By the time you read this, we’ll know who the nominees are in the U.S. House and Senate races this year.
It’s definitely not going out on a limb to predict that the primary winners in the Senate race will be Steve Daines on the Republican side and John Walsh on the Democratic side.
In the House race, no doubt John Lewis will get the Democratic nod since challenger John Driscoll of Helena has run an essentially invisible campaign, but it’s a crapshoot whom Republican voters will back sufficiently enough to nominate for the general election runoff. Things have tightened considerably in the past few weeks between Corey Stapleton, Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale, so it will be interesting to see which one of them managed to pull ahead at the primary finish line.
While the Republican House candidates and their surrogates have been busy sniping at one another, the two likely Senate nominees have been saving their firepower for the general-election campaign. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Daines and Walsh were unopposed in their respective primaries, which isn’t very flattering to GOP candidates state Rep. Champ Edmunds or Susan Cundiff, both of Missoula, nor to former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger or rancher Dirk Adams on the Democratic side.
Both Walsh and Daines have been specifically reaching out to women voters by launching TV and online video ads discussing abortion, which, after all, is the main issue women are interested in. Not.
Those two candidates are engaging in other targeted messaging as well. According to a recent advertising analysis, they’ve been lobbing negative TV ads at one another over specific votes in Congress. One Daines ad attacks Walsh for voting to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. Walsh’s response ad counters that Daines also voted to raise the debt ceiling.
Our ever-quotable former Gov. Brian Schweitzer is again grabbing national publicity for his views, this time about the relative wisdom of supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential plans. His strategy is apparently to criticize her from a more liberal populist angle, which includes slamming her ties to Wall Street and her relatively hawkish (for a Democrat) foreign policy positions, including voting for the war in Iraq.
In a May 21 profile in the Wall Street Journal, Schweitzer’s approach is described as taking Clinton on from the left, a position which few critics occupy, and perhaps to goad other Democratic candidates into challenging any electoral plans she may have for 2016. While it remains to be seen whether other Democratic candidates will emerge to do so, Schweitzer is there meanwhile to fill the rhetorical gap by appealing to “disillusioned liberals.”
A lengthy article May 22 in Commentary magazine sums up the situation like this: “Thus while the odds are still against Schweitzer, he’s probably the right Democrat to make this play. Democrats around the country no doubt expect the sea to swallow him. But they’ll be watching just in case.”
Brian Williams of NBC News recently scored an exclusive interview with leaker extraordinaire Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has been hiding out in Russia after releasing tens of thousands of sensitive documents to the press and seriously ticking off the Obama administration and U.S. intelligence agencies.
In the interview, which aired May 28 on “NBC Nightly News,” Snowden described his gradual disillusionment over time with U.S. foreign policy and indicated that he would like to come home if possible. The program prompted a backlash of anti-Snowden rhetoric from the government. Secretary of State John Kerry called him a “traitor” and a “coward” who has betrayed his country, and other officials painted him as merely a low-level analyst, which Snowden said was a misleading characterization .
President Obama recently approved the release of five Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for an Army sergeant from Idaho who was captured in Afghanistan and held for nearly five years by a group called the Haqqani network, which is reportedly affiliated with the Taliban. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, was released on Saturday and flown to Germany, while the so-called “Taliban five” were flown to Doha, Qatar.
The president is now being criticized by Republican members of Congress for breaking U.S. law with the prisoner exchange. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Howard McKoen, R-Calif., said that Congress is supposed to get 30 days notice before any terrorists are transferred from a U.S. facility and that the president has to explain why the threat they pose is now “substantially mitigated.”
The administration, while acknowledging that it had not complied with the letter of the law, explained that “unique and exigent circumstances” existed requiring quick action to respond to an opportunity to arrange Bergdahl’s release using the Emir of Qatar as a go-between.
Emails that Bergdahl sent to his family before his capture indicated a less-than-enthusiastic attitude toward his Afghanistan deployment. He reportedly told them that he was ashamed to be an American and wrote, “These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”
Some rather discouraging poll results surfaced last month in which nearly half of the respondents indicated that they really don’t care which of the two major political parties controls Congress.
On the plus side, 53 percent said they did care quite a bit about which one wins.
The Associated Press-GfK poll asked 1,354 adults in online interviews which party they would rather see in charge, and Republicans reportedly were at the bottom, evenly tied with “doesn’t matter.” The Democrats didn’t do all that well in the poll either, since only 37 percent of poll respondents indicated that their leadership was better, while 31 percent preferred that of the GOP.
Maybe we should have a national “We Don’t Care Party.” It could really catch on, if somebody actually cared enough to set it up.
Quote of the week
“U.S. military action cannot be the only or even primary component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
— President Barack Obama, to graduates at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, May 28.