So here we go folks–our summer comes to a close and the campaign season gets into full swing. The TV ads are non-stop, the fundraising emails are constant, and the candidates try to appeal to their core bases. Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale (R-Real Estate Tycoon, to use the old MT Cowgirl (I miss you!!!) shorthand) now signals he wants to take the veterans bloc away from Senator John Tester (D-Seven-Fingered Lentil Farmer Who Fixes His Own Tractors and Slaughters His Own Stock). To signal this run, Rosendale recently held a small event with Bitterroot veterans then met with Bozeman-area veterans on Wednesday. To paraphrase Bono when U2 covered the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”: You want to steal national security, patriotism, and veterans, but we are stealing them back.
The Bozeman Chronicle covered Rosendale’s “listening” (bloviating) session and a few things stuck out to me (and to be clear this is, as it always has been, me and free of any campaign dictate because they would be nuts to associate with me for reasons you are about to see, which will include lots of salty military talk, aka swearing). First was that Rosendale, laughably, questioned the financing for the Southwest Veterans Home in Butte that Tester-got-to-reality-by-pushing-the-federal-bureaucracy-to-create-it-when-state-legislators-like-Rosendale-had-long-prevented-its-creation (emphasis really meant here). Rosendale said he didn’t like how Tester got it financed through federal funds and the dependency that would create. A great messaging opportunity for Mr. No Government but something that ignores the insanely difficult world veterans have to navigate. So I am going to place Mr. Rosendale in a corner for it because I am really, really fired up by him so underestimating the importance of this moment before him:
Matt, veterans are a lot of brave men and women (yes, women, many of whom were braver than men) who served in combat. Chickenhawk bastards like you sent us into wars that were either unnecessary or horribly managed by the same types of chickenhawk policymakers you would nominate if you became a senator. When I was in Iraq, three (plural) times, I had rockets whistle over my head (when you hear the sound, it’s good; but when you can’t you are dead), had a Shia militia blow up the only bridge that brought us food, and watched men walk knee deep in Iraqi sewage as we put them on target. You know what I didn’t do at any of those times? Wonder if I should have questioned my financing or tools when I was under extreme duress. You know what everyone else did? The same fucking thing.
Because here is a military lesson you will never learn: it doesn’t fucking matter how you get through adversity, you have to get through it–as a team. So when those rockets flew over my head, I knew the artillery battalion had its timing down to 60 seconds because we had to rehearse it over and over. Go ahead, time a response in under 90 seconds. If they had a radar that came from the Rhode Island National Guard, I did not care because they had so honed their abilities they could put responsive fire on target quickly and within months no one, fucking no one, fired anything at a place once called FOB Mortarhorse. When we didn’t get food because our supply lines were cut off, we ate MREs for three weeks and showed the contracted Pakistani kitchen staff how to eat them in a true military-style. We were later rewarded with some of the best rice and meat you have ever had. When we saw our guys were in extreme danger and exposed in knee-deep water, I double-tasked assets to provide better coverage so we could get them the fuck out of there before one million armed people descended on twenty Americans. Did I get yelled at? Sure. Did the commander, a man of massive stature, back me up? He sure did. And we continued sending people out the next day. Because the funding, the mistakes, the previous day did not matter… what mattered was what we did to move on and learn. To ensure everyone, every one of us, lived to see another day. Veterans are dying every day, in this state you want to represent, and you are worried about dependency on federal funding? Fuck you.
So when Rosendale says no federal funding to help out veterans of all wars and peacetimes who have done many of the same things and made hard choices, Rosendale has insulted us to our cores. Rosendale has no idea what he does other than putting out corporate talking points and pretending he understands what veterans have endured. We don’t need a candidate who wants to limit funding at a time when we are in a crisis because what we really need is a candidate willing to host a bake sale for VA funding because they are so willing to scrape the barrel to help us.
