Boat wreck politics

by Pete Talbot

As much as U.S. Rep. Rehberg and state Sen. Greg Barkus wish they could take back the night of August 27, it ain’t going away.

Lee Newspaper’s Jennifer McKee has a pretty decent analysis of the politics of late surrounding the boat wreck. I have a few comments on her story, of course:

First, McKee states that, ” … Rehberg is heading into a good time to run for re-election as a Republican in Montana and he’s got a lot of money.” I agree with “a lot of money” but why is this a good time to run for re-election as a Republican in Montana? Denny’s the only Republican in the state to hold any sort of high office, which doesn’t trend well. He’s really nothing more than an obstructionist when it comes to health care reform, our economic crisis, climate change … well. the list goes on-and-on. I truly believe that Denny is as vulnerable as he’s ever been. Just look at these polling numbers from August of this year.

The there’s Montana Cowgirl’s withering critique of Rehberg over at Left in the West. She lauds Democratic challenger Dennis McDonald’s charges that Rehberg used “bad judgment” for taking staffers on a boat ride, after drinking, with Barkus at the wheel.

Here’s the story on McDonald’s written attack on Rehberg. I’m not sure how savvy this is and kind of prefer McDonald’s primary opponent, Tyler Gernant’s, take on the accident (which was to bring up health care reform, noting that Rehberg has great, taxpayer-subsidized health insurance whereas, if it were you or me, we’d probably be paying off the medical bills for the rest of our lives). I prefer those who take the high road when it comes personal politics but that isn’t what’s taught in Campaign 101 and I suppose McDonald wants to strike while the iron is hot.

Speaking of Campaign 101, and back to Ms. McKee’s analysis, there are some quotes from political science professor at Eastern Montana College’s (yeah, yeah, I know it’s MSU-Billings now, whatever) Craig Wilson:

“I was a bit surprised by the timing of it,” Wilson said of McDonald’s attack. “It seemed a bit early.”

So when should McDonald attack, if he’s going to at all? A year after the fact? When everyone has forgotten about the incident? I don’t know why Montana journalists always go to Wilson for comments. The guy bugs me (more on Wilson here and here).

Then McKee quotes Will Deschamps, Montana Republican Party Chairman, who castigates McDonald for attacking Rehberg’s “bad judgment.” Deschamps compares Rehberg’s judgement call to McDonald’s support for a health care public option. Huh?

Finally, McKee quotes former Montana Republican Party Executive Director Jake Eaton. Remember Jake? He was behind the voter suppression campaign last fall, and this past summer he’s helping the teabaggers. What a source!

Anyway, it looks like boat driver Barkus’ political career is over. It’s still a question as to how much Rehberg will be hurt by the incident. I sincerely hope that Denny doesn’t lose the race because of this particular case of bad judgment. Unless one is being a total hypocrite, I prefer seeing personal issues kept out of the political debate. Rather, Rehberg should lose because of his lack of judgment on so many legislative matters, and his inability to advance any meaningful legislation in his five terms as our representative in congress.

  1. Butthurt liberals make me LOL XD

  2. petetalbot

    Great rebuttal, Rusty. Really takes this post to task.

  3. Big Swede

    Any one here haven’t driven their wife, kids, friends home after dinner and drinks?

    Not ridden as a passenger, or straddled a horse, but taken control of the vehicle and driven precious cargo home.

    If you have, like the majority of us, you were more irresponsible than Denny.

    • Condoning drinking and driving, Big Swede, doesn’t really make it OK. Montana or not.

    • NorthernFlicker

      Nope – I don’t drive when I’m impaired – NEVER. It is more than just irresponsible – it is against the law because it is seriously imperiling the lives of innocents. That some Montanan’s persist with this killing behavior is something we should condemn not condone. Condoning impaired driving is just like saying it is okay to feed your child rat poison, once in a while or to shoot into an occupied school building, now and then. The outcomes are just as deadly. Since drinking is entirely a choice, then the results from that choice are entirely the responsibility of the person who chose to raise the glass to their lips.

      Before you have that beer, you make sure someone sober is available to drive home – that’s RESPONSIBLE.

  4. mick

    HMMM , a drunken moonless night,a very long, choppy, speedboat ride, with employees-not even after my very first beer. Drunk seventh graders are more responsible than that p.o.s.,and more accountable. “Dad I only had 2 beers.” With a name like Rusty,you must have some fantastic salve.

  5. Liesa

    Great analysis of Craig Wilson. This guy’s comments do often seem to be off. Reporters are lazy and don’t know who else to ask. Lame.

  6. Jim Lang

    Craig Wilson is the most oft-quoted and predictably wrong person in Montana politics. I have no idea why reporters even bother talking to him.

  7. Jim Lang

    Actually, I do know why they talk to him – they know what he is going to say in advance, just as I do, so using him as a source makes it easier to write their articles.

  8. mick

    Only the truly butthurt call the boyfriend before the wife. If only they were just smoking pot.

  9. petetalbot

    Rusty and Swede,

    Please re-read the post. What the post highlights is the reporter’s analysis of the politics associated with the boat wreck. You’ll notice that at no time do I say the boating incident should be a factor in Rehberg’s election. I have plenty of criticism for Rehberg’s congressional record but don’t think that this particular lack of judgment on Rehberg’s part should play into the campaign.

    • Big Swede

      Did Denny’s congressional record suddenly change since his last election?

      Because it’s that record which has enabled him to consistently win, well into the 60’s percentile.

      • petetalbot


        I’m thinking it’s more like the weak candidates that the Democrats have put up, the last few cycles, to challenge Rehberg. It’s going to be much closer in 2010.

        • Big Swede

          Weak candidates?

          Must be that 2 year echo that keeps bouncing back.

          Please for our entertainment, please defend the San Fran Lawyer.

          • petetalbot

            There are two candidates, at this point, challenging Rehberg. I believe that either one will give Denny a run for his money (and I use the term ‘run for his money’ on purpose, as Rehberg has a boatload of it).

            But being a good Democrat, I’m not going to laud one over the other — at least until I see which one has a better chance of taking out Denny.

  10. Big Swede

    Ok Pete, you’re a film guy, how ’bout this ad.

    It open on a crisp autumn afternoon, Denny, shotgun in hand steps toward the camera and says, “As a third generation Montanan I respect and defend the right to bear arms. Not only for the hunting tradition we enjoy here in MT, but for self defense as well.

    Now my opponent may tell you his beliefs are the same, but my record speaks for itself on this issue and others.

    And besides who’s going to represent you better, a true Montanan or a carpetbagger San Fran Lawyer.”

    Let the games begin.

    • petetalbot

      Dude — maybe you should change your name from Big Swede to Executive Producer. I think you have a future as a political consultant.

      But honestly, and it could be just me, I don’t care where someone comes from. What’s important is his (her) stand on the issues and ability to get the job done.

      (It should be noted, though, that the other Rehberg challenger, Tyler Gernant, is a third generation Montanan.)

    • Pogo Possum

      “. . . And besides who’s going to represent you better, a true Montanan or a carpetbagger San Fran Lawyer.”

      Good ad copy Swede. Here is one minor revision.

      “. . . . And besides who’s going to represent you better, a true Montanan or a carpetbagger San Fran MOB Lawyer.”

      • petetalbot

        Well, well, well … we know how the congressional race is going to play out. The right will be calling McDonald a mobbed-up San Francisco lawyer and the left will be calling Rehberg an irresponsible drunk.

        This is truly disappointing.

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