Tag Archives: Jon Tester

Political Quick Hits

Knudsen Taken to Task for Claiming Medicaid Expansion Eligible Montanans Don’t Work

The Missoula Independent’s Dan Brooks explains Austin Knudsen’s “Sickening Stance” on Medicaid expansion.  It’s a must read.


More Disrespect for Working People

Two recent news stories paint a telling contrast between Ryan Zinke and Jon Tester.

In Jon Tester’s first days in the Senate in 2007, he stopped by and said hi to the maintenance staff, appreciated their hard work, and even got his hands dirty.

In Ryan Zinke’s first days in the Congress, he called the maintenance staff “a larger problem.”

These workers don’t just hang pictures. They move desks, fix broken chairs, and make sure the building isn’t falling apart. They keep government office spaces running. This isn’t just about Zinke’s assault on hardworking federal employees (which is bad enough), it’s about disrespecting people whose jobs are “beneath” his and calling them “bureaucracy.”

Perhaps he should let the maintenance workers hang the pictures, and take an hour or two to hire a Montanan in his DC office – which is stacked with out-of-staters and questionable hires.


Conflicts of Interest

Two Helena city commissioners appear to have put their personal interests as lobbyists over the people of Helena.  Matt Elsaesser voted against a resolution in support of Medicaid expansion citing the need to lobby right-wing lobbyists as part of his personal careers.  Mayor Jim Smith, who is also a lobbyist when not serving on the city commission, laughably cited a supposed “political risk” to the city if Helena supported Medicaid expansion.  Helena is not well served when its elected commissioners put their personal lobbying jobs and ridiculous amorphous theories over citizens.

Tester Gets Top Fundraising Post

It has been announced that Jon Tester has been named Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  This means that he will be in charge of a major pot of national loot, money that is biennially doled out to democratic candidates for US Senate.  This assignment will serve Tester well especially if he has an interest in leadership or bigger or better committee assignments in the Senate down the road.

Whether it will serve him well at home is another question.  Indirectly it could certainly help Montana if it means that Tester get’s more influence within the Senate.  This could mean more bacon being brought home to Montana. But of course, the assignment allows the GOP to claim Tester is a “DC Insider.”  Fortunately by the time 2018 rolls around Tester probably won’t even still be holding the DSCC post any more, since it rotates every two years.

As for those who work in and around politics in Montana, based on some of the chatter today I feel I should point out that the big dough that Tester gets to raise will probably not find its way into the democratic party until the 2018 Senate race is afoot.  So I’m afraid there will be no immediate windfall for party workers.

The more interesting part of this news is the fact that Tester has been outspoken in his opposition to Big Money in politics, and is even sponsoring a Constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  He spoke about it at Harvard Law last week.   To reconcile these two endeavors–fighting against big money, while having to raise it like crazy–will require some nimble positioning to say the least.  It can be done, but it won’t be easy.

Overall, however, the Cowgirl blog endorses this move as a good one for Tester, and he gets best wishes on his new gig.


UPDATE: Stanford and Dartmouth Caught Copying Each Other’s Mailergate Letters, Also Stanford Misspells Name of MT Senator

A disturbing new development in the mailergate scandal this week.

As Cowgirl readers will recall, Sen. Tester wrote a scathing letter criticizing the unethical and potentially illegal acts committed by professors employed by these schools. Sen. Tester had given the schools a deadline to respond (which you can read here).

UPDATE: It turns out that Stanford met that deadline with their response letter, but Dartmouth did not.  Not the other way around as I had earlier been told.  (To be fair, it is not known at this point if someone’s dog may have eaten the Dartmouth response.)

Then when Dartmouth finally did respond they essentially copied the (somewhat patronizing) Stanford letter word-for-word in many passages.  Or perhaps they both decided to compare notes. Stanford couldn’t even be bothered to spell Sen. Jon Tester’s name correctly.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 8.25.07 PM

Here is a handy color-coded guide to identifying the identical passages:

Pink text. Passages taken verbatim.

Yellow text. Passages taken virtually verbatim.

For example here’s Dartmouth’s opening paragraph from its letter:

“On behalf of Dartmouth College, I sincerely apologize for the confusion and concern caused by the voter participation research study independently undertaken by Dartmouth and Stanford political scientists referenced in your letter dated October 24. As you know, Montana officials have begun an inquiry in response to a complaint that was filed with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices with which we are fully cooperating.”

