It seems the gentle mockery Congressman Ryan Zinke has received from Montana political pundits about his seemingly endless grandiosity hasn’t kept from suggesting that he might, with almost no experience, be a legitimate candidate for the Republican nomination for Vice President. While Zinke has certainly demonstrated a willingness to take a subordinate position to ethically-challenged aficionados of torture in the past, few people outside the Zinke bubble think he’d be seriously considered for the VP pick.
But Zinke has hardly been shy about his ambitions, giving yet another interview to another conservative outlet, discussing his potential candidacy with Sofrep News. In it, he lauded Trump’s foreign policy proposals, suggested the military should have the authority to launch drone strikes into Pakistan without civilian oversight, and said he’d abandon Montana voters to “serve my state and my nation in any position for a higher purpose.”
With Congressman Zinke, of course, the only higher purpose is his own ambition, but the interview does pose some questions. While there are literally hundreds of problematic positions that have been taken by Mr. Trump, the Montana press should ask Congressman Zinke about at least a few. Here are some suggestions.
1. Given his endorsement of Trump’s foreign policy, does Congressman Zinke agree that South Korea and Japan should build nuclear arsenals? With Trump’s plan to withdraw American troops from those nations? His economically-crippling suggestion that the US would block oil imports from Saudi Arabia? His calls for a trade war with China? His disavowal of NATO? His contention that nuclear weapons could be used in Europe?
Consider what conservative commentator and military historian Max Boot had to say about the man Zinke has endorsed:
Some have dismissed my assertion that Donald Trump represents the No. 1 security threat to the United States today as “hyperbole.” It’s not. It’s simply reality–because Trump is the most radical and most ignorant major-party presidential candidate in our history.
Surely, the press should ask where Congressman Zinke stands on these points, given his contention that he could very well be a Vice President or Cabinet member in a Trump Administration.
2. Does Mr. Zinke agree with Trump, who claimed Tuesday that American soldiers who were part of the invading force in 2003 embezzled millions of dollars from the country? Did he agree with Trump when he made the same claim back in October? Or does Mr. Zinke condone smearing soldiers who risked their lives in the Iraq War if it scores political points?
3. Closer to home, the press might ask also Mr. Zinke if he condones Mr. Trump’s use of racist language to describe Elizabeth Warren. In the past week, Mr. Trump has called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” at one point inducing stereotypical “war whoops” from a crowd of supporters. The remarks, fresh on the heels of Trump’s deeply problematic attack on a judge for his Mexican ancestry, was described by Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma as something that needs to stop. According to Cole:
“He needs to quit using language like that,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the Chickasaw tribe and one of two Native Americans in the House. “It’s pejorative , and you know, there’s plenty of things that he can disagree with Elizabeth Warren over, this is not something that should, in my opinion, ever enter the conversation. .?.?. It’s neither appropriate personally toward her, and frankly, it offends a much larger group of people. So, I wish he would avoid that.”
Given that Mr. Zinke is running against someone who seeks to become the first Native woman elected to Congress, he should probably have immediately disavowed the remark and has a special responsibility as a member of Congress who represents a large number of Indian women to reject this kind of racism, but was perhaps too busy working on his resume to offer comment. The press should ask where he stands.
As he has pointed out, Mr. Zinke is certainly entitled to ambition, but tying himself to (and endorsing) a dangerous, ill-informed, xenophobic ideologue who’s almost incapable of telling the truth should come with consequences. It’s time for the Montana press to demand that Zinke condone or disavow the most egregious Trump remarks. By suggesting he’s a legitimate candidate for VP, Zinke has forced the press’s hand—and it’s time for them to find out just how far his support of the tiny-handed, tinpot dictator-wannabe goes.
At a minimum, it’s certainly time for them to start asking when Congressman Zinke intends to start representing his constituents, and stop promoting himself.