Quick Takes: Zinke Flip Flops on Trade, Conservative Media Defends Murderer, Protecting the Smith, and Proudly Unselective Universities

My apologies for the hot take model in my posts of late, but ending the school year has taken up a great deal of time—and now it’s time for a little outdoor wonder before summer school begins. That aside, there have been a few stories in the past few days I definitely wanted to offer some comment on.

It seems Representative Zinke is back to his flip-flopping ways. After running around the conservative media attacking the flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership, Zinke seemed to have a change of heart on the floor of the House yesterday, voting against the conservative firebrands who almost blocked debating fast track on the floor. He even went so far as deleting a post against the TPP on his SEAL PAC page yesterday:

This is the Google cache of the page Zinke deleted.

In the end, it’s probably safe to assume that Zinke will try to Amtrak this vote: oppose TPP, support it, and oppose it, in an effort to appease his corporate and rabid conserative masters.

It’s also worth noting that Zinke has shamelessly been fundraising on the backs of American war dead. It’s astonishing that any candidate, much less a veteran, would so shamelessly ask for political contributions to honor war dead, but that’s exactly what Zinke has done, arguing that “because he doesn’t want their deaths to be in vain,” “that’s why I am requesting a donation from you today.” Given that Zinke could bayonet a baby seal on the House floor without censure from the Montana media, don’t look for any outraged editorials on this one any time soon.

In an incredibly bizarre story from earlier this week, the conservative-funded “news” site media trackers is defending the reputation of the man who killed his family before turning the gun on himself in Deer Lodge. It seems that mediatrackers and the unnamed, anonymous commenters they cite as justification for the story are outraged that the Billings Gazette quoted the investigating police chief, who noted that the murderer “was definitely a Constitutionalist and didn’t believe in government.”

Given that the University system seems to employ more vice presidents of integrated communication than full-timed tenured professors lately, it’s hard to understand their totally tone-deaf response to the news that Montana’s flagship universities basically admit any student who applies, regardless of their qualifications. Tyler Trevor, deputy commissioner for planning and analysis at the U system, told the Missoulian:

In Montana, families have an expectation their children will grow up and be able to attend UM or MSU or any other Montana University System school, he said. “That’s sort of the culture that we have in this state,” Trevor said. On the other hand, Montana does not have a high graduation rate compared to a prestigious school with stringent acceptance standards, such as Harvard University, he said. So sometimes, he said, a student who is accepted to a state university isn’t academically prepared for the course work.

The comparison to Harvard is a specious one, and Trevor certainly knows that. There are many levels between the most selective college in the country, if not the world, and a university system that, according to the story, accepts everyone unless “they don’t have a high school diploma or they pose a safety and security risk to the campus.” The two concerns about the story are public relations and policy. Publicly trumpeting the idea that our university system accepts almost any student undermines the reputation of our universities and the messaging about the excellent academics in place there.

More importantly, it reflects a value system that seems more about getting tuition-paying bodies in seats than ensuring that students are directed to more appropriate educational settings. If a student “isn’t academically prepared,” the system should not accept her, risking that student’s financial future and probably discouraging her from attending a more appropriate institiution to build the skills necessary for college.

As you head into your weekend, one that hopefully involves some of Montana’s public lands, take a moment to watch this excellent video about Smith River Memories. We can’t let a mining concern threaten this irreplaceable treasure that has meant so much to so many Montanans.

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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