Eric Greitens Shows He Can Handle Cheap Shots
By B.W. Durham
Eric Greitens, the former Navy Seal and Rhodes Scholar running for Missouri Governor, was the clear winner in the Missouri Republican gubernatorial debate hosted last Thursday night in Columbia, Missouri.
His political opponents in the campaign — former Speaker of the Missouri House Catherine Hanaway, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and retired businessman John Brunner — spent much of the 90-minute televised debate trying to sucker-punch Greitens and hang him out to dry.
But Greitens — the youngest and best educated of the candidates, and whose enormous public popularity with voters surely makes the other candidates cringe — showed that when attacks, insults and cheap shots start to fly he is cool under fire.
For example: Hanaway was asked about Missouri’s minimum wage law by the debate’s two moderators. But rather than answer that important question, Hanaway started to answer, but then confronted Greitens and asked why he had not returned a $1 million campaign donation by Michael Goguen, a California businessman accused by a woman of sexual abuse. The woman recently sued millionaire Goguen, whom she’d dated for at least 13 years.
Greitens responded to the audience:
“This is what happens when desperate politicians get very desperate. I like Catherine, but you just can’t trust her. She’s willing to convict people in the court of public opinion.
“Unlike career politicians, I am not going to convict someone in the court of public opinion. In this civil case, I want it resolved, and I want to see what the facts are so we can make a decision and a judgment based on the facts.” Until then, Greitens will not return the donation.
Lt. Gov. Kinder then testily echoed Hanaway’s question about the donation, to which Greitens responded, “Peter, you are the last person on this stage, sir, who be should trafficking in tabloid stories about men who are hanging out in strip clubs,” he said. Greitens was referring to a story that emerged in 2011 about Kinder’s romantic interest in a woman who was formerly a Penthouse Pet.
In 2011, Kinder had been the favored Republican candidate for Missouri governor, but dropped out of the race when it was revealed — and Kinder acknowledged — that he had often visited an Illinois strip club when he was a Missouri state senator. Interviewed by newspapers, the stripper said that Kinder had been one of her “best customers” and had asked her to move in with him at his condo.
That same year, Kinder repaid the state of Missouri more than $54,000 for “lodging expenses” after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported he had spent hundreds of nights at St. Louis hotels, some of which coincided with society galas, sporting events and other non-governmental functions. Retired businessman John Brunner, the fourth candidate, avoided the Kinder issue during the debate.
Perhaps Brunner was reticent in his debate remarks because of accusations that he is involved with deceitful efforts to destroy Greitens’ credibility.
Soon after Greitens announced his candidacy for Missouri Governor last year, a website that smears Greitens and creates wrong impressions about him materialized.
The Kansas City Star noted, “A former staffer of John Brunner’s campaign for Missouri governor is involved with a new super political action committee that is attempting to undermine the conservative credentials of rival Republican Eric Greitens.”
Candidate Brunner’s former staffer, a political operative named Adam McLain, left Brunner’s payroll only a few weeks before the bogus website emerged. It intentionally misspells Greitens’ name in its title — transposing the “e” and the “I” — to attract people who believe they are reading about the real Eric Greitens.
Since its launch, that website has been routinely updated with anti-Greitens attacks, slurs and misleading information.
In addition, Brunner, a 63-year-old retired corporate CEO from St. Louis, admittedly — and secretly, without telling Greitens — recorded a phone conversation he had with Greitens last year. Then — also without informing Greitens — Brunner edited portions of the audio and leaked it to media.
“Leaders don’t record private conversations and leak them to the media, sleazy politicians do,” Greitens posted on his own website http://ericgreitens.com. “What’s disgusting about politics is all the so-called ‘leaders’ who hide behind others and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. That’s called cowardice.
“We don’t need more of that in Jefferson City. And that’s exactly why I’m running — to call out and defeat those who would rather play politics than tackle problems.”
Portions of the debate focused on Missouri’s failure of leadership in politics, education, and economic growth and, as Greitens said, “The culture of corruption in government.”
One of Greitens’ political goals is to limit campaign donation dollar amounts and apply term limits for political office holders. He wants to prevent politicians from keeping campaign funds if they leave office or stop campaigning.
Rex Sinquefield, a billionaire in St. Louis reportedly has donated more than $37 million to various political candidates and causes and, thus, he has enormous influence on them. For example, he has donated nearly $2 million to Hanaway’s campaign. A St. Louis-based attorney, Hanaway at one time was the highest-billing attorney in the state: her legal fees were $793 per hour.
An editorial the Kansas City Star cited Hanaway as among the Missouri politicians who are so “steeped in Missouri’s money-grubbing political culture that they can’t perceive how tarnished they are by it.”
Greitens admitted that he wants to debunk the power structure in Jefferson City that is dominated by career politicians. Hanaway and Kinder are among them.
“(Those) politicians have failed us, and we can’t trust them to fix the mess that they have created,” he said, generating loud applause from the audience. Greitens also criticized career politicians at the Missouri legislature for gutting an ethics bill that would establish a cooling off period before legislators can become lobbyists.
“Our government is broken,” he asserted, again generating applause. “Gutting the ethics bill is just another example of how out of touch the political insiders and politicians in Jefferson City are. I’ve said from day one that we need strong ethics legislation to clean up our government.
“Turning around Missouri begins by restoring the people’s trust in government, not by padding politicians’ pockets and claiming corruption doesn’t exist. Voting against common sense ethics legislation misses taking a step in the right direction and, sadly, represents the worst in our government.
It’s no surprise that Greitens’ opponents are trying to derail his campaign with political attacks, insults and false information.
Simply put — They are frightened. He is a threat to the culture of political corruption in Missouri, a highly-decorated former Navy Seal with impeccably high standards who earned a Ph.D. from Oxford University. A natural born leader with a new vision of political reform and a new future for Missouri. A tough-minded man who gets things done.
And… His opponents believe that Greitens can win the primary in August, and win the gubernatorial election in November.