With apologies to Ross Perot, that giant sucking sound you hear coming from Missouri is all of the air draining out of Gov. Eric Greitens’ presidential trial balloon.
The ambitious former Navy SEAL will have to put his national ambition on hold after KMOV (Channel 4) broke the news of his pre-campaign affair, and the caught-on-tape audio accusing him of taking a naked photo of his paramour and threatening her with blackmail.
On Wednesday night, just hours before the affair news would break, Greitens said this about the Show-Me State:
“Missouri is strong, and she is getting stronger.”
By many objective measurements, that’s simply not true, and in the long run for a governor with lofty ambitions, that’s more important than his philandering.
Just this week, state Auditor Nicole Galloway reported that Missouri is so broke it is increasingly having a hard time paying its tax refunds on time, increasing the amount of interest the state is bearing as part of those late payments.
Legislative leaders just revised downward their already anemic growth projections for the current and coming fiscal years.
The state is about to run out of money to cover children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Greitens has shown no interest in doing anything about the state’s crumbling highways and bridges. He didn’t even mention the issue in his State of the State address, possibly a first for a sitting governor.
The governor campaigned on cleaning up the culture of corruption in Jefferson City, but his reliance on secrecy — from donors to disappearing texts — has made that culture worse. He’s now facing an attorney general investigation and lawsuit over his use of the Confide texting app.
Greitens came to St. Louis last summer to say he would do something about crime, and the city just reported its highest murder rate in years.
As veterans were dying in a north St. Louis County state-run veterans home, Greitens delayed and deferred, before the news got so bad that he had to act.
He so badly botched his attempt to install a puppet as the commissioner of education that the state’s Board of Education is currently neutered, unable to even meet to discuss a replacement for the highly respected commissioner the governor fired.
A big part of the state’s problem is that Missouri’s governor is treating “her” like a flirtation meant to be tucked away in a quiet corner while Greitens keeps his wandering eye focused on a prettier prize. Greitens spent much of his first year traveling to key presidential primary states, honing his “Trumpian” messages and raising money for his secretive A New Missouri nonprofit.
If the governor wants to get past the current negativity hanging over his administration like a dark cloud, here’s a suggestion:
Stop cheating on Missouri.
A governor who is focused on the schoolchildren of the state instead of lusting over a national presidential campaign doesn’t push for amorphous tax cuts when the previous ones passed by the Legislature haven’t even taken full effect yet because the economy hasn’t been good enough to implement them.
A governor who isn’t busy flirting with his next job before he’s figured out how to do this one takes a look at the difficult transportation issues facing the state — including the massive need for more mass transit in his former home city — and works with members of both parties to forge a lasting solution.
A governor who has nothing to hide takes his pledge to clean up the ethics environment in Jefferson City seriously and passes meaningful legislation to let voters know that “a new Missouri” is truly on the horizon.
The good news for Greitens in a week of the sorts of headlines that erase presidential ambitions, is that the best path forward for the governor right now would be to simply do what he hasn’t been doing: Pay attention to the homefront.
A Missouri that struggles to pay its tax bills needs some love and attention from its chief executive.
Embrace the job you have, governor. She’s all you’ve got.
Tony Messenger • 314-340-8518
@tonymess on Twitter