Bitter Valentine

I’m trying to remember examples of elected officials who have self-destructed as rapidly as Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who will probably be forced to resign today, having been largely abandoned by the leading Democrats of his state, including his successor, who described his behavior as “bizarre” and “unprecedented.” I guess the most famous would be Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who went almost instantly from being the odds-on favorite to succeed Richard Nixon as Republican presidential nominee to cutting a plea deal that included resignation when he got caught accepting sacks of cash right there in the White House as part of a kickback arrangement made when he was county executive back in Maryland.

As I noted yesterday, Kitzhaber’s alleged misconduct–which at this point seems to involve enabling and perhaps covering up misconduct by his fiancee–doesn’t seem to rank with classic tales of graft or even the belief of so many Americans that all politicians are crooks. Maybe there’s something much worse, as indicated by his apparent and illegal effort to have thousands of emails from his personal account deleted from state government servers (an effort which failed).

As it stands now, he can resign right away and hope an ongoing criminal investigation doesn’t land him or Cylvia Hayes in orange jumpsuits. Or he can spend a bitter Valentine’s Day crouched behind overturned furniture in his office with his paramour, daring the authorities to come get them. It’s all pretty sad.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.