One of the more interesting strategies employed by Steve Daines as a political candidate is to either pretend that he doesn’t know how he’ll vote on an issue or actually not to know. During his House campaign against Kim Gillian, Daines repeatedly pretended that he just wasn’t sure how he felt about the Ryan budget, for example, only to run to Washington to cast votes for it. He’s playing the same game in this Senate race, demonstrating an absolute refusal to inform Montanans where he stands on the issues.
The most egregious example, of course, is that Daines won’t say where’d cut the federal budget, despite making the federal debt one of the centerpieces of his campaign. In his recent interview with Mike Dennison he offered the same non-specific proposals he always returns to:
He also touts his support of a balanced-budget amendment – but steadfastly resists lining out just which programs he’d cut to balance the budget. Instead, he says it’s time to “change the incentive structure in Washington, D.C.,” such as not paying Congress unless it submits a balance budget, or pass lower spending limits and have federal agencies identify the cuts.
That idea to not pay Congress is rhetorically cute, but doesn’t offer any answers to Montanans about the kind of cuts Daines will push for if elected to the Senate. He’s feigning ignorance because he wants Montanans to remain in the dark about the drastic cuts in government services and tax cuts for the 1% he actually supports.
If your damn motto is “less government,” shouldn’t you have the courage to say or the intellect to know what government services you’d like to cut?
Despite it being the centerpiece forest legislation impacting Montana, Daines also feigns ignorance about his position on the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Despite studying the bill and giving its his tentative support as far back as 2013, now that he’s running for the Senate, Daines just doesn’t know what he thinks about the bill. In fact, when asked by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Daines was “unavailable for comment.” Daines was so craven that the Chronicle called him out for it in an editorial, writing:
If Daines opposes the Jobs and Recreation Act, he should say so and state clearly what his objections are. Better yet, he should highlight the problems he has with the measure, set up a meeting with Tester and try to hammer out the differences.
Daines even extends his unwillingness to take a position to relatively obscure measures like the pending reauthorization of the Export-Import bank. Long supported by Republicans and in place since the New Deal, the EX-IM bank helps American businesses, including those based in Bozeman, sell goods overseas. When asked by the Bozeman Chronicle, though, Daines didn’t know how he would vote again:
Bozeman resident and Montana’s Republican Congressman Steve Daines said he hasn’t decided whether to support reauthorizing the bank.
“For me the core question is simply whether the bank, which was created during the Great Depression, remains necessary today to increase U.S. companies’ access to overseas markets and support jobs in our country,” he told the, Chronicle.
There’s a reason Daines is reticent to take a position on this one. Even though the Export-Important bank is widely supported by the business community, including the US Chamber of Commerce, TEA Party groups and the rabid Heritage Foundation plan to score the vote on the Ex-Im bank as a measure of true conservatism. Always on guard to protect his TEA Party flank but not wanting to alienate his corporate masters, Daines simply won’t state his position on this vote. Odds are he’ll skip the floor vote, too, given his political courage.
In the final analysis, Daines only gets away with this as long as the media let him. There should be more editorials calling him out for his unwillingness to speak the truth and fewer stories about managed press events at local businesses. Shouldn’t a race that could well determine the balance of power in the Senate have definite answers to clear questions?