Rep. David Wu has long been identified as a major liability for the Democrats. The first Chinese-American elected to Congress, Wu has displayed mental instability for years. He is now accused of an “unwanted sexual encounter” with the teenage daughter of a longtime friend.
The Oregon Democrat has acknowledged a very serious incident last Thanksgiving with the girl. Wu is currently undergoing a divorce. He seems to have had considerable luck in avoiding criminal charges. This is not the first allegation of assault against him. A former girlfriend alleged an assault when they were both attending Stanford University in 1976. As with the Thanksgiving incident, Wu was not charged criminally.
Wu admitted acting abusively and insisted that the college incident “forever changed my life and the person that I have become.” Perhaps not for forever, according to his friend.
Notably, Wu is currently receiving counseling for psychiatric problems. It is not clear where police (now aware of the alleged assault) will investigate the recent incident. The House Ethics committee is moving to investigate. It raises an immediate legal issue for Wu. If he is going to leave Congress (which seems inevitable), he may want to resign now to avoid the inquiry — and possible development of damaging evidence against him. If he intends to refuse to speak to investigators, there would seem little reason to hang on in Congress.
As in the Weiner affair, majority leader Nancy Pelosi has again let the scandal get ahead of the Democrats. While she reportedly spoke to Wu, her staff told reporters that she was too busy to comment on the Wu matter. That is a pretty incredible position to take in a city where you have only a few hours to take control of a scandal. Once again, the Democrats appear entirely reactive and belated in facing a scandal. What is particularly troubling is that Wu has long been an embarrassment and yet Pelosi has not stepped forward to call for Wu’s departure from Congress. Many believed that Wu should have been showed the door months ago when staffers went public with bizarre conduct.
One possible defense of Pelosi is that Wu appears mentally unstable and has sought treatment. Under federal law such a condition is a disability and Congress has done well in past years to combat the prejudice against those with mental illness. Since Wu sought treatment, I can see why Pelosi would not call for his resignation — though this position should be made clear as based on a disability. The latest allegation needs to be investigated in fairness to Wu. However, Pelosi should not be too busy to make a public comment on the position of her party in such a matter.