Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Congressman Zinke Keeps Saying He Needs to be “Loud.” How About Being Right Instead?

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During the last debate with Superintendent Juneau, Congressman Ryan Zinke said something that has remained with me. In response to criticism that he’s more interested in promoting himself than in representing the state, Zinke said (and his press staff retweeted) the claim that he needs to be so loud because Montana doesn’t have much representation in Washington. Specifically he said:

Now that seems wrong on two counts. One is the erroneous idea that being loud is the equivalent of being effective. One need only think of the example of Montana’s Mike Mansfield, who while certainly a heroic veteran and patriot, never loudly promoted himself at the expense of his state. He knew that real leadership came from working with his colleagues in the House and Senate, not putting himself above them, and his quiet, steady leadership offer a model that politicians like Ryan Zinke would do well to emulate.

Zinke was also just plain wrong when it comes to facts. California has 53 representatives, not 55, and if anyone should know that, it’s Congressman Zinke, who spends enough time in California that the Santa Barbara Independent has labelled him a “part-time resident” of the state. More on that later this week.

Never one to shy from a sound bite, even one that isn’t accurate, Zinke repeated this exact line in a softball interview with Fox and Friends this morning, during which he insulted the achievement of Montana students and once again falsely claimed that the House of Representatives had undone Common Core.

Zinke is wrong to denigrate Montana students and especially wrong to do it when speaking to a national audience. Those who understand education know that in the first year of Common Core testing the results were lower than in previous years, because the tests were significantly more challenging. States expected drops as high as 30% given the increased challenge of the new exams, which measured skills far beyond those demanded in previous tests and in 2016, Montana student scores actually improved on the test.

By every meaningful measure, from graduation rates to ACT scores, Montana students are some of the highest-performing in the nation. For our Congressman to go on national television and loudly and dishonestly suggest that Montana students are incapable in Math and English does real harm to our state, discouraging businesses from relocating to a place he’s depicting as some illiterate enclave. One of the roles of a member of Congress is to promote our state, and scoring political points by disingenuously disparaging our schools and students certainly isn’t helpful, no matter how loud it is.

As for the claim about the Common Core, it’s not the first time Zinke has lied about the issue, and it certainly won’t be the last time. Back in May, he also claimed that Congress had ended the Common Core State Standards. Then, not understanding that the Common Core Initiative was entirely separate from No Child Left Behind, he claimed that somehow Congress had restored local control of curriculum, even though they’d never lost it.

Today, the majority of states are still using the Common Core State Standards, something Congress has no say over. Montana is still using the Common Core State Standards, something Ryan Zinke has no control over.

The truth is that no one has done more to help Montana students on this issue than Denise Juneau. There are real concerns about the tests used to measure achievement of the Common Core Standards, so Superintendent Juneau, more interested in getting the job done than in politics, changed the test for all Montana juniors to the ACT, a change that will encourage Montana students to do well and be more prepared for college. Rather than being loud, she was a leader.

Being loud is important for Ryan Zinke, a man who has seriously suggested in his first term in Congress that he’s been considered a candidate for both the Speaker of the House and Vice President of the United States. For Montanans, though, what’s important is that our sole member of the House act like a leader who will put her interests behind the interests of state and its residents. If she’s elected to Congress, Denise Juneau won’t be on Fox News three times a week talking about herself and dishonestly disparaging the people of our state; she’ll be leading the fight to make sure that Montanans are heard where it matters in Congress.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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.

7 Comments

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  • Zinke is a part-time resident of Hope Ranch, CA.

    “In addition to being one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Santa Barbara, Hope Ranch is one of the wealthiest areas in California; the median home price was $2.61 million in 2006. Houses with ocean views generally list for at least $5 million, with oceanfront properties going for $25 million and more.” — Wilipedia

  • Don, lets cut to the chase. It is up to the voters. You are more than welcome to comment as these issues will drive how voters vote.

    Both Zinke and Juneau expressed support for Montana’s coal industry, and developing the state’s natural resources, but Ms. Juneau voted against leasing state owned coal in the Otter Creek coal tracts. I am not sure where Hillary is on this as she waffles, but the Dems/Obama are pushing the clean coal initiative creating havoc.

    Ms. Juneau believes the current vetting process is appropriate to bring Syrian refugees to Montana. Mr. Zinke supports the current vetting process is not sufficient for high risk refugees.

    Ms. Juneau is promoting stopping campaign fundraising from out-of-state donors. Ms. Juneau has received nearly 16 percent of her donations from Political Action Committees. Mr. Zinke has received just over 13 percent of his from political action committees.

    Ms. Juneau said the Affordable Care Act has done some good in Montana and in Indian Country. The law does need fixing, she said, but shouldn’t be thrown out. Mr. Zinke told the crowd he thought the best way to fix the program was to let decisions be made in Montana.t and more should be done to take insurance companies out of the driver’s seat.

    This is touching the third rail but it is out there……..Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau issued a statement opposing Fox’s action, calling it “a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

    “Here in Montana, we believe in local control of our public schools and trust our educators to do the right thing for all students,” she said. “It’s wrong for Fox to politicize guidance on how schools should implement Title IX.” The battle that began to take shape when officials in Charlotte passed a sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance that included a provision allowing transgender people to use restrooms/lockerrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

    I didn’t address international politics.

    • Bill, who doesn’t have a last name, here’s an addendum to your comment above. On Juneau/Zinke fundraising, from the Helena IR:
      “A little over 80 percent of $1.7 million in itemized individual contributions made to Zinke came from donors outside Montana, according to federal election filings submitted earlier this month. By comparison, 38 percent of Juneau’s $645,717 in individual donations have been from out-of-state. Looking instead at the number of contributors, 89 percent of those who donated to Zinke’s campaign listed out-of-state addresses compared to 19 percent for Juneau.”
      Are you sure you want to go down this path?

      • But, Mr. Zinke is not promoting stopping campaign fundraising from out-of-state donors. How much has Ms. Juneau returned? The best leadership is through example.

        • Good point, Bill. Zinke is in favor of Citizens United and elections going to the highest bidder. Juneau is not.

      • Pete, and Mr no last name because I am in a environment and have meany friends in the unions and educations so wish not to bring politics into that forum. But, the funny thing is with the entitlement crowd, education and the union members, the union members are swinging to the right/Trump as they have watched their pay checks and benefits erode. Also, it seems the union administration doesn’t seem to hear the members and/or is in the pockets of the DNC. The funny thing is that most academe hasn’t seem to be wise enough yet to realize this like most of the union members. I could be wrong about educators as maybe most chant the mantra but are closet right wingers now. What do you see in your crowd? Do most just shake their head and yes agree?

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