I used the term for Trump and I think it applies now (hearmuffs, Team Tester)… Rosendale is a Blue Falcon. In Army speak, that means Buddy Fucker. Among the worst insults you can receive it is tops. But it holds. Rosendale wouldn’t provide federal funding for a veterans care unit in Butte and he wouldn’t provide state funding either. If anyone would host a bake sale for veterans then turn around and use the money to fund themselves, it’s him. Oh, and his BFF Trump. He. Doesn’t. Support. Veterans. And I hope every VFW and American Legion Hall gets a copy of this because I will personally hang it in every single one. As many issues as I have with those men and women who blindly pledge allegiance to party over their core concerns, I will always respect where they come from and try to pull my brothers and sisters in arms to the side that best serves their needs. Fam, Rosendale ain’t your friend.
Rosendale and Republicans hellbent on privatizing will say in response is that there is no good federal program for veterans because no one can receive good care. They are right in one small regard, no one gets the care they should. No argument. So the question, for endless decades now, is what is the best choice.
Rosendale hinted at it by talking about private options. Private options. Corporate care. Like his Koch Brothers financiers prefer and like they cannot actually do because they have no idea the enormity of the task before them. Look at at another corporate option over state-run programs: prisons. Core Civic has one of the most brutal human rights records out there yet it continues to be entrusted with care of prisoners because they take the weight off states and the federal agencies. Does it solve a problem? Sure. Is it beneficial to anyone these companies serve? Ask the prisoners or employees. You can’t though, because of “agreements.” Now expand that into veterans care.
Should veterans have the choice of seeing a private provider for medical care? For a fever or a broken arm? Sure. When I had a cough, I went to the simple Army physician assistants who gave me five horse-pill-sized Ibuprofen for my trouble and said get better. That is the easy fix (not really). But it is more difficult to fix military service members exposed to years of burn pits that left hardcore heavy metals in their lungs. Marines still hearing the echoes of bombs that left them quadriplegic. The soldiers whose vertebrae are continually out of place because of the things they carried. There is no hospital that understands this. It is highly specialized care and it is the job of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT that put troops in harm’s way to take care of them. Not the hospital and private clinic physicians who can probably navigate the problem but will never see the overall solution. The private care options doesn’t fix any problems, it just enriches a chosen few. (See: tax cuts.)
Every, underline every, VA doctor I have talked to said they love their job and caring for the patients they get to see. The problem is the ridiculous amount of people they have to see and the bureaucracy that manages how that works. That is the fix. And guess who has been working on it and has the respect of veterans and VA physicians ACROSS POLITICAL SPECTRUMS: Senator Tester.
What I do not hear Rosendale warning about is a nearly $100 million dollar military parade meant to benefit Trump, the dictator he so happily stands next to. That could be an extra $2 million per state for veterans’ care wasted on a parade that truly uses military members as props. I also have not heard anything from the Wretched Rosendales about a troika of billionaires currently really running the VA (seriously, read this tagged story). If you favor privatization, these are the three people you try to keep in the shadows. Rosendale follows the script like a true stooge to power and won’t discuss it. Those questions, along with his actual voting record, are what he should be hearing at every stop for the next three months when he tries to cloth himself in the flag and our service. Shameful.
Yes, I am a progressive activist. Yes, I have appeared in Tester campaign commercials. You know why? Because Jon is the real deal. In those commercials what you don’t see is him listening to each and every one of us. Not talking. Listening. He understands the enormity of the problem, takes it in, and finds a solution. That. That. That. (THAT!) Is what leadership means. I was a small unit leader in the Army but Flat Top leads at the highest level. Just as I would have given anything to stand in sewage with the operators I sent on target, I stand next to Tester as he wades through the sewage of D.C. and Montana politics.
Rosendale means more forever wars, more forever wounded American troops, more forever lines at VA clinics because of the massive care they will have to provide for troops abandoned into the hellscape of private care that does not understand their wounds. This… This is your choice. Ten percent of the people who love this state depend on the choice ninety percent of Montanans are about to make. Don’t forget who we are because in the dead of the Iraqi desert or quiet of the mountaintops of Afghanistan, we never once forgot about you.