And here is Stanford’s:

“On behalf of Stanford University, I sincerely apologize for the confusion and concern caused by the voter participation research study independently undertaken by Stanford faculty members in partnership with their colleagues at Dartmouth College. As you know, Montana officials have begun an inquiry in response to a complaint that was filed with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices. We are fully cooperating with that inquiry.”

The entire letter is like this.

This obviously speaks volumes about how seriously they are taking this.

If anything, Stanford should be taking the matter more seriously than Dartmouth, since they contributed $100,000 worth of resources (over 1/3) of the project, although they claim none of this has been spent.   The school’s response to the press so far has been to emphasize the Hewlett Foundation’s funding for this disaster and to de-emphasize their own contribution.

Montanans still need to know who approved the expenditure of $100k on a project that included these fake mailers – why Stanford released the funds without requiring the project to undergo any review.  Do they just give $100,000 to anyone, without review, no questions asked?

If that’s the case, I encourage them to send $100,000 my way for a very important blogging project I’m working on. Once I become a blogging billionaire, I promise to give the members of the Stanford endowment board a $5 annual discount on a subscription to this important news publication.

UPDATE: Stanford has contacted the Cowgirl blog to ask that I tell you that:

The mailer sent by Dartmouth and Stanford faculty members to Montana voters the week of Oct. 22 cost a total of $38,000. Those funds were entirely from an unrestricted grant from the Hewlett Foundation. 

As is pointed out in the comments to this post,

Buried in the fine print (on Stanford’s website on mailergate):

“The project was funded by an unrestricted grant from the nonprofit William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The $250,000 grant was for the researchers to study issues including electoral geography, political polarization, redistricting and other topics. Of that, about $34,000 was used for the study involving Montana elections. The Hewlett Foundation had no control over the study and did not review the mailers. Stanford University also committed $100,000 in matching funds for the work of the researchers’ lab, the Spatial Social Science Lab, though none of this money has been spent yet. ”


Update on Mailergate, and How You Can Take Action

mailergateThe question that everyone wants answered right now is: who paid for two Stanford “researchers” and one researcher Dartmouth College to send 100,000 fake “voter guides” into Montana, with the look and feel of official state voter guides.  You can see the fake voter guides on the Flathead Memo here. Stanford has apologized, Dartmouth has been silent.  Stanford is also claiming it to have been a part of a political science “study” to see how injecting partisanship into our non-partisan Supreme Court election would effect voters.

There are a few strange circumstances surrounding this whole thing, and we need answers. First, understand that what the mailers actually say isn’t “Paid for by Stanford and Dartmouth” but rather, “Paid for by researchers at Stanford University and Dartmouth College.”  This is an important distinction.  It means, perhaps, that the University staff might have  gotten funds for the project from an outside source.  That happens very often  as corporate influence grows in academia. Stanford and Dartmouth faculty, as is the case in many major universities, often work for hire and make good money doing it.  We know that Stanford and the Hewlett Foundation apparently paid for some of this research, but we do not know if they funded all of it or which parts.

Say I am a professor of political science at one of these schools.  I learn that Stanford University prohibits research funded by the tobacco industry.  No problem.  I have my own company for that.  I accept the funds not through Stanford, but through my private research or consulting firm, and yet I still allow Phillip Morris to say the research I did “was conducted by Stanford Professor Dr. Jane Smith.”  See how this works?

This very thing, in fact, caused a big controversy a few years ago between former Governor Brian Schweitzer and a law professor at the University of Montana.  She published a “study” in which she concluded that the tax climate in Montana was bad for business.  Unfortunately, the study was not commissioned or funded by the University but by a private group, the Tax Foundation, which consists of a bunch of right-wing economic imbeciles who spend 40 hours a week worshipping Ronald Reagan.  I think this is how many major schools are able to take advantage of corporate money.

We don’t know whether these Dartmouth and Stanford researchers were using such funds, but it is something that I am looking forward to finding out.  What if a conservative think tank funded the project?  It would be a wholesale corruption of academia and of politics; actually, it’d be corruption by academia of politics.

