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The Missoulian’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Editorial on the Senate Appointment

I’m home sick with what feels like the flu today, which makes re-reading the atrocious Missoulian editorial about the appointment of John Walsh a calculated risk. One’s stomach can only take so much, after all. That being said, I must take issue with the recent editorial in the Missoulian (now reprinted in the Montana Standard) criticizing the selection of John Walsh as Montana’s next Senator.

The Missoulian, as befits a terrible opinion piece, opened with a lie:

That he did so without even an attempt at transparency – without even the barest explanation of his reasoning to the people of Montana – is appalling.

While calling for transparency certainly echoes right-wing talking points, Governor Bullock followed the letter and spirit of the law, which gives him the right to make Senate appointments. That’s pretty damn transparent—and forces the question, what process did the Missoulian prefer? A reality show called Montana’s Next Senator? Calling the misinformed editorial boards of state papers and asking for their opinion? Drawing a name out of a hat?

As fascinating as these would have been to watch, I suspect Governor Bullock did what he does with other major decisions: listens to his advisors and the public before making a decision.

As for an explanation, Governor Bullock offered it as early as November 15, when he told the Missoulian that he was endorsing Walsh for the Senate seat. Given that Bullock publicly announced that his choice for the Senate was John Walsh—and explained why—appointing someone else would have made little sense. Maybe the Missoulian editorial board should read their own newspaper once in awhile.

And if the Missoulian wanted to know an “explanation of the reasoning” for choosing Walsh, perhaps they should have read their own endorsement of Steve Bullock and John Walsh in 2012:

Bullock’s running mate, recently retired Adjutant General for Montana John Walsh, is a well-known and well-respected name throughout Montana. He served in the Montana National Guard for more than 30 years, and led the state unit into Iraq in 2004.

Both men know a thing or two about what it takes to lead large, complex organizations. And they have offered a cohesive, coherent plan for Montana’s economic future.

Next, the Missoulian attacked John Walsh not having legislative experience. They write:

Bullock should have chosen someone who isn’t going to spend his short time in the Senate running for election. Someone who has at least a little legislative experience.

That’s a peculiar argument on a number of levels. It ignores the fact that Walsh served as Lt. Governor during the last legislative session and it ignores his three decades of service in the military—service that involved in-depth work with government bureaucracy and appropriations. It also ignores the Missoulian’s somewhat selective standard for serving in Congress. After all, in 2012 the Missoulian endorsed Steve Daines, a candidate with no legislative experience over Kim Gillam, a candidate with a decade of experience in the Montana Legislature.

The Missoulian then moved to repeating Republican talking points with no filter. They wrote:

Instead, he picked his own lieutenant governor. Bullock’s choice may have surprised no one – but it disappointed many.

The disappointment stems in no small part from the fact that Bullock ignored repeated appeals to talk about the criteria and the process he would use to make his decision.

That’s an interesting claim, that “many” were disappointed about the the choice. Montanans I know have largely been quite happy about the selection, because they believed in John Walsh in 2012. That Montana Republicans, eager to score cheap political points, would feign indignation over a legal and constitutional process is not surprising; nor is it surprising that the increasingly unhinged rants of one of Walsh’s primary opponents howled about the appointment. Tantrums might make good press, and they might be loud, but they don’t reflect the values of the majority.

Their complaints don’t suggest the feelings of “many,” just those the media has given the opportunity to yell. Absent reporting to suggest “many” were upset about the choice for anything other than partisan reasons, claiming it is a cheap rhetorical trick to suggest popular support for the Missoulian’s position—and nothing more.

Next, the Missoulian circled round to claiming that the governor shouldn’t appoint someone who merely represents Montana values:

“I wanted to appoint someone who I believed would represent the values Montanans hold important,” Bullock reportedly said.

Well. That’s not much of an explanation.

Ignoring the fact that Bullock has publicly made clear he chose John Walsh because he believed him to be the best candidate, I’m also reminded of that Daines endorsement again. From the Missoulian in 2012:

Daines explained his thinking that members of Congress should fight hard for what they believe is right, but always while demonstrating statesmanship.

That sounds like exactly the kind of representative Montana needs.

Hmm. If that was a reason to chose Daines in 2012, it make a pretty great case for Walsh in 2014.

In the end, the Missoulian editorial was a sloppy, unprofessional piece of work from an editorial board that seems to have felt that appeasing conservative critics was more important than the truth. It ignored simple facts about Governor Bullock’s reasoning, the Missoulian’s own reporting, and its own editorial judgment on Walsh, Bullock, and other candidates for office.

It wasn’t worth printing in one paper, much less two.

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.

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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  • It looks like maybe Assman is working for the Mizoo. That is why I’ve said for a long time now, the state dailies in Montana are doing not a service, but a disservice! Many people actually believe the crap they spew.

    But here, try this editorial. How refreshing to read an actual good editorial.

    And really, since every damn paper has a business section, ask them a**holes on the ed board why there is no LABOR section! For we are indeed a state with a storied labor history! It wasn’t the cheese whiz yahoos sitting on the Mizoo ed board who built this state! It was the miners, loggers, ranchers, etc.! People with calluses on their HANDS, and not on their butts!

