It has been fun watching the infighting among Montana Republicans–played out through a series of Christian conservative emails and on the right-wing Montanafesto blog–about whether Rick Hill’s extramarital activities with a barmaid, some years ago, are sufficient to disqualify him as a conservative worthy of nomination for governor.
Now it has gotten even better. Yesterday, Rick Hill (surprisingly) issued a response to the blast e-mail about him his infidelities. In doing so, Hill has not only taken the Religious Right’s bait, but he has also, in my opinion, made things worse by playing the old and tired “family card” and “victim card”.
Hill’s full statement can be viewed here. In it, Hill decries the general practice of negative attacks in politics, and expresses outrage at “attacks on his family”– by which he means an e-mail from a right wing conservative, simply stating that an adulterer who touts his “family values” should not be the GOP nominee for governor, and that Rick Hill would lose a general election.
The e-mail from the apparently uber-religious Nancy Davis can be viewed here. It contains news articles from the 1990s, including one with a statement by Hill’s ex-wife, Jennifer Spaulding, who Hill cheated on, and who came public about Hill’s cheating because she couldn’t stand to see Hill hypocritically slamming his political opponents for “lacking family values.” Spaulding says Hill was an emotionally abusive husband, and that he constantly ridiculed her for being unattractive and uneducated.
Hill admitted the whole affair, including a very disturbing story, related by Spaulding, about how she brought her kids to the bar to confront him, and Hill was hanging out with the cocktail waitress, took one look at his family, and told them to get lost.
And now Hill is playing the victim. This is a bad idea.
Why? Hill has a terrible record of very dirty campaigning. When he was running for re-election in 2000 (before he suddenly dropped out of the race), he trashed his opponent, Nancy Keenan, for “lacking an understanding of family values” because “she has no children of her own.” It was later revealed that Keenan had had a hysterectomy after cancer as a young woman. Hill’s accusation was a calculated and typical Montana GOP veiled suggestion about lesbianism. It was as ugly as politics has ever gotten in Montana. Hill’s GOP henchmen made hundreds of thousands of robo-calls all over the state, asking voters if they were “concerned about an unmarried and childless woman representing Montana in Congress.”
Also, in 1998 it was revealed that Hill had deployed his new (second) wife, Betti Hill, to assist a shady, third-party group in producing a TV attack-ad against Hill’s opponent, Bill Yellowtail. This attack ad accused Yellowtail of (you guessed it) lacking family values, based on the fact that he’d hit his wife many years earlier. Betti’s involvement was discovered when a memo surfaced, written by the head of the third party group (the TRIAD group), mentioning that it had been in communication with Betti Hill.
Hill has also deployed his sharp elbows against members of his own party, in primaries. Those of us in the Ag community with a long memory will recall that Hill smeared Dwight MacKay, a rancher who ran against Hill in the GOP primary in 1998, by insinuating that MacKay was a fake rancher. It was pure smear, and pure lies. But Hill had lots of money and MacKay did not, so it worked. Montanafesto has a few more examples of Hill “going negative” in GOP primaries.
The other thing I love about Hill’s response is that he wants us to believe, to presume, that he was cheating on a young wife with very young children by saying because, in his own words, he “had a difficult marriage.” This is an attempt to confuse the chicken and the egg. Hill probably had a difficult marriage because he was was cheating on his wife with a hot young cocktail waitress.
Hill should just admit that he did it, explain that it was many years ago, and then move on. Instead, he’s now blaming others, and blaming “politics”. He should have let the whole issue remain in the blogosphere and just ignored it.