive even if was not criminal. The state ethics commission found Greitens' campaign guilty of two violations substantial enough to levy an uncommonly large $178,000 in fines on Greitens.

(If he forks over cash in the next 45 days, Greitens only has to pay $38,000, owing to politicians' bi-partisan agreement that punishment for their misdeeds should be deeply discounted. The next time you get a speeding ticket for $100, ask the judge if he or she would give you the "politician's punishment" and settle for a twenty on the spot.)

Greitens' campaign finance violations were a tiny tip of a gigantic iceberg of misconduct. They were akin to charging someone with receiving stolen property after they broke into and burglarized a house with a gun, sodomized victims and then burned the place down on the way out.

That's not quite how Greitens saw it in the victory message to his supporters. He borrowed his tone and language from one of Vlad Putin's Kids:

"This news makes clear what many of you knew all along: in 2018 our justice system was abused. Lies were told and bribes were paid in a criminal effort to overturn the 2016 election. And now, the truth is beginning to come out.

"Of course, this wasn't really about me. It was an attack designed for one purpose: to overturn your votes, because we were fighting for you. The constant harassment and vitriol, the lies — repeated and magnified, over and over again — the vicious attack on family and personal finances, affected far more than me and my family. It ripped apart a lot of lives, and put an end to a lot of the good that our team was doing."

Greitens was in part referencing the controversy and pending perjury charges over Gardner's handling of eventually dropped criminal charges. Those had related to the nature of the "family man's" extramarital conduct.

Greitens omitted the detail that state legislators of both parties found credible the allegations of mistress "KS," who told them she was tied up in his basement, photographed semi-nude without her consent and threatened with retribution by him if she told anyone. Many lawmakers had even larger concerns about political misuse of funds from The Mission Continues, his charity.

Whether any of that conduct would have been impeachable might be debatable, but this much isn't: Unless one considers opening one's home to one's mistress a noble act of hospitality, it would appear that the "vicious attack on [Greitens'] family" and "the ripping apart of lives" was the handiwork of the unrepentant Greitens alone.

Also notable was the brief reference to putting "an end to a lot of the good that our team was doing." That might get the attention of the team doing things for Parson.

Much more consequentially, the real horserace here is between corruption and hypocrisy. Greitens' abuse of nationally sourced dark money in dramatically unprecedented numbers overshadowed his playtime activities. And the world-class hypocrisy wasn't limited to sex: Greitens' self-pity about having been "hurt" by all the meanness and "evil" was almost unbearable.

This is the same tough-guy Navy seal who prided himself as the baddest bully in town. He threatened disloyal Republicans in meetings, published one's cell number, taunted them as weak and routinely challenged the character (and sometimes manhood) of anyone in government, politics or media who dared affront him. Now he's the poor victim.

One item jumped out in the boring ethics commission report. It recounts advertising run by Greitens' campaign against rivals Catherine Hanaway and John Brunner. Especially noteworthy were attacks on Hanaway, a prominent St. Louis attorney and Republican Party leader who served as state House speaker and U.S. attorney, among other posts.

Greitens' ads vilified Hanaway (and Brunner) as "politicians and insiders ... who have been in Missouri politics for decades, running for one office after another, ripping off taxpayers, doing sweetheart deals for themselves." Now that sounds like politics as usual, but here's something a bit out of the ordinary: Hanaway's name also appears at the bottom of the ethics report. It turns out she represented Greitens in the ethics case as his lawyer.

That's not a reflection on Hanaway ethically: Lawyers take on slime-ball clients all the time. It does, however, seem curious politically that an establishment Republican leader would want to be seen within a country mile of Greitens, especially if there were Bibles in the room.

From the other side, it really says all you need to know about the self-righteous Greitens that he's proud to be represented by a dreaded mainstream Republican (and erstwhile villain) who — in his words — ripped off taxpayers and did sweetheart deals for herself.

Seems like Greitens is still the same creep. But it's sure great to have him back.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).

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