    Really, when you stop and think about it, WHICH section would be more relevant to your average Montanan, the bidness section, or the labor section? Hairy backed swamp developers from the Chamberpot of Commerce have LITTLE in common with the rest of us!

  • Jeez, the guy’s been there, what, 2 or 3 days? Why don’t we let him prove himself to us before we start shooting him down.

    I wrote on the Independent’s site today that I was proud the first Iraq War veteran to serve in the Senate came from Montana. I thought the first would be a lot younger, but oh well.

    I hope he can do a good job for the people here, even if he’s only there a few months. Why don’t we give him a chance, huh? At least for a couple weeks?

      • As long as George is pointing out the obvious, he’s fine. But when he heads into bizarro world, he loses it! Pat Williams is done. Ya can’t go home again, es PECIALLY to D.C. He left the ring once already, threw up his hands threw in the towel, tapped out, and like ol’ manos de piedra himself, cried in a loud voice, NO MAS! NO MAS! He wanted to spend “more time in Montana”. Well, LET him! The ONLY thing I have to say to Paddyphiles is NO MAS! NO MAS! Ya see, there’s no do overs in Montana. You quit, well, you made your decision. Now LIVE with it! We don’t cotton to quitters here in Montana! If ya die in office, that’s acceptable. But if you wimp out, limp out, gimp out, or pimp out, you’re done! We’re through with ya! Ya only get one shot in life. Go for the gusto or go home! Guess we know which one pat picked! HOME

        • Well, I haven’t had the chance to read the article yet, but I will say Larry, you should have your own blog. People don’t really want information, they want to be entertained, and you’re very good at that.

          • I’ve been around, Greg. I’ve been around. The folks that others write about, I know. That brings a different perspective to things. And yes, I like humor.

      • Yeah, I said a month or so ago that it’d be great if Montanans could have a say in this. Even something as simple as setting up a website where people could vote would be an option. Hey, even an outside group that sets it up and advertises it at least would give people a voice.

        In regard to Pat Williams, my mom got pretty excited about the idea of him being appointed when I mentioned it over Christmas. She’s 60, and to me Pat Williams is just a name I might have seen on a yard sign when I was a kid.

        I don’t know why the democrats at the national level don’t take this race seriously. We had an elected democrat, we now have an appointed democrat, and we have a history of getting rid of our left-leaning windbags by kicking them back east. Is it so hard to believe it could be done again, and for the paltry sum of $2 million? C’mon guys!

        But then it gets back to what I’ve said earlier – there’s just no reason to be excited about the democratic senate race in Montana, nothing!

        I mean, I get tired of some of the Bohlinger talk on this site, but at least he’s spoken and we’ve heard from him. I’ve never heard from Walsh and Dirk Adams, who I still think could have a chance in the primary if he wanted to, seems only to be hiding behind YouTube videos.

        Oh yes, it’s a sorry state indeed, and I won’t be surprised at all to see Mr. Walsh come back to Montana for good next January.

        • Um, Greg, ask your mom why paddy wms. quit! The dude ran when the going got tough. That is NOT the Montana way. And your pessimism is unwarranted. Hell, it’s always been a tough fight. (I’m older than your mom) It’s never been easy. If ya ain’t up to fight the fascists, better take up knitting! That’s what my old football coach used to say. If football’s too tough for ya, take up knitting! Or bowling. But politics is definitely a contact sport. It ain’t for the faint of heart who swoon at the first sight of blood. The fascists aren’t about to let up. And if you let them win by default, then you ain’t worth much. Walsh is not my first choice, but if he keeps Daines out, that’s all that matters for now. Little victories, dude. Little victories. That’s the best you can hope for in today’s world.

  • spot on Greg. I too remember Pat Wiliams growing up. This is typical partisan stuff. Its gonna take a lot to beat Daines so time to cut corners by appointing the financially backed Walsh at the cost of the voting populace who is marginalized.

  • I strongly suspect the Missoulian’s editorial resulted from a corporate policy decision that will culminate in a “vote for Daines” editorial in October. Do not expect a similar column by Ochenski in October.

  • Let’s get down to basics. One, the guy is a chump, military and so not self-motivated or original in thought. But he’s got the best chance of winning and has a “D” by his name and that’s all you need to know. He had you at D. I doubt you’ve a clue who he would work for once elected. Get real.

    Two, appeals to “the public” have no meaning and such talk is nothing more than abused platitude. The public will vote based on 30-second TV ads and beyond that, no one cares what “it” thinks. It is clay waiting to be shaped.

    Three, there are no “Montana values.” Who writes this nonsense? That soap sells, I know, but a supposed political insider ought to avoid such talk.

    • Right you ARE, dude! We are just like LA, or New York, or Boston, or New Orleans, or Dallas, or maybe Seattle! We’re all the same! We’re all the same! …says your tired refrain! I feel such a kinship with the otros vatos in East LA. You too? You feel a special kinship with the carnales in South Park, Bilings???? You’re a funny little dude, Comrade Markxist Tokarksi!

      • If anything, Montanans are more isolated and out of the flow. Indeed people in larger population centers are better tuned in.

        Living in a rural state is no virtue, and people who live in small towns are not better people, nor smarter, are more often small-minded and prejudiced.

        The smart ones head for the cities. That’s where talent has to go to make it. (“If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere” is just s song lyric, but also contains truth.)

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