Archive for April 11th, 2006

So I was perusing the local papers when I came across this passage from a Great Falls Tribune article on a Conrad Burns stump speech:

"All of us have different assets in our possession," he said. "Here's mine." He put his arm around his wife, Phyllis, reminding his audience that they'd been together "just a freckle under 40 years."

The gesture comes a few days after state Auditor John Morrison, generally considered the front-runner in the Democratic Senate primary, acknowledged he'd had an extramarital affair with a woman whose fiancé was later investigated by his office.

Burns refused to comment on Morrison's issues Monday, saying, "I don't know anything about that."

(I’m sure Burns’ staff is grateful that the Tribune clarified its message for the public, letting the reporter do its dirty work for them while remaining above the fray. Personally I’d consider this passage too heavy-handed even for my blog, but I’m no journalist. I’m just a partisan blogger. Anyhow, on with the post…)

What irks me about this is how Burns uses his wife, Phyllis, for political gain. You hear it in almost every commercial he runs: “Phyllis and I…” “me and Phyllis…” The implication is that Phyllis is by his side, the faithful wife of forty-plus years, the benevolent grandmother, the stabilizing influence for the “rascal” Conrad. In other words, she’s a prop.

It’s a convention in contemporary politics to trot out your spouse and kids on stage. And I admit I get a little twinge when I see a picture of Tester duck hunting with his son. The images affirm that the candidate is a family guy, a guy just like you and me.

Still, if Burns keeps parading his wife onstage and in commercials as his “best asset,” and including her as part of the package we get with him as Senator, won’t she come under scrutiny for his actions? If Burns says “Phyllis and I have served you” in a political commercial, don’t we get the right to ask Mrs. Burns what she thinks of her husband’s connections to Abramoff? Was she aware of them? Does she condone him trading votes for campaign contributions?

Cathy Morrison’s appearance with her husband for a press conference addressing his marital infidelity and subsequent compromising position in his office’s prosecution of his former mistress’ fiancée was absolutely required to salvage Morrison’s chance at the Senate seat, but it was no less painful to watch for that fact. And make no mistake: it was a cold political decision to put her at the podium and have her make a statement. How humiliating that must have been for her. I imagine it was a grim day in the Morrison household.

(The press conference had to remind people of the Barbara Walters’ interview with the Clintons, but in that case we understood Hilary’s motivation. She wasn’t just the president’s wife, she was the g*dd*mned First Lady. And she received her reward for sticking with Bill: a Senate seat. Not a bad deal if you’re the ambitious type.)

I’m not sure I have a solution for politicians exploiting their families. It’s part of the package. And not always a bad part. But if you use your spouse, expect folks to start talking to her and about her. If you make her part of your campaign, then she’ll become part of whatever story is framed around you.

SOS and seniors

Today the Billings Gazette published a good piece on state initiative 97, the "Stop Overspending" bill. It's well reasoned and researched and seems fairly objective, despite concluding that the bill is bad news for Montana.

To me, the most interesting tidbit in the article was the bill's likely adverse effect on Montana seniors. The article quotes an opposing group's statement that "The formula cap is based on overall population growth plus inflation, which doesn't allow for a much more rapid growth in Montana's senior citizen ranks."

Pat Callbeck Harper of AARP Montana said an across-the-board spending cap based on overall population growth ignores a looming demographic time bomb.

"The overall population growth in Montana by 2020 is 16 percent," Harper said. "But our population of 65 and older is estimated to more than double or increase 123 percent."

I'm never a fan of a bill that essentially targets some of the weakest members of our society. And who does the bill benefit anyway? Certainly not the average taxpayer who might save a sawbuck every now and then, but who'll be in sore trouble if they ever choose to retire.

Ultimately I'm not sure what purpose the bill serves. It seems redundant to me. We elect representatives to create budgets for us. If we don't like the way they spend, we can vote them out of office and get someone better to do the job.

So why the bill? All I can think of is that there's a small group of people who think they're right about their narrow and ideological fiscal beliefs and who want to force the rest of us to adhere to their ideology…well…from now on. Don't they trust the voters of Montana to make the right decisions about the state budget? Seems like we're doing a pretty good job now.


Sixty-three percent of polled Americans believe Bush acted illegally or unethically in the Plame scandal. Hello, Congress, are you there? It’s me, Touchstone.

Missed the rapture? Don’t worry! There’s a loophole you can exploit to git yerself up with God!

Bush stumbles over a question about private military contractors in Iraq. Shouldn’t he know about this stuff? After all, the reliance on private contractors by the U.S. in war is a recent development.

For those of you who doubt, here’s definitive proof of life on Mars!

Yet another scandal involving the Republican administration. This time a New Hampshire phone-jamming scheme has ties to the White House.

Here’s one for you randy math geeks: the equation for the “perfect *ss.” Yes, the link is sexist. No, there’s not a formula for the perfect man’s *ss. If you’re a mathematician hot for men, here’s your shot at immortality.

Two religious conservative Georgia Tech students are suing for their right to be intolerant. Hey, I agree with them! Unless, of course, they’re advocating violence against the people they don’t like.

Here’s your alternative energy source! The real natural gas…

Newt Gingrich calls for a “pull back” of US troops from Iraq. Who’s left to support the war?

Wired published a story about another possible NSA wiretapping program. Um…of all AT&T telephone traffic. Er…what does the administration have to do before Congress reacts? Seriously!

Still pondering the effect of the blogosphere? Unsure of where you stand? Confused by the confusion? Check out the NY Review of Books piece on Daily Kos founder, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, and his new book, Crashing the Gate, for yet more questions.

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