by Josh Manning
Manning is military veteran, and state civil rights investigator who lives in Helena. Follow him on Twitter @
I have been waiting three weeks for Congressman Ryan Zinke to make a solid denunciation of the comments Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has made about veterans and their families. He has been silent. The most Zinke has said is that he does not agree with Trump 100% of the time. So is it 99.99%? And what does he not agree with? Trump’s tie choices? His ties to Russian oligarchs and mafia officials? (Hint: They are the same thing and they are in deep with Trump Enterprises.) That Trump did not select him as vice president?
Zinke, as usual, offers no details or strong opinions. So I am going to run with the theory this he is fine with Trump demeaning prisoners of war as not heroes. That he is okay with Trump’s lie that he contributed millions of dollars to veterans’ causes when he did not contribute anything until exposed as a fraud. That he is content with Trump’s disgusting comments toward Khizr, Ghazala, and Captain Humayun Khan.
A few veterans and I spoke out about these things last week. During that press conference, a reporter asked if we would endorse Denise Juneau for Congress. I did not want to answer for them or for all veterans but I want to write here that I fully, unequivocally endorse Superintendent of Public Instruction Juneau as the best choice to replace our current first term congressman. I was more than happy to work from the sidelines to help her campaign after she first announced and I have contributed to her campaign. With Zinke taking this coward’s way with Trump, the danger is now more apparent of how poorly he represents this state. I am going to sing from the mountaintops how important it is that she become our next congressional representative and the first woman in 100 years to represent our great state. She will be more than able to take the mantle of Jeannette Rankin.
An attack on veterans or their families is an attack on all of us–no matter what our political beliefs. Three weeks ago would have been a good time for Zinke to show up. This shows how he does not stand with veterans. He does not stand with Montanans. He stands alone for his own career and profit. It is beyond time for him to show some leadership or get out of the way for someone who can. We have that in Denise Juneau.
I teamed up with Missoula Representative Andrew Person to create a page where veterans and families can come show their support for Juneau. You can find it here. I also urge Cowgirl readers to do what they can to support Representative Person, a combat veteran who is in a tough race. We need people like him in the legislature and to build the bench for the future.
I have heard Zinke has a lot of respect among Montana Republicans and even some Democrats. I do not understand why. Two years ago, when he ran on his his military service he seemed like a fraud and I have long felt, if I may, that he “trumped up” his military accomplishments. My opinion has been strengthened by his recent inactions and I know other veterans can read between the lines.
Zinke has failed the military and veterans recently and throughout his time in Congress. Here are a few examples, though I am sure readers have more:
Our congressman said a war against Syria would be easy (minute 14:10 to 14:15). Ask anyone who fought Fallujah or Bagram or Hanoi or Omaha Beach if war is “easy.” There is no such thing as easy in war or combat and anyone who tells you that is selling snake oil. I want someone representing Montana who understands hardship and what leadership means. Someone who won’t foolishly or carelessly send the people we see at baseball games or on the trails or at the grocery store into harms way.
He told veterans who receive benefits that they are in “economic slavery,” yet that is ignorant of how he too has received those same benefits. Zinke, like Trump, has played fast and loose with the idea of privatizing the Veteran’s Administration. This would be a disaster for an organization already buckling under the weight of so many wars.
He has missed critical veterans votes because he was too busy promoting himself on Fox News. Zinke ensured he was on TV or promoting his brand but missed Congressional votes allowing businesses and local governments to give preference to veterans in hiring.
Not to mention his affiliated political action committees seem like they are ripe for scandals.
Like thousands of Montanans, Zinke has worn our nation’s uniform but he does not represent the beliefs so many of veterans hold dear. It is the person who has not worn the uniform but who through hardship, tenacity, and intelligence has earned my utmost respect. The choice is clear and Montana’s best path forward must involve Denise Juneau in Congress.
As Richard Hugo wrote in “Driving Montana”: Tomorrow will open again, the sky wide.