Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

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More Bohlinger convention goofiness: This time, our faux-Republican Lt. Gov's antics surround the Montana Democratic convention, where he will be appearing with his running-mate, Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Bohlinger, reached as he was preparing to return to Montana from the National Lieutenant Governors Association meeting in Williamsburg, Va., said, "I didn't know that I'd been invited. I haven't had any plans of attending. You know, I am a Republican. I really appreciate the invitation."

Yeah, right. Quite a surprise.

Denny Rehberg votes against permanent bases in Iraq: The U.S. House bill also states that the U.S. is not to exert control over the oil industry in Iraq. Rehberg and most Republicans voted for this broadly bipartisan bill, as was appropriate.

Truth in editorializing at the Gazette: Pat Bellinghausen tells more about the process of writing editorials at the Billings Gazette. Given that unsigned "Gazette Opinion" editorials have a particular impact, coming across as the magisterial voice of an institution rather than the opinion of a particular writer, it is good to tell readers that she is primarily responsible for writing those editorials.

She also invites readers to contact her if there are columnists that they would or would not like to continue to see in the Gazette. Best nationally syndicated columnist printed in the Gazette right now: R.J. Samuelson. Worst: Ellen Goodman.

On the purely conservative side, we could probably do better than Cal Thomas -- it would be nice to see an opponent of the Iraq war from the right, with the two most prominent being Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak. Both are engaging writers and are good at stirring up controversy with both the right and the left (Novak is even still a registered Democrat.)

"Hillary the underestimated": Or so Rich Lowry of the National Review (one of the more mature of the former NR youngsters) calls her. Money quotation:

"Clinton has run a nearly flawless campaign and has done more than any other Democrat to show she’s ready to be president..."

Not a few thoughtful conservatives have come to the conclusion that if we have to have one of the top three Dems, Clinton would probably be preferable.

She knows how to triangulate -- which means that she will come up with policies more conservative than would either Edwards or Obama.

And her performance shows that maybe she wasn't just baking chocolate chip cookies and doing needlepoint during her years as first lady.

Her most recent coup has been to demonstrate that she knows how to handle the liberal netroots. She doesn't let them intimidate her and doesn't particularly care if they like her. But she has skilfully avoided having them turn on her and make a cause out of defeating her -- and that is really all she needs to do.

She knows in a general election campaign, she can count on their support for her being an automatic and unconditional "night of the long knives" against any Republican, and she also knows that cozying up to the netroots will cost her with the general electorate.

Smart lady.

The governor's "blue-collar getaway": He purchased the $2 million Georgetown Lake lot because it was a "blue-collar place," but according to a shocking story in the Great Falls Tribune:

"the Schweitzers' 4,000-square-foot cedar-and-sandstone mansion on a point jutting into the lake is anything but blue collar."

And there are some things that we just didn't need to know:

Four bedrooms plus an office. Six baths (a couple of them, Schweitzer took pains to show off, with urinals. "There's not going to be any discussion about toilet seats").

This is, of course, just the sort of things that sends Republicans. But, while Montana voters may take note and dock Schweitzer a few points for the sheer silliness of his "blue-collar neighborhood" claim, the GOP would do well not to try to make a direct campaign issue out of Schweitzer's new mansion. After all, we believe that people should have the right to make what they can and spend what they are able.

And what should the governor have done? Should he have failed to take advantage of the property exchange "tax loophole" that keeps him from having to pay capital gains on the ranch he sold?

The governor is in many ways his own worst enemy when it comes to this sort of thing -- and then the GOP comes riding to his rescue every time by attacking him loudly, making it look petty, and cancelling out any benefit that there might have been from his gaucherie.

Whoever runs against the governor needs to do it on policy and performance alone. And there's more than enough of that to debate.


Thanks to the anonymous commenter below, our attention was drawn to this letter (scroll down) in the Helena IR, which contains what may be the only "news report" about our Sen. Jon Tester voting against the so-called "John Doe" amendment -- a measure that would protect citizens from being sued for reporting activity that is suspicious for being possibly terrorist-related.

What was this highly dangerous amendment (SA 2340 -- submitted by that arch-conservative racist Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine) that Sen. Tester couldn't bring himself to vote for? Here's the meat of it:

(1) IN GENERAL.--Any person who, in good faith and based on objectively reasonable suspicion, makes, or causes to be made, a voluntary report of covered activity to an authorized official shall be immune from civil liability under Federal, State, and local law for such report.

And, with all due respect to those who are worried that this could be used as a pretext to hassle people without fear of consequence, we would suggest actually reading the next part of the amendment (we assume that the House language was pretty much identical):

(2) FALSE REPORTS.--Paragraph (1) shall not apply to any report that the person knew to be false at the time that person made that report.

The roll-call vote can be found here -- note that the measure failed by 3 votes to hit the 60 vote mark. Every Republican voted for the measure.

Democrats who are facing elections where they need more than the crowd to get elected (Sen. Clinton in the Presidential race, Sens. Baucus and Landrieu in their re-election bids in "red states," -- also North Dakota's two Democratic Senators, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, etc.) tended to vote for the measure, while those independent "mavericks" like Jon Tester and James Webb who don't face re-election until 2012 voted against it along with the main body of the liberal Dems.

