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The Missoula Independent’s Embarrassing Rehberg Story

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Wow. I suppose it’s ironic that a few days after a little dustup with the owner of the Missoula Independent about quality reporting and the response of blogs, I came across the Independent’s recent obsequious, fawning portrayal of Dennis Rehberg.

Frankly, it’s a pretty unbelievable story. Framed as a question about the likelihood of anyone beating Rehberg, the story relies on three sources: Bob Brown, former Republican Secretary of State, Erik Iverson described as Rehberg’s friend and chief of staff, and finally, Dennis McDonald, Democratic Party Chairman. Critics of Rehberg don’t appear until the article is 3/4 complete, and are nicely surrounded by more claims by Rehberg’s political staff. Not exactly the most balanced coverage.

The article lets Rehberg staffers provide cover when the Congressman clearly lies at a public event about the estate tax, allows Republican operatives to make unsubstantiated claims about Jim Hunt’s understanding of Montana values, and presents Rehberg as the hardest working member of Congress, even though the facts force the reporter to acknowledge that Rehberg’s never actually achieved anything as a member of the House.

Consider what Rehberg’s own staff list as legislation that reflects Montana values:

“Time and again,” Rehberg has backed legislation that matters to Montanans, Iverson says. He’s sponsored bills to recognize Billings’ 125th anniversary, push for a water project in Fort Peck, and congratulate Carroll College’s football team for its 2007 league win. Most importantly, supporters say, Rehberg co-sponsored the CLEANUP (Clean, Learn, Abolish, Neutralize, and Undermine Production of Methamphetamines) Act to focus federal authorities on the meth problem. The bill is still in committee.

“That’s a major policy accomplishment,” Iverson says.

Wow. What an impressive collection of achievements. Resolutions honoring Billings and the Carroll football team? In one session? That must have been exhausting, and must have cost a tremendous amount of political capital.

Co-sponsoring a bill? One that hasn’t passed? Only someone as out of touch as Dennis Rehberg is could possibly imagine that co-sponsoring an unpasssed bill is an achievement.In a sense, it’s a perfect metaphor for who Rehberg is. Born into wealth and political connections, he takes credit for having “achieved” both, and cannot understand the reality of people who have truly struggled.

Isn’t it time for Montana to elect a Representative who thinks real achievement will be protecting the middle class, helping family farms, ensuring adequate wages, and protecting our environment, rather than boasting about having done nothing?

The former, to my mind, are real Montana values.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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