Although it’s  too early to tell what’s going on,  the #mtpol crowd took to twitter today to rail against Dartmouth and Stanford, as if these universities had launched a full scale invasion against Montana.   We should all take a deep breath.  The state of Montana will still be here Monday, ill conceived though the mailer may have been. Even Jon Tester got into the act, sending a letter to the Postmaster General demanding that he investigate whether federal law has been broken, and sending a letter to  Stanford’s President John Hennessy and Dartmouth’s president Philip Hanlon, seeking answers.  This comes on the heals of a Linda McCulloch press conference yesterday which kicked things off, which she followed up today by filing a formal complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Basic questions abound and need answers.  For one thing, how can a learned professional who is an expert in politics and government not understand the nature of a mailer that links a candidate in Montana to president Obama, who is at 27% job approval?  How could they not understand the basic rules of political practices?  Conversely, why would anyone think that a single mailer, which most people glance at and then toss along with 30 other political mailers that arrive at their home, create a measurable effect to be studied in a lab?  I assume that these professors were going poll voters who received the mailer, and compare it to a poll of voters who did not, and then see if the mailer had any effect on the recipients.  It just seems kind of silly, given the amount of mail flying around on the judicial race, that these researchers could somehow test the efficacy of the mailer of their choice.  Finally, what of the ethical question at the root of this? Namely, should a University be using a state as a petri dish, meddling with our political process and causing real-world results to the citizens of Montana?  Doesn’t that cross the line? And what if these professors are, in fact, getting paid by a right-leaning entity so that the Stanford and Dartmouth names are stamped on this effort, to disguise it as a research project?

Unfortunately, both Dartmouth nor Stanford refused say precisely where the money came from.  That’s not good, and it entitled us to speculate wildly. I also wonder whether the Stanford University and Dartmouth College faculty senate have even heard of this controversy, or if so, whether they will take action.  They need to get in the game and should probably do an investigation of their own.  Recall that it was the faculty senate, not the President, that forced Stanford University to ban funding and grants from Big Tobacco for research and development, and to divest the endowment from tobacco stocks. How can Cowgirl Blog readers take action?  Give the presidents of Stanford and Dartmouth a shout, and ask them why they are treating our voters like guinea pigs.

President John Hennesy
Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon

President’s.Office@Dartmouth.edu Phone: 603-646-2223

And, let the faculty senates know what’s going on. Russell Berman is Chair of the Stanford University Faculty Senate.  He can be reached at:650 723 1069 / 650 723-1068


Dean Michael Mastanduno is the Chair of the Dartmouth College Committee of Chairs of the Arts and Sciences Faculty michael.mastanduno@dartmouth.edu 603-646-3999

It might be good to send them both some of the local media reports for background.  Here’s the most recent.   They should also be asked to demand that these professors disclose who paid for this disaster.

Judy Goldstien is Chair of the Department of Political Science at Stanford.  She is also a member of the Faculty Senate judy@stanford.edu (650) 723 0671

John Michael Carey is Chair of the Department of Government at Dartmouth john.m.carey@dartmouth.edu 603-646 1130

It is important to know that Prof. Adam Bonica, one of the authors of the study, is a member of Chair Judy Goldstien’s Political Science Dept.  It would be good to ask her why Bonica is meddling in Montana’s elections? Did she know about this?  What will she do about this?  Does she know who paid for it?  Kyle Dropp is under Professor Carey.  What does he know about Kyle Tropp’s meddling in our elections?

Richard P. Saller is Dean of School of Humanities & Sciences and  he is an ex Officio member Faculty Senate

The Stanford Department of Political Science is part of the  School of Humanities.  He needs to be asked the same questions posed to Dept. Chair Judy Goldstein.


GUEST POST:  A letter the US Senators of Montana

[This is a guest post by David M. Jordan who is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy and lives on Georgetown Lake.]  


I question the appropriateness of Ryan Zinke using his military background as the basis for a political campaign. I believe his actions denigrate all who have served in the US military, worn the uniform with pride, and do not expect acclaim for our deeds; that his actions could be conceived as being condoned by the US Navy as being in violation of US Navy Uniform Regulations, which prohibit the wearing of the uniform or any part of it for political aims, seems to have not occurred to Mr. Zinke.

