Self-Help for Gov. Greitens

Jewish Light Editorial

“The first step to building resilience is to take responsibility for who you are in life.  If you’re not willing to do that, stop wasting your time reading this letter.  The essence of responsibility is the acceptance of the consequences—good and bad—of your actions.” 

— Eric Greitens from his book “Resilience:  Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life.”

If ever an author could use wise advice about accepting the consequences of one’s actions, surely it is Gov. Eric Greitens. His rise and fall have brought him from a promising young governor with an almost too-good-to-be-true resume to become the first sitting governor in Missouri history to be indicted.

In The Atlantic magazine, David A. Graham asks, “How did Missouri’s Republican governor go from rising star to felony charges in barely one year?”

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Then, he points to a possible answer:

“It’s customary to refer to a politician’s quick rise as ‘meteoric.’  Overlooked in that cliché is a truth about what happens to meteorites: They strike the ground violently and destructively.”

 The facts of Greitens’ latest challenge are well known. He had an affair with a woman, and during the course of a consensual liaison at his home, the governor allegedly took a photograph of his partially nude paramour that she says was done without her consent. She also says Greitens threatened to go public with the photo if she disclosed their affair. 

In a statement, Greitens said the indictment was an attempt by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, to “score political points.” Gardner has denied being partisan and has said that “the Governor and the victim deserve their day in court.”

Greitens has denied the charges, although he has not given a definitive answer to the key question of whether he ever took the photograph in question. He is of course entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Greitens is Missouri’s first Jewish governor, a fact greeted with pride within much of the Jewish community.  He embraced his Jewishness and showed welcome leadership when he helped organize the cleanup and restoration of the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City last year after more than 150 gravestones were toppled.

Why is a Jewish newspaper getting into this messy matter at all? Does the fact that Greitens is Jewish give the St. Louis Jewish Light a legitimate basis for commenting on this story?  Would we do the same with a governor who was not Jewish?

We wrestled with such questions and decided that there are indeed Jewish concerns about this sad episode. What does Greitens have to do to gain teshuvah or forgiveness? He has made amends to his wife, and she appears to have come to terms with the affair. Winning over his supporters and all Missourians may be another matter.

One can reasonably ask how someone of such intellect and battlefield courage could use such poor judgment by engaging in the affair in the first place. Have Greitens’ many gifts protected him from real adversity, and do they offer him a path to redemption?

Ironically, the advice he needs is readily available in his book “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life.” It includes advice he gave to a former brother in arms who reached out to Greitens for support in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Among Greitens’ self-selected quotes is this:

“One of the reasons you are suffering right now is precisely because the purpose of your struggle is unclear. What are you working toward? What are you fighting for? Who are you going to be?”

Now Greitens faces a crisis of his own, and most people can agree it’s one of his own making. He faces possible impeachment, conviction and removal from office if the growing number of legislators in both parties who feel he should resign gain a clear majority.  The increasing numbers of fellow Republicans in the legislature calling for Greitens’ resignation or impeachment and possible conviction and removal from office must give the governor pause and well-founded concern for his political survival.

Greitens’ promising life and many skills need not end up in the dustbin of history, whether he remains governor or not. He needs to write a new chapter for the next edition of “Resilience,” by living up to his own potential, accepting full responsibility for his actions — good and bad — and becoming the person his talents show he can be.

Gov. Greitens deserves his day in court and the presumption of innocence until the process plays out.  If things reach a critical mass, he may be left with no honorable alternative but to resign his office—or to seek a temporary leave of absence in order to deal with his legal challenges—a course of action that would be unprecedented in Missouri history and unlikely to be granted. Greitens will have to draw upon his considerable intellect and record of courage in combat—for which he received a Purple Heart—to decide on a course of action that will be best for the State of Missouri as well as for himself and his future.