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.