The ever-vigilant Western Word has told the story that amazingly enough (note: sarcasm alert) didn't get told in the Billings Gazette today.
The Gazette notes that Sen. Tester, like Sen. Baucus, voted against a moratorium on earmarks. Earmarks are a common way that pork-barrel projects get put through without debating the merits of the project.
There is a case to be made for earmarks, so the vote is not necessarily bad for Montana. The point, as Western Word notes, is that during the campaign, Tester used earmarks as a baseball bat to beat then Sen. Conrad Burns over the head.
Tester's spokespeople are now trying to say that he never opposed earmarks, unfortunately for them, Western Word has done the research:
That reply is not true. Not even partly true. During an October 9, 2006, PBS debate in Bozeman, Tester said, “I don’t support earmarks, period.” A few seconds later, he added, “I’m not for earmarks.”
A link is provided to check out the video of the debate.
So why isn't the vigilant Montana press doing this kind of homework, and asking hard questions of Sen. Tester? Why doesn't the Gazette article mention Tester's constant beating of the drum against earmarks in his campaign challenge to Burns?
There are a few options that Tester could say and be truthful, but one of those options would not appear to be the lie that he has chosen to use: that he was "never against earmarks."
So what could he say and be truthful and believable?
"Look, I was just clueless, and didn't know what I was talking about back then. I was wrong. I didn't know that earmarks were good for Montana -- or that they would be good for my later political posturing.
I just said what I needed to say to get elected."
"Look, I never thought there was anything wrong with earmarks, and I knew good and well that once I was Senator, I would earmark with the best of them in order to bring spending projects to Montana so I could get re-elected.
I just said what I need to say to get elected, and knew I would likely get a free ride from the press on the issue."
Montana Headlines has time and again pointed out that Tester has repeatedly failed to support real earmark reform -- and it's not because there haven't been any opportunities to sign on to meaningful legislation. There have been plenty. This is just one of many examples of where "squeaky clean" Sen. Tester campaigned one way and is playing the Washington game in quite another. Not that this should surprise anyone -- it certainly doesn't surprise us.
Too bad the Montana press, which rode to Sen. Tester's rescue in his campaign against Sen. Burns, isn't showing any signs of playing "watchdog" on any of these questions. That watchdog role doesn't seem nearly as important now that Gov. Martz and Sen. Burns have been dispensed with.