Burns-Tester Debate in Hamilton, Part 1

In the second debate between Senator Burns and Jon Tester, Montana voters were shown what they might have expected: a series of misleading platitudes and outright misrepresentations by the Senator, whose “folksy charm” nearly killed this English teacher.

Burns on Iraq

Burns claimed: “I don’t support staying the course…this (Iraq) is the central point of the war on terrorism…We must win…that is the solution.”

  • That’s certainly not the position he seemed to take in the last debate, a position the Missoulian described as “But if troops stay the course, as they have in, say, South Korea,then the world can one day expect stability in the region.” And it’s not what he said on Memorial Day, according to his own campaign web site, where he said “We are fighting a faceless, rogue enemy whose only goal is to destroy our nation. We must stay the course, advancing our cause…”That’s not what Senator Burns said in the last debate, where he said, “But if troops stay the course, as they have in, say, South Korea,then the world can one day expect stability in the region.” Interesting how Burns’ talking points change with those of the President. No change in substance, certainly.
  • Burns may be right to claim that Iraq is the central focus of terrorism, but that wasn’t the case before the invasion. The Senate’s own report makes it clear that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and in fact, that the two were at odds.
  • Winning is not a strategy. It’s a goal.

Burns on North Korea and Iran

Burns claimed: “We’re talking, they’re listening.” “We’ve got ongoing talks through Red China. Those talks are moving forward.”

Burns on Energy Policy

Burns claimed: 2) “We negotiated two big tracts, the Otter Creek tract.”

3) “Our focus now should be working on policies to produce our renewables and our alternatives.”

  • George Ochenski pretty thouroughly debunks Burns’ claims about the Otter Creek development, which disproportiontely benefited a missing Burns campaign advisor.
  • Burns keeps touting his work on renewables, and he keeps lying. The Energy Act of 2005 that Burns is so fond of mentioing gave huge tax breaks to oil and gas companies, allowed increased pollution, and failed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Burns on Health Care

“We have a bill in the Senate that’s passed the House called the Small Business Health Plans…We’ve even got a little bill up there that says we’d kinda like ta put a cap on malpractice that drives the cost of health insurance.”

  • What Senator Burns doesn’t mention is that the proposed Small Business Health plans are opposed by groups including the AARP, American Cancer Society, and Ameircan Diabetes Assocation because they would strip the protections offered to worker by state insurance laws.
  • AARP CEO Bill Novelli explains, “While it is a laudable goal to make health insurance more accessible and affordable for small businesses, the ‘Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act’ does so by giving these businesses an incentive to avoid hiring or retaining sicker or older workers.”
  • “Ensuring access to cancer screenings and treatments is critical in the nation’s effort to reduce cancer deaths,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society. “This bill would do more harm than good by undermining the critical work our volunteers and state legislators have done to ensure coverage for lifesaving mammograms, off-label prescription drugs and other benefits that help detect and treat cancer.”
  • Rather than focusing on real health care costs, Senator Burns just repeats talking points about malpractice costs, which are largely a myth. Between 1988 and 1998, U.S. health-care costs increased 74.4 percent while malpractice premiums increased 5.7 percent. The total premiums paid in 2000 added up to 0.56 of the nation’s total health-care bill.
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    About the author

    Don Pogreba

    Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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    • In a very unNixon-like comment, Cornpone actually seemed to ADMIT that he was a criminal! Gotta respect honesty.

    • I think my favorite part was when Burns said that “Osama bin Laden feared a lack of resolve in Americans” or something…it was totally illogical, not that I should have been surprised.

    • An important point to note on the Iraq issue was the statement “Has anyone considered what will happen if we lose this war?”

      Look at that statement. I don’t really remember him asking that question before he voted for this god-foresaken war. It seems like the time for questions was passed by with rhetoric in a headlong rush to combat.

    • Another note:

      It was a sad moment in Montana politics when Tester reminded Burn’s that ‘stay the course’ is a saying, not a plan and asked “Where’s your plan Mr Burns”.

      Burn’s response? “Where’s yours?”

    • The next time Burns or Rehberg pulls a *Democrats are obstructing) blah blah blah, I hope that somebody remembers to ask him what poison pill is in the blah blah blah that Democrats are unwilling to swallow.

      The fact is that 5% of the doctors are responsible for 95% of all malpractice claims
      (less than one per cent of all medical expenses) and that caps on payouts do nothing to slow the rising cost of malpractice insurance or medical care.

    • Hey fellas,

      Rising malpractice costs are not a myth. They are enormous costs that get transferred to patients. Do you know why so few docs are delivering babies in rural Montana? They cannot afford the malpractice premiums which are really high for family docs. I think Conrad is a dough-head, but malpractice insurance costs are outrageous, and it would be nice if caps were put in place.


    • We might have to agree to disagree, to a point. I have no doubt that malpractice costs are high–and increasing, but the evidence doesn’t really suppor that lawsuits or malpractice are a major force in medical costs. For Burns and the Republicans to keep using that as an excuse for rising medical costs is where the myth comes in, to my mind.

      I wonder about the rural doctor argument a bit, as well. It seems that indpendent of malpractice, being a doctor out in rural areas has a lot of limitations–it would be more expensive to practice, and there are the lifestyle issues. We can’t even hire teachers out there, and no one needs to insure us. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Malpractice costs are a straw man – Congress is busy sword fighting with malpractice costs as a way of doing anything substantial to fix our broken health care system,

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