Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber just announced his intent to resign effective next Wednesday, Feb. 18 in a letter submitted to Secretary of State Kate Brown.
My takeaway from the various post-mortems that are swirling around now that Kitz is resigning is that Kitz was not a victim of a media feeding frenzy but a victim to his implicit sense of "entitlement" that was in clear evidence in his taped remarks today. He wasn't tried by the press, he was caught with the "appearance" that his hand and that of his "partner" was in the proverbial political cookie jar - the details of which are yet to emerge in both state and federal "criminal" investigations.
But the entrails of Kitzhaber's agonistes go to his failure as governor to manage his office in such a way that he kept in mind that his "power stakes" were at risk as governor the more room he allowed Cylvia to roam within the governor's office blurring the lines of his/her personal and political lives. We only have one governor but Hayes behaved as if they were like Bill and Hillary Clinton, a twosome! But Hillary never got reimbursement from groups with which she collaborated while First Lady.
Kitzhaber over the decades has gotten used to being the "go to guy" among liberal circles in Oregon to the point that he lost any sense of limits - the NIKE deal was an indicator of that "enabling" process and the dangers that lurk once you feel so "empowered." To the degree he was convinced he was doing the "right thing" he felt no limits on what he did or what was done in his name. So aside from all the possible legal issues raised, the genesis of the problem is akin to an Oedipus Rex problem - hubris.
Some feel the governor's unwillingness until Friday to present his case was his major problem, an inexplicable failure to communicate for a person highly skilled at spin. But Kitzhaber's and Haye's legal culpability may be more serious raising the possibility of obstruction of justice and evidence tampering. The apparently failed attempt to get DAS to remove the Governor's personal e-mail from the state system as well as his insistence that Hayes was never a public official make one wonder if this is a "cover up" a la the Nixon tapes. Willamette Week's report today lays out the issue -
When one is allowed to run an expedited process to get PERS reform, the Nike deal and increasingly business friendly policies that are fundamentally not progressive but at best "centrist" one loses touch with your base and in Kitzhaber's case his base began to unravel during the election to the point that he only won by 4% when he should have won by 15-20%. That narrowed base then collapsed under the glare of a collective media scrutiny over the past several months.
Let's also remember the dropped balls of the CRC, Rudy Crew, CoverOregon, his 10 year budget idea, tax reform and a problematic early childhood ed plan. Kitz was good at "concepts" but inept on follow-through! Too often he seemed to suffer from attention deficit disorder which put into question his management style. As a legislator he was viewed by many as a "one-trick pony" first focused on salmon and then health care reform.
In the Vietnam war the term in vogue was the "arrogance of power" - JFK, LBJ and Nixon. Let's hope governor to be Kate Brown has learned this lesson. And when she makes a mistake, she fesses up to it quickly, transparently and asks Oregonians for a second chance promising not to do "it" again. But the lure and perks of power are so seductive that most politicians, CEO's and college presidents don't get it until it's too late! It's axiomatic that politicians work in a "group think" bubble they seldom anticipate bursting!
Kitzhaber's petulant comments on Friday display a classic bunker mentality which speaks volumes about his state of mind at this time and it reminds me of his angry comments as he left government at the end of his second term of office to whit that Oregon was "ungovernable."
"I must also say that it is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved. But even more troubling - and on a very personal level as someone who has given 35 years of public service to Oregon - is that so many of my former allies in common cause have been willing to simply accept this judgment at its face value."
As Lord Acton said - "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."