Friday, February 8, 2008

The Lt. Gov. did show up -- good for him, good for us

In the last MH post, we asked the question of whether Lt. Gov. Bohlinger showed up at the Helena caucus in response to GOP Chairman Erik Iverson. The post started with the intent of just asking the question, but as we searched in vain to find any news report, that initial open-minded attitude started to drop away. Mistake.

Wrongly assuming that he had not, given that Google News searches revealed nothing, we made some comments that were erroneous, and went on to others that were snarky at the least -- mean-spirited at the worst. We should have waited for a response to our question before commenting further. We apologize to Lt. Gov. Bohlinger for assuming that he didn't show up. Rather than delete the post, we will leave it up as a monument to the errors of hasty judgments.

Our criticism now would be of the Montana press, which gave wide coverage to the fact that Bohlinger was not able to vote under caucus rules, and in some cases criticized the Montana GOP for its lack of openness. One would think that the following would have been big news.

Here are the responses we received:

From an anonymous commenter who seems to be knowledgeable about the event --

Yes, Lt. Gov. and the brand-new Mrs. Lt. Gov. were among the earliest arrivals (at about 5:15 for an event that started at 5:30) for the Lewis & Clark County caucus.

They were greeted warmly by the Central Committee chair, ushered inside and acknowledged politely by several other attendees. The Lt. Gov. also spoke to the crowd for several minutes extolling the virtues of John McCain. I'm sure that the Senator's third-place finish in the voting can be ascribed to his endorsement. Mr. Bohlinger never made an attempt to vote in the caucus.

Pictures exist of the couple throughout the evening.

And our good friend Jack the Blogger over at Western Word sent us this link. Isn't it odd that only Fox News online seems to have carried this AP story? A search for the text of the above quotation reveals no other links.

We can only be very glad that this cordial meeting took place, and hope that there are many more to come. In the AP article, Bohlinger is quoted as saying this:

“I don’t think that signing on to be Brian’s partner makes me a Democrat,” Bohlinger said, adding he has not given up on the Republican party “and I hope they don’t give up on me.”

The Republican caucus has drawn attention to the fact that Montana doesn't have registration by party, and so the only way that one can be identified with a party is by being on the ballot as a Republican or Democrat -- or by being someone whose actions show a support for the Republican Party.

On the one hand, we would like to have registration by party in Montana -- for a number of reasons.

But on the other hand, there is a sense in which there is something appropriately Montanan about having to prove that one is a Republican or Democrat by one's actions.

There is a way forward for Bohlinger as a Republican, should he choose to take it -- and it involves action. Coming to the caucus and respecting party rules was a good start. It was also a good start for him to be graciously invited by Iverson and courteously received by the gathering.

What can the Republican Party do now? Iverson has already indicated that he will invite Bohlinger to speak at the GOP convention this summer, and that is a good start. It is perhaps not in the best spirit of bridge-building to ask him to have a 90-minute question and answer session -- sort of the political equivalent of a public root canal. But the ground rules should be clear -- conventions are meant to build and boost the Republican Party -- and Bohlinger should respect that and speak in a way that boosts and helps the Republican Party.

What else can Bohlinger do? He can do fundraisers to benefit the Montana GOP or the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. He can work to get a Republican AG elected and to get Duane Grimes elected as State Auditor. He can take public stands where he sides with Montana Republicans on some issues where most Montana Republicans disagree with the governor.

We think this would be a great thing for the GOP, and a great thing for Bohlinger. Will it help the governor? Maybe -- but we suspect it would be a wash. Sen. Roy Brown will defeat the governor in the coming election based on the issues and on Republican fundamental strengths -- not on how how the governor uses Bohlinger as a tool against Republicans. And if we proactively reach out to the Lt. Gov. and get him to commit to our party and some of our candidates, there will be less of an opportunity for him to be used in that way.

Thanks again to Lt. Gov. Bohlinger for coming to the caucus, thanks again to the forward-looking Iverson for inviting him, and thanks to the Helena gathering for receiving him warmly. May this be the start of something beautiful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Montana Headlines,

I was the one who drew attention to the lack of press coverage about Bohlinger and the GOP caucus, which I think is very strange after all the fuss the press made over this issue.

If I can, I'd like to share a little more information about what I found out after doing a little more research on this topic.

I was curious how the press covered this after the caucuses, and so looked in vain Wednesday morning and couldn't find any news online. Today, I was able to find that the Missoulian did post the AP story late Tuesday night that mentioned Bohlinger, but I didn't see it when I looked Wednesday morning. Either I missed it or, more likely, I believe it was bumped by then by a more up to date story from the Lee Bureau that provided the information that Romney had won the caucus.

The Helena paper had its local reporter cover the Lewis and Clark County caucus that Bohlinger attended, and the reporter did not mention Bohlinger for some reason. The other Lee stories and Great Falls Tribune stories that I found in the online archives also didn't mention Bohlinger.

So the AP story had a brief mention of the matter, but the story was posted, it appears, for only a few hours on the Missoulian site before it was bumped by a more up to date story that didn't mention Bohlinger. As I said, that was the only place that I could find in Montana where that story was used. (And I doubt it was in the hard copy of the Wed. paper; they probably used the story about Romney winning instead, I'm guessing).

I didn't see anything mentioned either on TV news.

Ironically, the story got more play outside Montana through its posting on the Fox site than it did in Montana, it would seem.

In any regard, it would seem you are right to wonder why the press would ignore this when raising such a stink earlier about Bohlinger being shut out of the caucus.