Quick Takes: Daines as Rehberg, Van Valkenberg, and the NSA

It hasn’t taken long for Steve Daines to perfect his Denny Rehberg impersonation in Washington. He’s already voted against emergency assistance for his fellow Americans and this week he voted against reducing interest rates for college students. Finally, at the Montana GOP Convention/Purge, he trotted out Rehberg’s old imaginary “federal landgrab” with the Montana Land Sovereignty Act. Let’s just hope he stays away from the water this summer, lest the transformation become complete.
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg says he’s “embarrassed” by the Department of Justice investigation of sexual assault in Missoula–not embarrassed by the behavior exhibited by Missoula officials, mind you, but the DOJ itself. Among his incredibly offensive remarks to the City Club Missoula, we see this:

Instead of blaming the media (and often the victims), Van Valkebnerg should welcome federal intervention and assistance to improve the way his office deals with sexual assault cases.

Champ Edmunds, the Senate candidate the Washington Post forgot, offered a speech to the Montana GOP this weekend that ably demonstrated why Brian Schweitzer would defeat him as a write-in candidate:

I understand that the role of a conservative pundit is to appeal to the base, but arguing that the IRS non-scandal is somehow worse than NSA spying of Americans is astonishing. As is the norm, Bill Kristol is dead wrong:

“National security is different from internal matters of the government,” he told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. “We’re dealing with foreign threats here.”

“They’re not allowed to go into that data until they have a warrant signed off on by a judge. That is totally different from the IRS abuses, which I think are very serious, and I think it’s very important for conservatives and Republicans to make that distinction.”

The erosion of civil liberties in the wake of 9/11 is an ongoing, bipartisan nightmare. The abuses under the past two administrations demonstrate that the problem is far deeper than partisan blamemanship. As long as criticism is focused there, we have little chance of ending these abuses from the American law enforcement and intelligence communities.

It’s also terribly reassuring to see members of the Senate like Republican Jon Thune defend his votes for surveillance on Americans by noting that he didn’t really know what the programs did:

“I think the times that this program’s been reauthorized, much of this operates in levels where there are not that many people — members of Congress — who are fully engaged in what’s going on. You know, the intelligence committees obviously are involved and homeland security, I think, to some degree but most members of Congress are given a piece of legislation to vote on and I don’t believe that most members of Congress, perhaps, going into this were fully aware of how broad this program was and so yes, you vote because you’re obviously concerned about protecting the country.”


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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 think it may be possible the DoJ investigation was more a political stunt than a product of serious concern about sexual assault. Fred certainly says offensive things, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any valid points.

    did you attend or watch it, Don, or are you forming your opinion about what Fred said solely from Caitlin’s live tweeting?

    • I watched the Missoulian’s coverage, which was admittedly excerpted. I think his bizarre refusal to cooperate with the DoJ undermines his credibility pretty badly. How could that possibly help?

      • does the DoJ really want to help the victims of sexual assault? does the DoJ under Holder really have any credibility?

        • Yes, I think they do want to ensure that victims of sexual assault are treated better by law enforcement. The way the Missoula PD treated victims is indefensible.

          What would have been the DoJ’s motive for intervening otherwise? Van Valkenberg suggested it was a political decision, but there’s no evidence to support that nor any reason to have done it.

          • during an election year, everything is more political. women were an important part of Obama’s reelection, and the scandal and federal intervention made national headlines. meanwhile, sexual assaults in the military are at crisis levels, and there’s been no significant federal intervention to remove reporting from the chain of command.

            • I think that’s probably a reach. Outside of Missoula, I can’t imagine that the DoJ decision was involved in much national discussion. Sure, Missoula’s reputation got national attention, but not the DoJ investigation.

              Sometimes, the simple answer is the right one. Missoula got bad press and its law enforcement responded very poorly to sexual assault and investigations of it, which led the DoJ to investigate.

              No need for a political conspiracy when there was a real need.

              As for the DoJ itself, haven’t the U and the city already committed to improvements after their intervention?

          • I don’t think the investigation was directed from above, but if this regional DoJ dude leading the charge wanted to curry favor for career advancement, this investigation was probably good for doing that.

            ultimately there needed to be some form of intervention, and the conversation needed to happen, and needs to continue, so hopefully there substantive recommendations that lead to substantive change.

  • Daines is worse than Rehberg. Denny was Dumb, Stevieboy doesn’t really care about Montanans… just is pocket book.

    Woman should be jumping up and down that we finally have a federal Government foothold regarding charging and Punishing Rape in the state….A roadmap to the laws protecting men and women from Rape was sorely Missing in State Law.

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