Category Archives: Senate

Bit of a Stretch

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.

 

Steve Daines Runs Sketchy TV Ad

In case you haven’t seen it, a woman who worked for the Montana National Guard is claiming that she was discriminated against because she was refused a promotion.  She blames John Walsh, because Walsh was the head of the guard in before he was Lt. Gov.

This woman is featured in a TV ad being run by the Steve Daines campaign.  Her name is Cindy Neely and in the ad she says she personally experienced sexual discrimination while at the Guard, because she was repeatedly passed over for a promotion.  Those who were her supervisors (not Walsh, who was not) say she was simply unqualified for the position. Continue reading

Dem Party Makes Surprising Endorsement in Primary

We learned this week that the Democratic Party executive board, in a meeting earlier this month, voted to endorse John Walsh in his primary.  This left John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams out in the cold, and they are crying foul.

The Party rules disfavor endorsements in the primary, for the obvious reason that party politics are ultimately about people, not boards.  But the by-laws say that a “proven incumbent” can be endorsed “with a two thirds vote of the board.”  It is rare, and the rule is usually only employed in primaries where there is no serious opposition at all against an incumbent.   Baucus and Schweitzer received endorsements, for example, when they ran for re-election even though they had minor opponents.

However, this time things got sticky because on the same day that the Walsh endorsement was issued, the Party issued a statement in which Adams and Bohlinger were labeled as “not true Democrats.”

I can understand the value, strategically speaking, in trying to clear the field for John Walsh.  Walsh is leading the primary right now according to polls, and it is not a stretch to say that many things–his major fundraising advantage among them–make him the toughest candidate to field against Daines at this time.

But I am ambivalent about this move by the Party.  Bohlinger was once a Republican, yes, and voted also against choice, and he will have to answer for that in this election.   But he has since switched sides and supports choice, and progressives probably should keep in mind that though he has quacked like a Republican duck for many years at Schweitzer’s side, it was deliberately for the political benefit of the Schweitzer administration. Bohlinger worked hard every two year  to get Democrats elected.  And yes, Adams wrote checks to a few Republicans, for various reasons which he explained in the press lately, and that will (and should) hurt him among voters.  But he also gave to Democratic candidates.  And again, I am not sure that the Party should be proclaiming people as Democrats or Not Democrats.  We have to leave room for people to be able to change parties.

And I’ve been reading the remarks of critics on Twitter and elsewhere who point to the fact that the party is an organization that is designed to be grassroots, and I’m debating in my mind whether those arguments (even if pushed mainly by partisans of Bohlinger and Adams) should carry weight here.   If and when the Party endorses someone, it is supposed to reflect the clear and unequivocal opinion of the people.  Such could be said of the occasions in the past when the Party has made endorsements in the Primary.  I’m not sure it can be said here.

The Flathead Memo also has a post up on this that is worth reading.

 

 

Guest Opinion: Montana Tradition at Risk

 by John Bohlinger

Former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger is a candidate to be the Montana Democratic Party nominee for US Senate.

Montanans’ most fundamental right is at risk:  the right to choose who we want to represent us in free and open primary elections.

In an unprecedented political maneuver, our highest elected officials selected a candidate for the United States Senate, a decision made for Montanans in Washington, DC.

Historically, elected officials have trusted Montana voters to choose who we want on the ballot. Political parties and their elected officials have held fast to the tradition of not endorsing candidates in the primaries.

Last November 5th, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called me and told me to drop out of the senate race, because they had already chosen their candidate. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee didn’t want a primary. I refused, and life since then has been a long, cold winter in politics, in which I learned the dark side of power and money in politics.

The insiders broke the non-endorsement tradition, and our party’s endorsed candidate is now the US Senator — without any input from Montana voters. Is this what we want? I don’t think so. I believe every Montanan has a right to a voice and a vote in their own elections.

Our Constitutional freedoms have slowly been eroded away, and this latest threat is a blatant attack on the very foundation of our freedom — the democratic right to choose who shall represent us in our republic.  Every election, whether a primary or general is about choice!

It is a basic tenet of our democracy that government originates with the people and is founded upon their will. Somehow, we are being told that now, it originates from a few powerful people and is founded on their self-interest.

In Montana traditions matter.  I invite you to stand with me this spring and tell the power brokers in Washington, DC that we can make our own decisions. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  Freedom, Democracy and Justice are American principles.

Does Montana’s senate seat belong to Harry Reid? Is it for sale?

I say no. Win or lose, I believe the people of Montana have a right to choose and elect our own officials:  one vote at a time.