While our allies and friends from across the world from Istanbul to Brussels are facing another wave of terrorist violence that has targeted civilians, many Americans and their leaders are calling for sober reflection on how we can help prevent future attacks and how we can help those affected. Others, like Montana’s sole representative in Congress, Ryan Zinke, are more interested in cheap theatrical stunts that cheapen the lives lost in the attacks and turn them into opportunities to raise campaign cash.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more contempt for a politician than this morning, when I received another fundraising appeal from the Congressman, this time offering to send a “limited edition hunting tag” to those who just donate $15 to his campaign.
Representative Zinke, a man who thinks he could have been chosen as Speaker of the House in his first term, a man already measuring Senate offices for himself, needs to conduct himself like a member of Congress, not some political infomercial salesman willing to appeal to the basest of our instincts. The confounding, and tragic problem of terrorism and extremist violence in the world certainly won’t be solved by politicians embracing the worst of our values and encouraging indiscriminate violence against people.
Instead, perhaps Mr. Zinke could do his job—and offer a coherent policy for the United States to confront ISIS and the threat it poses. As a member of the Congress, the body that has the power to declare war, perhaps Mr. Zinke could develop a consistent position on the use of ground forces against ISIS, instead of continuing to boldly both support and oppose their use. Not exactly the kind of courage one would expect from someone who occasionally reminds us he was a Navy SEAL (only eight times in this fundraising e-mail, by the way).
It’s easy to continue to attack the Obama Administration and even easier to pander to the armchair warriors who will proudly slap an ISIS hunting tag on their vehicles, but it’s a lot more difficult to offer policies and work with the other side to develop a plan. Immaturely Exploiting the threat of terrorism might continue to be a useful way for people like Zinke to fire up a conservative base still deeply skeptical about his commitment to their principles, but it’s no substitute for actual leadership.
Montana deserves better than this self-aggrandizing parody of a Congressman, one who sees terrorism as an opportunity to promote himself and raise money while families are mourning loved ones and cities are struggling to recover. We deserve a Congressman who believes the purpose of his job is to represent the people of this state and put his expertise into developing policies, not pandering to xenophobes and bigots.