Missouri is in a tough spot – needlessly.
Its governor has failed to refute strong allegations of abusive behavior and violence toward a woman with whom he had an affair – he won't even answer the most simple and direct questions in this case – and his continued refusal to resign in the face of substantial evidence of his behavior adds day by day to Missouri's national embarrassment.
But legislative leaders have made this worse. The committee that House leadership named six weeks ago to look into the Greitens mess has completed its work, and its report – 24 pages plus hundreds of pages of exhibits – is thorough and damning. The reaction across the state has been one of disgust and revulsion. “Beyond disturbing” is one of the gentler comments that's been offered. Leaders in both parties have called on Greitens to resign.
But House leadership has ruled out taking any action until at least June, after the end of the regular legislative session in the middle of next month. Leaders say they want to wrap up the budget and other regular work first.
That may sound reasonable, but in fact the General Assembly has shown itself unwilling to really tackle the bigger issues facing the state, from schools to roads. It's a lot like the old saying that managers might have for an unproductive employee: Instead of giving it their all, they let the work in front of them expand to the time available to them. The budget gets passed in early May because we've always done it that way. The big bills – and the in-the-dark-of-night bills – pass in the final, frantic hours because we've always done it that way.
Quick: What's the one big policy issue legislators are deliberating this year? Trick question. It's all small ball, as it is most years. Legislators have the facts in hand regarding Greitens, and they have plenty of time for this and other work if they have the will to act.
Greitens chose not to supply requested documents to the House committee, falsely claiming his criminal trial next month prevents that. Most of the documents requested fall outside his court case. He refused to answer questions from the committee, and he refused to testify.
But he was out there in front of the cameras – taking no questions – trashing the committee less than an hour before the report's release on Wednesday. It's good video, and it seems to have driven the news narrative across much of the state, at least on TV.
By his words and actions, Greitens appears to have a strategy of conflating the House investigation with the criminal trial. His rhetoric seems aimed at planting the idea that should he win at trial, then he's cleared and that's that.
It's not. The House process is on its own track – but needlessly stalled. Who knows if the overwhelmingly Republican General Assembly will be willing to impeach a Republican governor? But waiting until at least June isn't productive. It just lets the issue fester and lets Missouri's national embarrassment linger.