Even Ryan Zinke Knows Livingstone and Hill Are Wrong on War Rhetoric

Do you ever wonder what Ryan Zinke was thinking when he hitched his political future to Neil Livingstone’s wobbly cart? We’re talking about someone who was seen as a serious Republican contender for the governor’s chair in his own right just a year ago but who’s now found himself in the awkward position of having to walk back inflammatory rhetoric from the top of the ticket.

On his Facebook page today, Zinke posted:

Waging War on Environmental Groups. A number of friends and colleagues have expressed concern with our campaigns choice of words in saying we are going to “wage war against environmental groups “. Point well taken. To those who have served and know the horror of war, the term is misplaced.

While Zinke would like to suggest that their “war” rhetoric was some sort of slip of the tongue, it’s been the dominant message of the Livingstone campaign for months. On February 27, Livingstone told a Republican candidate forum in Great Falls that Montana needs “to go to war with the radical environmentalists.”

On March 8, the Billings Outpost said that Livingstone was prepared to go to war with the federal government:

But Mr. Livingstone did say that he was prepared as governor to arrest federal officials who tried to enforce federal regulations (as opposed to acts of Congress). They probably would be released within three hours but, he said, “We will have made a statement, and we will go to war with the federal government.

Zinke’s retraction for Livingstone, while well-intended, seems awfully late.

Of course, Livingstone’s not alone in his use of the rhetoric of warfare. Rick Hill, who’s never opposed sending other people to fight his wars, also plans to go war against environmentalists:

Former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill of Helena also condemned the “trial lawyers and environmentalists” whose regulatory bearing he said is preventing Montana from unleashing its economic potential.

“I intend to go to war with the environmentalists and simplify our regulatory structure,” he said. “Serial lawsuits and state regulators are obstructionists when they should be trying to facilitate these projects.”

Of course Zinke is right. War is a terrible metaphor for what these armchair combatants intend to do. The language demonizes their opponents and trivializes the sacrifices of members of the armed forces, many of who have fought and continuing to fight today.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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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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  • I am glad that Zinke has renounced the “war” rhetoric. I, too, was one of the people that thought Zinke had a bright future in Montana politics and said so. I watched him closely in the last Lege, and I was quite impressed. I still think that he stands head and shoulders above the Seven Pubbie Mental Dwarfs running on the Pubbie side, for he’s his own man. The others are simply corporate fascist pimps in need of a job or an ego boost! I don’t put Zinke in that category at all.

    But I LOATHE Livingscam! He represents the worst of the slimeballs running! He took a calculated risk by PURPOSELY using the most shameful, inflamatory rhetoric out there, rhetoric DESIGNED for one purpose and one purpose only. To insight violence against those who disagree with his agenda! And the PEOPLE of Montana are having none of it! They have resoundingly rejected his bullshit! He took the calculated risk hoping that the majority of people in Montana would like that message. But they don’t! At all! In fact, MOST Montanans are repulsed by it!

    Livingscam has not lived in Montana for a long, long time. Hence, he has no concept of what Montana is now. It is NOT the domain of robber barons and copper kings that he imagines. Environmentalists and ordinary Montanans of all stripes have fought long and hard to stop the unnecessary, rampant destruction of our state for no good reason at all! The priorities of Montanans have changed dramatically in the last forty years. Rape and ruin do NOT play as well as they used to. Now, we CHERISH what the rest of the country is losing at an alarming rate, clean water and air! And the past evidence of environmental catastrophe is all around us to remind us that the good old days of the past are NOT what we want for the future! Hence, Livingscam looks like the pathetic buffoon he is.

    Zinke’s statement is a good first step on re-claiming his good name. He really should distance himself even future from the kook Livingscam. Admit that he got suckered by a supreme bullshit artist and move on. And I do thank Zinke for toning down the rhetoric. NOTHING good comes when the forces of violence are unleashed on decent folks attempting to play by the rules of democracy. THIS is exactly what the old Wise Use movement tried. It didn’t work.

  • Federal subsidies account for most of the “profit” in mining, logging and grazing federal public land. Deregulation is intended to strip citizens of judicial review, and remove what’s left of mechanisms to ensure accountability. What won’t change is the fact that those who scream anti-government rhetoric the loudest often take the biggest bite when it comes to federal subsidies. Ironic, don’t you think?

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