Archive for November 14th, 2006

by Jay Stevens 

I don’t like it when I’m misled.

I’m sure you don’t like it either. And certainly Montana’s electorate won’t be too pleased, either. Remember all the noise from the right about how the Democratic leadership was going to scr*w us over as soon as Tester won the election?

A few weeks before the election, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada promised Jon Tester a seat on the Appropriations Committee. It was a nice gesture. Montana depends on federal largesse for roads, infrastructure, special projects, etc. We take in more federal dollars than we back. And Burns was a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, so the Democratic leadership was, in effect, telling us not to worry.

Today, JT was given his committee assignments:

Tester is assigned to six other committees instead. According to the office of future Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tester is expected to serve on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; the Senate Indian Affairs Committee; the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee; the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Small Business Committee.

Maybe freshmen Senators don’t get seats on Appropriations. Maybe there were others with greater need in front of Tester in line. (When did Burns get his seat, anyway?) And Montana does have a senior Senator with 30 years’ seniority in Congress, so we’re not likely to get stiffed for appropriations anytime soon. And Reid did give up his own seat on the committee for someone else…so obviously he’s trying to get as many folks in there as he can.

But in the end, if you weren’t going to give Jon a seat on the committee, you shouldn’t have promised you’d give it to him. JT could have won the race without the promise; but Montana voters have good memories. There are some important elections coming up, and we need to continue our work of spreading progressive ideas in the state. A 2009 seat on the Appropriations committee won’t help us in 2008.

Jon’s a plain talker. That’s why people like him here in Montana. I’d advise you follow his example. No more double-speak and false promises, okay? Just tell us what’s up, and we’ll handle the rest.

Update: Deb had some excellent points in her comment:

Just a nitpick: Reid promised Jon a seat on the Appropriations Committee ‘as soon as possible’, which I interpreted as meaning as soon as an opening became available. It was just political parsing, not a real promise. Now we have to be content for a while to only have Max Baucus as chairman of the extremely powerful Senate Finance Committee. I can live with that, and I do like that Energy & Natural Resources Committee appointment.

I’m also thrilled to see Jon on the Homeland Security committee: maybe we’ll see some influence towards real improvement in national security, instead of desperate grabs for executive power. Indian Affairs is good too: look for increased co-operation between Montana Democrats and Native Americans. Veterans Affairs and Small Business are totally appropriate for Tester; these are areas which Tester is keenly interested in and eager to make improvements on.

So maybe I’m being a little hasty with my condemnation of Reid. It may indeed be “parsing,” not a “promise.” Still, you know our robo-righties are making noise on this.

by Jay Stevens 

Paul Krugman wrote on Jon Tester in today’s New York Times, located behind the paper’s firewall. Luckily for you all, I ran across a copy. Here are some of the salient parts:

“If it walks, talks like a conservative, can it be a Dem?” asked the headline on a story featuring a photo of Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana. In other words, if a Democrat doesn’t fit the right-wing caricature of a liberal, he must be a conservative.

But as Robin Toner and Kate Zernike of The New York Times pointed out yesterday, what actually characterizes the new wave of Democrats is a “strong streak of economic populism.”

Look at Mr. Tester’s actual policy positions: yes to an increase in the minimum wage; no to Social Security privatization; we need to “stand up to big drug companies” and have Medicare negotiate for lower prices; we should “stand up to big insurance companies and support a health care plan that makes health care affordable for all Montanans.”

So what, aside from his flattop haircut, makes Mr. Tester a conservative? O.K., he supports gun rights. But on economic issues he’s clearly left of center, not just compared with the current Senate, but compared with current Democratic senators. The same can be said of many other victorious Democrats, including Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island, and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. All of these candidates ran on unabashedly populist platforms, and won.

Exactly! Thank you, Mr. Krugman.

And Tester’s economic left-of-center positions were, from the outset, the center of his campaign. And these issues were never seriously challenged by Republican Conrad Burns. That is, they’re extremely popular with the Montana electorate, and with Americans in general.

Let’s face facts: the electorate has not affirmed conservatism with this election. They’ve voted for a break from partisan wrangling and the “culture war,” against the Iraq War and corruption, and for populist economic policies.

If you’re a Democrat in this Congress, supporting economic policies touted by Tester and others is a no-brainer.


This was egregiously overlooked last month, but Mark Sundeen wrote a New York Times Magazine feature on Governor Brian Schweitzer. Great piece that nails his personality.

Mr. Tester goes to Washington: The Great Falls Tribune on the media interest in the candidate; his first days in DC; his reception as a welcome change.

Democrats take the Montana state legislature! GOP state senator Kitzenberg is switching parties; HD 58’s count ended in a tie – if the recount stands, the good Guv will fill this seat with the representative of his choice.

Jeff Mangan weighs in on Sam Kitzenberg’s defection and what a 50-49-1 Dem/Rep/whack-o split will mean in the state house.

The blue man who helped paint the Montana Senate seats blue. (Hat tip Ed Kemmick.)

Or did Bush’s visit to Billings hand the Senate seat to Tester?

Look who made Kos’ 2008 House target list! Dennis Rehberg, and “for other reasons.” Hm. What does that mean?

Howard Dean gets his props at The Hotline.

One of the best effects of a Senate takeover by the Democrats is that James Inhofe (R-OK) loses his chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works committee. Now we can begin to address climate change.

The GOP Congress wants to take a last parting shot at unions, only it’s going to make our roads more dangerous.

Meanwhile, some parts of the conservative movement is moving off the deep end, tying illegal immigration to abortion. So it’s not just a clash! of! civilizations! It’s! murder! Wheee!

Neocons aren’t immune to the pull of deep water: Kagan and Kristol urge the President to invest imaginary troops in Iraq. As if anybody has taken these guys seriously in the last two years…

Sadly No considers the gap between right-wing online rhetoric equating liberalism and terror, and reality.

Colbert on the rising influence of Poppy in foreign policy.

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