Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Strange Story Of Congressional Knox Supporter Apparently Becoming Over Aggressive

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Above: Portland, largest city in Oregon, David Wu’s constituency; Mount Hood at back there]

A few months ago Oregon Congressman David Wu wrote a mean and inaccurate letter on Knox’s behalf

Now his own Congressional staffers are having to restrain him from becoming too over-the-top on other matters.

Their concern had been spiking for weeks in tandem with the Oregon Democrat’s increasingly unpredictable performance on the campaign trail and in private. He was loud and sometimes angry, some of them told The Oregonian. He said kooky things to staff and—more worrisome with a tough election fast approaching—around potential voters and donors.

Earlier and gentler efforts had failed, so the tight-knit group of high-level staff took other steps, including quiet inquiries about the availability of beds in hospitals in Portland and Washington, D.C., multiple sources familiar with the effort told The Oregonian.

Several staff members confronted Wu for the final time on Oct. 30. Wu’s psychiatrist was brought into that meeting as well, joining the group at the Portland campaign headquarters by speaker phone. The meeting was held after four consecutive days of troubling behavior that led the staff to agree that Wu needed a higher level of medical care, according to people intimately familiar with the events of that period.

“This is way beyond acceptable levels and the charade needs to end NOW,” wrote Lisa Grove, a senior and long-serving campaign pollster, in an e-mail to colleagues that day. “No enabling by any potential enablers, he needs help and you need to be protected. Nothing else matters right now. Nothing else.”

Wu, however, remained defiant, sources said. He left the meeting and said he was going to a movie.

Unfortunate case. What a surprise.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/08/11 at 05:24 PM in The wider contextsN America contextMore hoaxers


Today there are news reports of David Wu trying to explain and apologise to his constituents, and avoiding some questions such as what had he said that offended who, and why did so many of his staff resign.

He seems to have had only the one involvement in the Knox case. That may have been as a result of some heat from his Italian-American colleagues in Congress.

We had contact from the chief of staff for one of the Italian-American congressmen asking if we could explain why Italy was suddenly being so slimed and calls for boycotts being made by public figures like Donald Trump.

The Italian-American caucus might conduct some hearings. Presumably Steve Moore and Bruce Fisher and some other nouveau experts on Italy would be subpoenaed so that their wisdom could be explored.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/08/11 at 07:38 PM | #

There is a dichotomy in American society with regards to Italians and Italian Americans. On one hand there is great respect for the culture, the amazing history from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance all the way up to the modern era, the great athletes, artists, car designers and engineers, inventors like Marconi and of course the food (I know I left out many other aspects, but you get the point).

On the other hand, through the media we also see corruption regarding Mafia, both the glorification as well as the real world images we get through the news of figures such as John Gotti Sr and Jr. To Americans, Sicilian and Italian are one of the same and I realize this is incorrect.

Many Italians will point out how they are two very different cultures, like comparing Spain to Mexico. But these images have been ingrained in our minds for decades, and unfortunately, “Italian” society as far as the law is concerned is labeled by many Americans as intrinsically corrupt as a result.

Posted by Kazwell on 03/09/11 at 01:29 AM | #

Hi Kazwell. Perceptive comment. I do agree. You know whereof you talk.

I had a couple of encounters with the mafia in the 1980s in NYC. Heading home across town from the UN one night I was the third or fourth to come by Sparks Steak House where the bodies of Paul Castellano and his bodyguard were lying after John Gotti’s people gunned them down. And I walked past Gotti’s social club on Mulberry Street one day in a suit and I guess they though I was FBI because half a dozen heavy-set guys came out grinning and waving their fingers after me.

That was the tail end of the mob though. Gotti was sent off for a life term (he died) and Rudolph Giuliani wound up all the NYC mob families and for 20 years the mafia has barely been mentioned here on the news.

But the same media that lams into Italy over the case keeps the “glory” of the mafia alive with TV programs like the Sopranos, which was filmed just to the west of where I live to the great irritation of all Italian Americans living there.

Tell anyone here that the three mafia families in Italy (Naples, Calabria and Sicily) are also nearly defunct and they are amazed. Tell them Italy’s murder rate is 1/6th that of the US and the prison population 1/30th that of the US’s and they have to pinch themselves they are so stunned.

When I ran UN development programs in Europe, everybody’s first choice was to have the meetings in Italy. Nobody in Europe mocks Italy. It is only here that that happens. Congressmen are right to object to the crazy line the media and conspiracy theorists choose to take.

