It’s a excellent piece of reporting from someone who knows how to do the job. It’s been an especially delicious irony watching the Lee Newspapers who forced out their expert reporter giving credit to him for breaking the story today, while whining that they didn’t get the e-mails themselves. Perhaps that’s part of the cost of driving out reporters who understand the system and know how to get information. When a newspaper chain brags that it’s increasing profitability by cutting staffing and ink costs, you get a sense of the kind of coverage that follows.
That being said, there’s a lot more sizzle than steak in the broad story here. While both sides certainly may have legitimate grievances over the past year, the story seems pretty clearly to be about two people who had competing visions for the role of the Lt. Governor or may just not have gotten along very well in the end. That’s hardly a scandal, or something that matters to the lives of Montanans. Unfortunately, it’s also the kind of high-interest, low-impact story that Montana newspapers and their editorial boards seem to cling to in lieu of covering policy.
My advice to those who support Governor Bullock and those who support Lt. Governor McLean (and I count myself as someone in both camps) is that no one’s interests are served by continuing this spat in public, except for the Republican Party and Greg Gianforte. It can only do damage to the reputations of both Bullock and McLean if the story lingers, with slow drips of criticism feeding press coverage. This doesn’t feel far removed from an awkward breakup, and while both parties probably feel aggrieved, the bigger picture is the work Bullock can do as Governor and McLean can do for education moving forward.
The online commentary from Republicans demonstrates quite clearly the kind of campaign we can expect from them. Republican Party officials and campaign managers who oversaw massive, illegal campaign donations in the 2012 cycle were suggesting that this was some kind of massive story, because they know on matters of substance, Governor Bullock has the edge—and that, despite their best efforts to smear the man, he’s the most popular of the statewide officials.
Outside of wonks and party hacks, this story shouldn’t have much impact. Hell, Ryan Zinke got elected to the US Congress two years after he volunteered as the running mate for someone who called for the use of death squads, wanted to spirit Gaddafi out of Libya in violation of US law, and who suggested that both had tortured people. Then again, the Montana political press didn’t find any of that newsworthy for some reason.
All that being said, this Democrat thinks that Governor Bullock needs to find a solid, boring Lieutenant Governor, and the sooner the better.
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.
Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, 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.
He doesn't link to media outlets that don't follow basic journalistic attribution rules.