The Drunken Sailor

Thinking more about Tester’s comment that Burns is spending like “a drunken sailor”…That comment really sticks, doesn’t it? Not just because it’s…well…accurate for the particular issue – Burns’ habit of stocking bills with fat appropriations earmarks – but it also touches on something about Burns that nagged at me the entire debate.

Burns acts like an addict.

His addiction isn’t women, drugs, or alcohol. His addiction is ethical impropriety. He’s a bribe-aholic.

The endless back-scratching and quid-pro-quoing Burns has done for the past 18 years has altered him (assuming it wasn’t part of his nature to begin with). It’s his world, it’s his universe. You see it in his campaign claims, his body language, his statements, especially during the recent debate. Burns’ campaign is all about justifying his habits and drawing you into sharing his addiction.

First, there’s the talking point Burns has been using since Day One: that he’s the man bringin’ home the pork for Montana. You can see this strategy at play on his campaign website under the link, “accomplishments.” Once you click the link, you’re taken to a page entitled, “What Conrad Burns Means To You!” (The exclamation point turning a simple statement into an in-your-face shout.) The page features an interactive map of the state: click on your county and find the pork Burns doled on your hometown.

What this is, of course, is a tacit confession that he’s dirty. He avoids discussing his votes on Iraq, health care, and contributions to the national debt. He avoids the accusations of his dealing with Abramoff. He avoids discussing the topics that actually mean something to Montana voters. Instead, he gives us this list, this sordid laundry list of all the favors he’s done for you, dear voter.

And he’s asking for your vote in return. As if we owe him.

In this rhetoric, we see classic signs of the addict. The justification of his behavior. “I’m doing it for you.” The attempt to draw us into his behavior. “You owe me.” And by voting for him, you’re not only approving of his behavior, you’re participating. You’re giving him the green light to pursue “business as usual,” which means making “deals” with lobbyists, voting against labor rights and increased border security, for example, on a group of Pacific Islands or diverting federal grants to groups that don’t really need them, in exchange for a little campaign money and fat-laden appropriations for Montana.

That rhetoric appeared again in Burns' closing statements during yesterday's debate.

During the debate, too, you could see the outrage in Burns when he was challenged by Tester on issues, like border security. What an outrage! How dare he challenge me! And even in campaign commericials that high-pitched outrage creeps into his voice: the man won't even consider his fallibility. He's so locked into his world view, one slip outside and blam! He's a goner. In other words, he can't challenge or question his own behavior. The only way Burns wins this race is if he admits to being swayed by lobbyists — maybe saying that DC is a crazy, corrupt place and he only wanted what was best for Montana — and throwing himself on the mercy of the state's voters. Don't hold your breath. Admitting that means admitting to himself that he's flawed.

(Even DeLay, who resigned under controversey and tacitly admitted he's guilty as sin, has a defiant attitude that says it's not him that's corrupt, it's those pesky rules hemming his greatness in that are corrupt.)

If you, like me, believe legislators are supposed to be honest and competent, you’ll be sickened by Burns’ campaign tactics. If you, like me, want someone in office who’ll not only fulfill his duties to the state, but also will seek to protect the Constitution, make our borders safer, stand up to the President on Iraq, work towards energy independence, and balance the budget, then you’ll vote for Jon Tester.

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  1. Burns is already on the defensive and he’s the incumbent. That’s never a good sign. Jon Tester is successfully portraying Burns as a crook and himself as a hard-working, third-generation, Montana guy.

    I believe Tester will win this one.

  2. Margie

    This is an excellent point. Burns does not see that Quid Pro Quo is bad. He doesn’t see that even if he is successful in bring home federal money to my state for pet projects that he isn’t serving the federal public interest which in the grand scheme of things is also my public interest. If the federal money had gone to fixing the levies in NOLA rather than pet projects here, maybe Katrine would not have been so devastating.

    I hope Tester drives this point home! Drunken Sailor indeed.

  1. 1 Links… « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist blames the minority party for the 109th Congress’ inability to do…well…much of anything. Um…? Reminds me of some other reality-challenged Senator… […]

  2. 2 Bob Keenan: flip flops on Burns, fiscal responsibility « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Honestly, this bald partisanship is annoying. Keenan talks about fiscal responsibility and financial restraint, but is urging you to vote for the drunken sailor. You know how I feel about the GOP’s mindless “cut taxes” rant – it’s unrealistic given the current circumstances and their cuts invariably favor the wealthy. […]

  3. 3 Roll Call report details Burns’ involvement in the INSA scandal « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] And how many of these appropriations does the drunken sailor consider “his” when touting his ability to “deliver” for Montana? If INSA is evidence of Burns’ delivery, I say we get the southpaw on the mound. […]




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