Cruel Intentions: Missouri keeps going back to an abusive relationship

Either Machine Gun Photo

Eric Greitens and his dumb machine gun. // Courtesy Greitens campaign

Six years ago, Missouri handed a madman the keys to its governor’s office.

After things went wrong, the voters who elected Eric Greitens could at least claim some measure of plausible deniability. They had not known, back in November of 2016, about the woman he had terrorized in his basement. The allegations of spousal abuse and child abuse only surfaced recently.

Sure, Greitens The Candidate in 2016 came across as belligerent and he ran some crazy ads of himself shooting a lake with a machine gun. But it was the year of Trump and Republican voters were ready to embrace chaos.

Now, though, thanks to reluctant testimony from his former mistress and more current court filings and interviews from his ex-wife, we know more about Eric Greitens than most of us ever wanted to. The man is a danger—to his family, to his state, and possibly to himself. 

And yet, like fleas on a long-haired dog, we can’t seem to get rid of the guy.

When Greitens left the governor’s office in May of 2018, after serving less than a year and a half, Republicans and Democrats in Jefferson City had reached bipartisan agreement that they never wanted to see him again. Or speak his name. Or even acknowledge his short time in office.

They had investigated lurid details about Greitens’ treatment of a woman with whom he’d had an extramarital affair before he took office. A different scandal stemmed from allegations that he’d stolen a donor list from a veterans’ charity to solicit political donations. Yet a third line of investigation involved questions about whether he was skating around state campaign disclosure laws.

But Greitens was anything but humbled by his forced resignation. He denied everything and blamed his fall from grace on a vast conspiracy. “The forces” drove him from office, he said, because he posed a threat to the greedy special interests.

In an interview in June this year with the Missouri Independent, Greitens’ ex-wife, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, said the disgraced former governor was unstable and violent before and after he left office, and blamed her for his resignation.

He threatened suicide and fearful aides tried to separate him from firearms. Yet, within days after leaving office, she said, he was plotting a political comeback.

Greitens formed a political action committee in 2021. When U.S. Senator Roy Blunt announced he was retiring from the job he’d held since 2010, Greitens jumped into the pool, along with quite the assortment of other politicians, wannabees, and attention seekers.

In a sane world, Greitens’ bid would have been deemed pathetic and gained no traction. But that’s not how things have worked out. Greitens found a donor with deep pockets, a shipping magnate named Richard Uihlein, to bankroll his campaign.

Even with the label “disgraced former governor” permanently attached to his name, he has polled at or near the top of the crowded GOP primary field for months.

None of this happened in secret. There are no surprise bombshells in the biography above. So it really begs the question: “What the hell, Missouri?”

We are the Show Me State. Greitens has shown us who he is—a buff action figure devoid of empathy and capable of cruelty, motivated only by a craven cocktail of narcissism and towering ambition.

“I describe him as an imperfect vessel,” says John Lamping, a former Republican state senator who supported Greitens when he ran for governor but says he won’t vote for him this time.

“He’s got all these serious flaws in his character that have come to the fore, and a case can be made that he really doesn’t believe what he says.”

But Lamping gets why Greitens appeals to some voters.

“What he’s saying is really where the energy is in the country right now, certainly on the Republican side,” he says. 

Greitens’ current campaign, like his 2016 run for governor, postures him as a fearless crusader ready to take on the corrupt establishment, whether it be Democrats, or GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell, or any of the RINO’s, those “Republicans in Name Only” that Greitens went gun-hunting for in a recent campaign ad

Lamping tells me that Republican voters feel let down by their own party’s establishment as much as by the Democrats. 

“They’re looking for someone who understands their issues,” he says. “They just know that what has been offered to them has not served them well.”

Other leading Republicans in the Senate primary, like Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, won’t speak out against McConnell and the establishment because they’re too ingrained in the establishment, Lamping says.

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Eric Greitens addresses the media after filing to run in the Missouri Senate primary on Feb. 22, 2022, at the James C Kirkpatrick State Information Center in Jefferson City. // Photo by Madeline Carter

So, if you’re looking to own the libs, shout “Fuck Joe Biden,” and settle a few scores with the RINOs, Eric Greitens is your guy. He offers no solutions, but he’s always ready for a fight.

Amid the barely contained hysteria from politicos from both parties about the prospect of Greitens as the next senator from Missouri, it’s been pointed out to me that typically fewer than 20% of registered Republicans vote in primary elections in the state. And recent polls have shown Greitens with a base of support of around 25% in a crowded field. 

So it’s inaccurate to say that a groundswell of Missourians, or even Missouri Republicans, actually want Greitens to represent them in the U.S. Senate. But it’s completely accurate to say that the sliver of Republicans who show up to vote on Aug. 2 could put him a breath away from accomplishing that.

Barring a Hail Mary campaign stint from a neophyte Democrat or a long-shot independent candidate, a Greitens primary win would open up the awful possibility that Missouri could be represented on the national stage by the pugilistic Greitens and the sneering Josh Hawley. How did a single state even produce two such reprehensible characters?

As aghast as Democrats are at the prospect of “Senator Greitens,” it’s the “establishment” Republicans, particularly those supporting Schmitt, who are working hardest to stop that from happening. 

A PAC called Show Me Values, bankrolled in large part by St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield, is flooding the state with attack ads, making sure conservative voters know about the allegations of abuse that Sheena Greitens has made as part of her child custody case against her ex-husband.

More ads, possibly from multiple sources, are reportedly on the way. Greitens is every oppo researcher’s dream assignment.

Donald Trump has kept the state’s political establishment in suspense for months. His endorsement could seal the deal for either Greitens or Schmitt. [Trump has already said Hartzler “doesn’t have what it takes,” and he won’t endorse her. Apparently, Hartzler’s anti-LGBTQ+ platform isn’t enough for the anointer.]

While a loss for Greitens in the primary would remove the immediate threat of seeing him sworn in as a senator, there is no scenario in which this story ends well. 

Greitens, remember, is the stain that Missouri can’t get rid of. And, right now, a seat in the U.S. Senate is about the only job he has any hope of landing.

Though he still identifies himself as a Navy Seal, Greitens no longer has a role in the Navy. Book publishers aren’t interested in the memoirs of another disgraced politician. A simple Google search by a prospective employer is going to turn up a litany of reasons for why this applicant is a risk to even flip burgers in a diner kitchen. 

Desperate people do desperate things. And we know that Greitens responds badly to adversity.

“When his political future is at risk, he becomes erratic, unhinged, coercive, and threatening,” Sheena Greitens told a Boone County, Missouri, judge in a sworn statement. 

If that’s the case, how much more dangerous will he become when his political future is over?

Categories: Politics