Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Gazette's partisan spin on Denny Rehberg

It might seem odd that Montana Headlines is only today commenting on a Billings Gazette editorial that was published more than 48 hours ago: "Rehberg's partisan spin on spending."

The honest truth is that it was just too difficult to understand exactly what the editors were trying to say. Perhaps it was written in haste. Perhaps the editors were fighting a battle against clean prose and well-crafted thought and were determined to win decisively.

Whatever the reason, even after reading the editorial several times, perusing the couple dozen responding comments on-line, and reflecting at leisure for a day or two, the murk didn’t clear much when it came to substantive arguments.

We even considered rewriting the editorial into something intelligible and then arguing against that, but something stubborn inside us wasn’t inclined to provide that kind of assistance. After all, Denny Rehberg has a tough enough job as it is being the lone high-profile Republican in Montana, and we would prefer to support him when he's being sniped at rather than help draft subcontracted opposition ads.

Montana Headlines will, however, accept responsibility for our inability or unwillingness to understand the editorial well enough to engage its points articulately. Accepting responsibility is appropriate, since we Republicans aren’t as intelligent as Democrats and should be humble enough to accept that judgment and move on, just trying to do the best we can with what we have.

One might then justly ask: if Montana Headlines thinks the editorial is so poorly written, why waste a post on it? A good question. A couple of answers spring to mind. First, Montana Headlines understands that the Gazette wants to cow Rehberg into being the Republican sidecar rider for our driving Democratic duo of Sens. Baucus and Tester (read the last paragraph of the editorial -- that much was clear.)

We are convinced, however, that they can do a better job of it than they did in this editorial. Unlike us at Montana Headlines, they do this for a living.

Second, we also realize that the main point to the editorial was to tie Rehberg, partisanship, and nasty earmarks into a neat package. The obfuscation (probably unintentional) if anything served to help that along since the casual reader would have a hard time following their argument long enough to be able to disagree with it.

The Gazette has endorsed Rehberg in his non-competitive races, but in 2000 when he was in his one competitive race for the House, the Gazette naturally endorsed his opponent, Nancy Keenan, dismissing Rehberg with two lines of faint and fluffy praise.

We can probably expect the same when Rehberg next finds himself in a competitive election – probably a key U.S. Senate race – so it is understandable that the groundwork has to start being laid. The editorial progression will be interesting to observe, and it is good for Rehberg and Republicans to be reminded just where things stand.

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