We who have been retired from the US Navy long enough to realize that most people get tired of hearing about it real quick, have many medals and decorations among our souvenirs have had experiences that we might sometimes reluctantly share if someone asks. We can put some things on a resume and some things we can’t. None of us can hang up a sign with our stars or chevrons and a gentleman really never brags. We care for our families and our way of life as we always have.

Mr. Zinke, on the other hand, has really not been a civilian long enough understand that he is selling his uniform and insignia to espouse a political agenda and that act is disrespecting everyone else who has worn that uniform.

I now spend my life in the National Forests. I am writing this letter in a cabin with a Forest Service property lease that is across the lake from our past [Montana] governor’s home. I work at a ski area that is on Forest Service land up the road. My family is comfortable.   Mr. Zinke is selling out the life I fought for and he is trying to make it look like I agree with him.

I am a retired Master Chief Petty Officer. I am very proud of my service but am a little embarrassed when someone thanks me for it. I love my uniform and it would be nice to wear it to a job interview. I can’t really share most of my sea stories because most people think I’m boasting or lying. Many of my friends are Honorably Discharged, not retired, and wear things on their VFW  and American Legion hats. The rules for active duty, reserve and retired persons are different. These rules and reasons for them are spelled out in US Navy Uniform Regulations. Google it.

I don’t expect you to attack a hero. A well-intentioned query to the CNO or Chief of Naval Special Warfare could be interesting.   I did not make Rear Admiral because I was not that perfect. I made it as far I did with the help of people above me and the sweat of my shipmates. Most of us don’t make it to the top but we are all honorable.

Mr. Zinke has not had the courage to publicly embrace his Tea Party friends and giga–buck backers. He does not advertise his plan to destroy our way of life and cash in on Montana’s wealth of natural resources.

The military life is nothing if not politics. It is not noted as an incubator for statesmen. (Colin Powell is an exception, but he made 4 Star General.)

Thank YOU for your service and sacrifice for our country,

David M. Jordan MCPO(SW) USN,ret.

Ps. To Senator Walsh, Sir, I have seen strong men ask for help in the most unbelievable ways. War is hell. Welcome home.


Big Weekend in Montana Politics: Dem Dinner, and Bohlinger, Driscoll, Turiano, Arntzen enter race

It’s a big weekend for Democrats in more ways than one.  Tonight is the Mansfield Metcalf Dinner, the annual soiree at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds at which people drink, eat, and cheer on their favorite democratic politicians.

Make sure to look for me with my spurs and my chaps, and my donkey pin.

Tonight’s guest speaker is Cecile Richards, who is the head of Planned Parenthood of America. This is a good choice as it shows the that Democrats are becoming more comfortable in recognizing how important their stance on medical privacy really is.  And her appearance could not be more timely, coming on the heels of a horrible incident of vandalism of an abortion clinic in Montana.

Others on the list include John Walsh, our new senator, as well as Governor Steve Bullock, Senator Jon Tester, and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen, Superintendent Denise Juneau and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. And don’t forget the popular Ed Smith, the clerk of the Supreme Court, as well as state House and Senate Leaders Jon Sesso and Chuck Hunter. Bring your money but don’t drink too much, especially if you are giving a speech. Hopefully, we can at least be assured there will be no poetry.

Even bigger news occurred Friday, when a number of politicians entered some of the top races. John Bohlinger officially entered the race against Senator Walsh. John Driscoll, the nominee for U.S. House in 2008, filed to run in the Democratic House primary against John Lewis. And Drew Turiano, a white supremacist, has filed to run in the House Race as well (the GOP always tries to have at least one white supremacist on the ballot). And Elsie Arntzen made her candidacy official, too. She presents a stark contrast to the other candidates in this crowded primary (and most other GOP primaries), and was immediately endorsed by Rick Hill.

The Bohlinger deal is interesting since he had given indications, around the time Walsh was appointed Senator, that he would bow out. But now he’s in it for certain. The 77-year-old Republican turned Democrat is a former Lt. Governor, former clothing merchant from Billings and former Marine boxer, and is well known among voters and has a freewheeling style and says what’s on his mind, contrasting to the more measured Walsh. Bohlinger has not raised much money and Walsh has raised a good clip (half a million or more), but that stuff matters only when the money is spent. We shall see how and when (or if) the Walsh campaign chooses to spend some of its war chest in the primary against Bohlinger. Bohlinger, meanwhile, is trying to fashion himself as a progressive, outsider alternative to Walsh. He says Walsh was anointed by Harry Reid and others in Washington.