It is interesting that given how much play this amendment got nationally, that the Montana press seems to have been silent on how our Senators voted.


Anonymous said...

One of the most interesting pieces of Montana news I saw this weekend wasn't in a news story (of course) but was in a letter to the editor in the Helena paper here:

The letter noted how Baucus and Tester had voted on a proposed amendment that would protect from lawsuits anyone who makes good-faith reports of potential terrorist activities to authorities.

This sort of "John Doe" amendment was recommended by the 9/11 Commission. Amazingly, while Baucus supported the amendment, Tester voted against it, the letter writer reported, citing the web site.

I tried to find the vote online to confirm it, but couldn't find it. Assuming the letter writer was right, wouldn't that be be quite an issue for Republicans to tackle Tester on? (Baucus obviously knows better than to oppose the idea)

Montana Headlines said...

See above for an update -- thanks for the tip.

Wulfgar said...

Just for the record, I was quite well aware of clause 2 of the amendment ... aware of how useless it is. It is well nigh impossible to prove a negative. If I misuse the immunity granted by SA 2340, I would defy anyone to prove willful intent of malice, as opposed to 'mistake'. Remember the Kurfuffle concerning the Missoula Pickle Barrel? Further, how can one have shown malicious intent when there are those preaching to the highest heaven that a man is a threat simply because he is Middle Eastern? The damage done to that man is every bit as real, but the intent may have been born of fear, not of malice. Hence, immunity still applies for the stupid. But the damage is there nonetheless. Witness the Japanese internment of the 1940's, or the number of lynchings that took place in the American South because a black man (any black man) may have looked at a white woman wrong. Michelle Malkin wrote a book advocating this kind of idiocy, and you want immunity granted to those who follow her words as she subs for one of the most popular modern pundits? You may think we've "grown up" since lynching was all the rage. I seriously don't have that great a faith in my fellow Americans, especially considering the popularity of Savage, Malkin, O'Reilly and those who advocate fear based exclusion.

What I do find rather interesting is that almost to a person, everyone who has offered that argument of 'the law defining intent' is an opponent of hate crime legislation. Kind of telling, I think.

I would hope, MH, that you understand just as I have attempted to explain to Geeguy, that my distaste for the John Doe statute is based on a general and well-founded objection to anonymous accusations, and the damage that they do to our civil fabric. You don't seem ignorant of history, so I'm sure that you understand why it was built into our Bill of Rights that a person has the right "to face one's accusers". Anyone who follows the Montana web-o-sphere already knows that I have faced material harm from the baseless accusations of the anonymous. Anyone who knows the first thing about modern drug law knows that many, sometimes innocent, have paid a high price and never known who accused them. For the record, because of that belief, I am very proud of Jon Tester's initial vote in the Senate. If one has something to say, let them say it and be done; that's that whole personal responsibility thingy I hear ever so much about.

Montana Headlines said...

All excellent points, Wulfgar. First of all, I am sorry that you were affected personally by anonymous false accusations. Furthermore, I have, in the past, written against some of those aspects of drug enforcement law that seem clearly to violate the Constitution -- particularly the confiscation laws.

I have been following your discussions with GeeGuy, and they have been very enlightening, on both sides. While I believe that this is a good amendment, I also am glad that there are those who are asking hard questions about it. The examples you have given from history took place because not enough questions were asked.

Were there intelligence and espionage threats, for example, from within the Japanese-American community? Of course there were. FDR's hamfisted solution to those threats wasn't, in retrospect, the right one. Had more Americans questioned the policy, there would have been a better approach to it while still ensuring security in time of war.

I don't believe that there is a guarantee of facing one's accusers other than in a court of law. If a tipster reports something to the police on the condition of anonymity and the police check it out and find that there was nothing to it, but that another reasonable person might have also been suspicious, then that is the end of it.

The guy detained for questioning isn't going to win a lawsuit, but as GeeGuy implies, someone's willingness to speak out in a given case is going to be related to his ability to afford an attorney to defend himself.

If a case goes to court, then the accused definitely has the right to face his accusers as far as I understand (other than some specialized situations of child abuse, etc.) Had the imams in question in the case that made headlines been charged with a crime, then those who saw their suspicious behavior would be required to face them in a court of law -- certainly if that testimony would have anything to do with bringing about their conviction.

What we are talking about here would never have happened had the imams not gotten an Islamic organization with deep pockets to support an aggressive lawsuit against Joe Average who was just trying to do the right thing.

Which then brings things to the point where suspicious behavior by anyone but Arabic male Muslims will be reported. Bring up a concern about one of them, though, and prepare to lose everything you have.

I have to say that in today's climate of political correctness (which is full of intimidation,) most people in my experience are acutely aware of the dangers involved in doing or saying anything that could be portrayed as racist in a hostile setting. I would be very surprised if those who reported the imams didn't do so with a great deal of nervousness on that score.

Yes, we all have to work to see things from the other guy's point of view. But that works both ways. If the imams cared about safe travel and had the ability to think outside themselves and consider the point of view of nervous passengers, they would have found a way to make their point without such intimidation.

Without such threats and intimidations involved in their lawsuit, there would be no need for this Senate amendment.