We'll let The Western Word speak for itself regarding the belated appearance today on Jon Tester's website of 5 days of schedule. (And yes, even we paleolithic types know how to refresh our browsers -- we posted after TWW, and the last thing we did late yesterday before posting was to do just that.)
There will be no argument from anyone at Montana Headlines that Rehberg's office mis-stated the level of schedule that they were prepared to hand out to anyone. There will furthermore be no argument that a simple "you're right, you got us on that one, our bad" would have been far preferable in our opinion to how things have actually been handled.
Montanans have incredibly easy access to our Congressional delegation compared to most Americans -- anyone who wants to meet one of our Senators or our Representative doesn't have to try very hard in order to do so. Even very politically active donors from larger states are envious of how easy it is for the average Montanan to meet and chat with a member of our delegation.
We imagine that it would be hard for Rep. Rehberg or his staff to feel that Montanans somehow didn't have the kind of information most people are generally interested in, and that their office has been providing for some years: "Is Denny in town, any chance I can meet with him, what's he doing today?"
Of course, what was implied by "our schedule's always been available" was that one could get the same level of specificity from Rehberg's office that would appear on Tester's schedule. Once the disconnect was painfully obvious, a correction by Rehberg's office was in order -- and pointing out that it didn't appear is fair game. We would take strong issue with how much about Rehberg's honesty (or lack thereof) can be read into this, however.
The comments on Montana Headlines did sound belittling toward those who have put personal effort into checking Rehberg out, and apologies are in order. (That may be a bit unctuous for Wulfgar's tastes, but we really can't change who we are -- sorry.)
We will make some observations on what we feel is more to the point from our perspective. We don't doubt the sincere desire on Sen. Tester's part to convey a sense of confidence in the transparency of his office (indeed, since it was a key part of his campaign against Burns, it would have been a major blunder for him not to do something innovative like this.)
But that's just the point: it is a sense of confidence and a bit of political showmanship, and not the reality of transparency. A reputation for being squeaky clean has to be earned the hard way. Showmanship is a part of politics, and Tester is certainly doing better at it in this little episode than is Rehberg. But like all showmanship, it can either portray the truth or mislead. We're claiming neither for Tester -- just stating a fact.
Remember when C-Span came along and everyone was excited because we'd be able to watch
Consider other factors. For one thing, schedules change or can be just plain wrong. A helpful reader pointed out to us that Sen. Tester's schedule for the evening of March 5 shows that he was in a Senate floor session, whereas a New York blogger gives a breathless March 6 account of New Yorkers with a "crush" on Tester having a "meet and greet" with our junior Senator just the evening before.
So, was Tester's office trying to pull a fast one then (or for that matter when 4 days went missing last week, as TWW and we light-heartedly pointed out yesterday?)
Maybe the Gotham blogger isn't telling the truth, since no meet-and-greet in
In some cases, it may be nobody's business. It is hardly unlikely that there will be constituents who want to meet with Sen. Tester but who, for no sinister reason whatsoever, don't want it all over the internet. Or perhaps there is a meeting concerning something of importance to
Anyone who thinks that Sen. Tester isn't going to have both of those kinds of meetings and either leave them off the schedule or give a misleadingly generic title to the meeting is deluded. (I won't even go into whether Tester is going to have chats with folks who have made, will make, or may make contributions to his re-election campaign -- chats that he will keep to himself, thank you very much.)
Or maybe he'll just do these exchanges by phone or e-mail to keep them technically off the schedule that way.
In either case, Montanans reading Sen. Tester's schedule are going to have a false sense of security about the level of "what Jon is doing right now," if that's the sort of thing they need to give them a sense of security about their representatives in Washington.
Call us cynical, but we suspect that soon everyone in Washington will have their public schedules just like Tester -- and they will be the equivalent of C-Span speeches to an empty chamber, while the things that we might be most concerned about take place off-camera. Meanwhile, we'll have another way to play political "gotcha" on things that, unlike votes cast and bills written, don't mean a blessed thing.