By the way, word on the street is that Bohlinger has been denied a speaking spot on the program tonight. That would be okay, I suppose, if the rule were that only incumbents or unopposed candidates got to speak. But that’s not the case. We will see if Bohlinger causes a fuss (or even attends). We might even be lucky enough to hear from his and outspoken political advisor on the subject. I can’t wait. Dirk Adams, by the way, is also not listed on the program.

Nor is Driscoll, the new House candidate. But that is definitely a good thing because he is the Democratic equivalent of a Tea Party imbecile (if such a thing could even be said to exist). He has said that he plans to run for office without raising any money. We’ll see how that works out for him. Driscoll also claims the odd distinction of being the only Democrat in Montana history (so far as I can tell) to win a nomination and then immediately endorse his Republican opponent.  As the Democrat nominee in 2010 he endorsed Rehberg. That’s reason enough not to listen to anything he has to say and to let your Democratic friends know that Driscoll is simply a fraud.

You can buy a ticket at the door, and don’t miss it: 6-9 P.M.  Eat, drink and be merry, and cheer on (and donate to) our candidates. And if at any time during the festivities it gets slow or boring, just remind yourself what the Republican dinner must be like.

First Day on the Job

On his first day on the job, U.S. Senator John Walsh (D-MT) got right to work.

Among his first acts was to announce his plans to co-sponsor the Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, the Center for Public Integrity reports, which will make campaign finance reports more transparent, more quickly.

The bill requires senators and Senate candidates to electronically file their campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. Its main sponsor is fellow Montanan Jon Tester, who Montanans sent to Washington after becoming fed up with the corruption and pay-to-play games of Conrad Burns.

You can read the full story here. 


Poll: Daines in Trouble

A public opinion poll was released today showing that Congressman Steve Daines has an abysmal 39% job approval rating. The poll is conducted annually by Montana State University professors and students, in Billings. Steve Bullock has a strong rating at 53%. Baucus and Tester are in the 40s, Tester having perhaps been unavoidably dragged down by what’s going on in Washington, and by Obama whose numbers in Montana are very poor (29%).

If we are to believe this poll, it means that Daines is the most unpopular Montana elected official since Judy Martz.

Continue reading

Barry Beach Tries for Clemency, Again

Barry Beach, serving a 100 year prison sentence with no possibility of parole, has applied to the Montana Board of Pardons for clemency.  If he gets what he wants then the Board will recommend to Governor Bullock that Beach be made eligible for release, having now served 30 years in prison for a 1983 crime he says he did not commit. Bullock could then accept or reject the recommendation.

An all-star lineup of politicians has written letters on Beach’s behalf including Conrad Burns, John Tester, Brian Schweitzer and John Bohlinger.  Bullock’s duty as Attorney General was to argue in support of Beach’s conviction, but that doesn’t preclude him from now allowing Beach to be paroled.  But this is all assuming that the Board gives Beach a favorable ruling.  If the Board turns Beach down then it’s the end of the line for Barry.  He will live out the rest of his life in prison unless he lives to the age of 118.

In 2011, a district Judge in Lewistown ordered Beach released after a hearing was held in which new doubt about his conviction was raised.  Six months later the Supreme Court overturned the order and sent him back to jail.  Beach took advantage of his freedom and started his own business, and otherwise lived out his brief respite without incident.

The doubts surrounding Beach’s conviction are well known to anyone who has followed the sizable amount of journalism on the case.   The short story is that his conviction was based entirely on a confession, which he says was coerced by the policemen who had him in custody.  There was no forensic evidence of any kind that tied Beach to the crime.

The Missoula Independent did a very thorough write-up a few years ago, which I encourage you to read.  To summarize, in 1983 Beach was convicted of the murder of Kim Nees, a high school classmate.  Beach was 17 at the time of the murder.  There were many fingerprints and footprints found at the crime scene, which was a muddy river bank where Kim Nees’s body was found face down in shallow water not far from her truck.   None of these prints matched Beach.  There were eyewitnesses who told police investigators that they had seen a gang of women in the truck with Nees shortly before she was murdered.

