The Montana political world was upended yesterday with the revelation that that John Walsh, our U.S. Senator and candidate, wrote a college paper in which he used language verbatim that he failed to properly attribute. He cited the sources in footnotes, but he was using the exact language belonging to another author and did not so indicate with quotation marks.
Today, Walsh is saying that he realizes he made a mistake but has shrugged it off by saying that he is not an academic, and that we should look at his entire military record rather than a term paper. That’s a fair point. He’s not the first person to make such a mistake. Authors of all stripes have done it. Walsh also says that he was suffering from PTSD at the time, having just returned from Iraq, but made it very clear that he won’t blame his mistake on PTSD.
There is no question that this story will affect Walsh’s candidacy, but it should not disqualify him at all. He’s a military leader, not Samuel Johnson. It’s not good, but it’s not anything near the outrage that the GOP is making it out to be. If Walsh was a decorated General, Awarded Bronze Star For “Exceptionally Meritorious Service,” the Commander of the National Guard, the Lt. Governor and now U.S. Senator, how can someone say that he is unqualified, in retrospect, to have been all of these things and to have won all of those medals and commendations because of a college term paper? It’s a bit of a stretch.
Nevertheless, let the circus now begin.
Steve Daines, predictably, is nowhere to be seen or heard on this issue because he knows there’s no percentage, and indeed no need, for him to say anything about it. But a week or so from now, expect to see a TV ad, probably from the Republican Party, telling us all about John Walsh’s plagiarism with scary music in the background. Expect also to hear from veterans who will talk about how outraged they are that Walsh would try to excuse plagiarism on PTSD, which he has not done. We might even get a pure swiftboating–hear from some soldier claiming that Walsh never had PTSD. It’s also interesting that this suddenly becomes a news story just as polls are starting to show Walsh gaining on Daines.
This is politics, and this is what happens when a story like this breaks, and their ain’t much Walsh can do beside put his best face on it and remind voters that Steve Daines plays childrens’ games in Congress and does things like throw tantrums and threaten to default on bills and shut the National Parks down–costing us $45 million in lost tourism and other dollars. And why is no one talking about how Daines opened all kinds of factories in China while his company laid off people in the U.S.? Meanwhile Walsh served in combat has a 33-year career fighting for Montana and wants to get something done in Washington rather than play games.
As for rumblings from the internet fringe today about whether Walsh should jump off the ticket before the August deadline, enabling the party to put in someone else, I think this would make no sense. First, there is nobody to replace him with, unless you think John Bohlinger would have a better chance against Daines right now which is debatable. Brian Schweitzer, Linda McCulloch, Denise Juneau and Monica Lindeen have all taken a pass already. Names like Carol Williams, Dirk Adams and so on, they would be starting at zero against a sitting Congressman, and would have an impossible fundraising hill to climb.
So this is what it is: Walsh is the best candidate for U.S. Senate, and this too shall pass.