Giuliani of course was Italian American. His politics is not for me but he was a brave man to put the mafia down. And the videos of Sicily are among the most enticing on the site here. One place I still gotta go.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/09/11 at 04:03 AM | #

Peter, thanks for sharing your insights. Amazing story regarding the Sparks Steak House massacre. I recall hearing on the news about it in the 80’s, but in the last few years I saw a more in depth portrait through the program “American Justice” which features many segments involving mafia in America, thus further ingraining the image of Italian Americans as criminals.

Yes, the Sopranos is the most recent media depictions of the Italian mafia, but let’s not forget the mother of all, The Godfather that wholeheartedly captured the imagination,(both good and bad) of the “Italian” mafia (although it was made clear in the movie Don Corleone was from Sicily) in America and is considered by many film critics as one of the top ten American films of all time. Ironically, this honor was due to the masterful work of director Francis Ford Coppola and the music from his brother Carmen Coppola. Further proof of the artistic genius of Italian Americans, but also a thorn in their side due to the movie’s glorification of fictional figures representative of their culture, who, in the end, were nothing but criminals and cold blooded killers.

Let’s also not forget another legendary Italian American film director, Martin Scorsese, who, although has painted a less glorified-more realistic portrait of the Italians involvement in underworld activity, has still directed several acclaimed movies such as “Goodfellas” (considered by many insiders as the most realistic portrait of the the underworld) which only served to further etch the image of the Italian American mafia into the psyche of millions of movie goers.

Posted by Kazwell on 03/09/11 at 10:56 AM | #

I wish Daniel Wu well in getting the help he needs.

Posted by Janus on 03/09/11 at 01:01 PM | #

Hi Janus. Signs are Mr Wu was already on medication and came off it and refused to go back on and a lot of people got hurt. He has already started his 2012 campaign because it came as quite a shock in Portland that their congressman was running amoke. If he gets back in at the next election I hope one promise is he never puts everyone through this again.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/09/11 at 05:07 PM | #

With regard to the portrayal of Italy and Italians in the moveis: Yesterday, I watched an old BBC miniseries (Acorn DVD) called Summer’s Lease. It depicts the beauty and culture of Italy, focusing on the Tuscan villas, countryside, and culture, as well as art in Florence and Urbino such as Piero della Francesca’s. For mystery lovers, it is also a bit of a mystery story. The main actors are great, too: Susan Fleetwood (Mick’s sister, unfortunately she died of cancer), and John Gielgud (who plays her irrepressible father and won an Emmy for the role).

Unfortunately, there’s a bit of anti-Italianism in the story, as the mystery involves some corrupt Italian water officials. So, the stereotyping goes on. The novel was written by John Mortimer, author as well of the Rumpole of the Bailey series, and father of actress Emily Mortimer (of Pink Panther fame).

So, I would recommend the miniseries as an interesting mystery story, with good characterizations and portrayals of Italy itself as beautiful and cultural, but unfortunately not with very good portrayal of the Italians themselves.
With regard to Congressman Wu: This quote from his original letter in support of questioning the Knox verdict jumped out at me:

“In April 2009, Ms. Knox’s attorney, Ted Simon, stated before national media, ‘There’s brand new information presented as part of Amanda’s appeal by another person…that states for the first time that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were not present or were not involved.’”

That’s the only hard evidence he offered in his letter that purported to question the verdict. What has happened to Mr. Simon’s “brand new information… [that] another person…states for the first time that [AK and RS] were not present or were not involved”? We have seen no such person (unless you count a baby-killer), so where is it?

With regard to Wu himself, I hope as a Democrat that he will either get the help he needs (which I hope for his own sake as well), or step aside so another worthy Democrat can run in his place. Best wishes to him!

Posted by Earthling on 03/09/11 at 09:53 PM | #

I hope Mr. Wu gets better.  Mental illnesses are often overlooked and wiped under the carpet as embarrassing or a sign of weakness.  I wish Mr. Wu the best in his recovering.

Posted by Lillian on 03/09/11 at 10:52 PM | #

Make a comment


Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry Giuliano Mignini’s Seeingly Trumped-Up Conviction For Guessing Right In The MOF Case

Or to previous entry Thoughts On Meredith’s Tragic Case And Its Significance In The Bigger Scheme Of Things