Beach was arrested in Louisiana three years later, for a misdemeanor.   While in custody, the police took his confession to four murders, three local murders and the Nees murder, which they learned about after calling up to Poplar Montana to ask local police about Beach.  The three local Louisiana murders which Beach confessed to were later determined to have nothing to do with him because he hadn’t even been in the state at the time of their occurrence.

Beach has always claimed that his confession to the Nees murder, in which he admits to beating Nees with a wrench for rebuffing his sexual overtures, was coerced with deprivation, intimidation, threats of torture and the electric chair, and many deceptive promises made to him by the four officers who were present when they took the confession.   The confession was taken in a notoriously corrupt Louisiana sheriff’s office. There was a tape recording of Beach’s confessions including his confession to the Kim Nees murder, but it vanished, as did all of the physical evidence collected at the crime scene, including items such as cigarette butts with unidentified fingerprints on them.

And then there was the prosecutor, the future Governor Marc Racicot who tried the case. In his opening statement to the jury, Racicot announced that he would soon be showing the jury a single pubic hair that had been discovered on the sweater of the victim and which had similarities to Beach’s hair.  But Racicot never produced any such piece of evidence.  Worse, he referenced the hair a second time, in his closing statement.

Racicot also called to the stand one of the the Louisiana cops who took Beach’s confession, an officer named Jay Via.  Via testified that Beach’s Louisiana attorney was in the interrogation room when Beach confessed. But Beach’s attorney, upon hearing this (he was in Louisiana during the trial), denied it vehemently in a sworn affidavit, essentially accusing Racicot and Via of perpetrating a blatant lie into evidence.

Three local girls (two of whom had immediate relatives who were working in the Poplar police department at the time of the murder, including one who broke into the evidence room during the trial) were among the initial suspects, in part because they were known to hold a strong animus against the victim.  In the years since, a number of locals in Poplar have come forward to say that they have heard first hand admissions of guilt by at least two of these women.  These locals testified at the 2011 hearing that led to the release of Beach by district judge E. Wayne Phillips who presides in Lewistown.

Judge Phillips, you will appreciate, used to work for Tea Party wingnut Art Wittich  when Wittich was counsel to GOP governor Stan Stevens.  So Phillips is no bleeding heart, apparently, and might even be a Tea Partier.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has stated that Beach should remain in prison for the next 70 years because he confessed and was convicted, and thus is guilty.  This has been the line out of the AG’s office since the early 2000s.

Nobody will ever know what took place on the night that Kim Nees was murdered, nor has Beach proved his innocence despite what his advocates might say.  Innocence cannot be proven here, I suppose, unless one of the other suspects admits under oath or on video tape to having committed the murder.

But given the history of this case and the facts surrounding the trial, it’s hard to imagine that the Board of Pardons would not at least make a recommendation to the Governor that Beach’s sentence be restructured so that he can apply for parole.  We should all be concerned with a case in which a 17 year old kid gets sent away for life with no possibility of parole, in which an a prosecutor with political ambitions presents lies to a jury to substantiate his case, in which a questionable confession is the sole piece of evidence, and in which much evidence was destroyed or simply disappeared.

This is Beach’s third try at clemency.  The first time he represented himself.  On his second try he was represented by pro bono attorneys from Centurion Ministries, an outfit which has freed over 100 wrongly convicted individuals, usually on DNA evidence but sometimes on false confessions.  That was in 2006, and he sought a full pardon and a declaration of innocence.  He lost.  This time, he is simply seeking a commutation of his sentence to time served.   We will see how he does.

Even if he had been proved guilty with overwhelming evidence, I might still support an opportunity for parole after 30 years of prison given his age at the time of the crime.  In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court no longer allows life without parole to be meted out to a minor, even in cases in which guilt is overwhelmingly obvious.  But with the amount of doubt surrounding his conviction, justice probably requires Beach to be free now.

Fox apparently disagrees.  I’d be interested to know how Racicot feels.  All Racicot has ever said to the press is that he has “no doubt that Barry Beach is guilty as charged.”   That was in 2007.  He has not specifically ever addressed the size of the sentence, and whether it might be a tad too heavy given the case history.  My guess is that we won’t hear from Racicot on this issue.  Because he probably knows, in his heart, that parole eligibility would be proper; and yet to express support for it would be to admit that he has doubts in his head about what he did in the courtroom in 1983.

Syria and Montana’s Vote

I’m tempted to have a violent, allergic reaction to the President’s advocacy of using force in Syria, given our hangover from the Iraq War, given that the Assad family has been killing Syrians wrongfully, tens or even hundreds of thousands of them, with conventional weapons for decades with no apparent concern on the part of the free world, and given that the White House has not provided much of a vision for a post Assad Syrian regime.

But of all the people on earth to be advocating for a new military engagement in the middle east, Barack Obama is probably the least likely.   For this reason alone, I believe, we should avoid a rush to judgment and think critically about what’s going on.  Barack Obama does not strike me as a person who shares George W. Bush’s love of military invasion.

Also, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, two giant right-wing jerks who have never before supported anything the President has put forward on any topic or issue, immediately announced their support for the President.  This, despite the major political peril of doing so–a strike in Syria, and a bad result, could mean the ouster of both of them, from leadership, or even from office by Tea Party primary challengers in their own districts (conservative voters are anti-war as of late, now that a black man is President).

I assume, therefore, that whatever intelligence Obama showed them was not of the George Bush Dick Cheney Don Rumsfeld junk-bond variety, but of the blue-chip variety, the kind with 99% certainty, the kind that we should have demanded before giving support to Bush to invade Iraq.  I find it impossible to believe that Cantor and Boehner would go out on this potentially suicidal limb based on speculative intelligence.

Obama may also have planned a two-step all along: get authorization and prepare to bomb, and look resolute, knowing (or hoping) that Assad will be forced to make a deal. Then tell Russia’s Putin that if he’s going to carry on a bromance with Assad, he needs to step up and broker a deal.  This is the outcome that might actually now be in the offing.

But it could not occur without Assad’s belief in a credible military threat from America.

Seen this way, if things work out for Obama and America with regard to Assad’s chemical weapons, people like Steve Daines–who announced yesterday that he opposes granting the President the option of using force–might end up finding themselves on the wrong side of history.  Obama may end up masterfully solving the problem by bluffing Assad into folding his hand.  Daines and his faction will be found to have tried to obstruct it all, worrying instead about opinion polls.  So, for that matter, might Tester and Baucus if they vote against authorizing force.  Presumably, Democrats are going to try to buy a little time here, and keep neutral while they carefully analyze what’s happening.  That would be smart.

Then again, it’s been only ten years since we were lied to by an administration that cooked up false intelligence to create a war.  We should recall the pathetic appearance of Colin Powell at the UN, where he played a scratchy audio tape of two Arabs mumbling something barely audible, and presented it to the world as evidence that Hussein was a nuclear threat.  It was laughably unpersuasive.  But, sheepish Democrats, fearing a vote against a war that might eventually prove successful in a narrative written by Republicans, buckled.  They did the wrong thing, and ended up on the wrong side of history.  It cost Hillary Clinton the presidency, most likely.

And so, ironically, could Republicans do the wrong thing in this case by opposing the President’s request.  It’s hard to tell.  I might ordinarily be inclined to say “Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on me”  (or as George Bush’s famously butchered it, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice….uhhhh….fool me I won’t get fooled again!!”)

But the fundamental difference between now and then: we had an imbecile for a president; now we have an intelligent leader.  And one thing I do know: Obama is not the type to falsify intelligence for the purposes of taking the country to war.

One more thing: as Dick Cheney and company went around on the eve of the Iraq war, trying to claim that Hussein was behind 9/11 and that he was on the verge of having a nuclear missile pointed at us (all complete nonsense), we can imagine that Steve Daines was out there cheerleading for him, acting like a young Republican in all of his asinine conservative glory, pumping his fist on behalf of Bush’s team, parroting the Bush team’s idiotic slogans, and accusing anybody who opposed the the President of not being a patriot, and of being “with the terrorists.”  Now he is suddenly a dove. He apparently thinks war is unjustified even though, from the sound of it, the presence of WMD in this current case is unquestionable, whereas the last time it was doubtful.  What is his standard, therefore, for when force is necessary?