I know this newspaper can do better at covering Montana politics than what we read in last week’s “Etc.” column. As we prepare for one of the most important elections in Montana history, readers deserve to know what separates Sen. Jon Tester and the guy who wants his job, Congressman Dennis Rehberg. The differences couldn’t be starker.
Unfortunately, last week’s Etc. column took the easy way out. Instead of thoughtful political analysis, readers got a disappointing glimpse of Jon Tester’s record. The Independent then editorialized on its own incomplete picture of Jon’s hard work.
Since the Etc. column criticized Jon’s 44 pieces of legislation this year, yet failed to illuminate them, allow me to fill in a few missing pieces. Jon wrote and passed the only jobs bill signed into law this year, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which passed both the House and Senate with unanimous support. He introduced legislation to add the “death of a child” to the Family Medical Leave Act. He got the U.S. Postal Service to delay closing any mail facilities in Montana. The crop insurance program Jon created to expand the production of camelina biofuel kicked into gear a few weeks ago. And President Obama just signed into law Jon’s bill to make the American Legion more accessible to younger veterans.
I don’t expect the Independent to write a story every time Jon Tester sends a press release. But if this publication is going to make light of “Car Collector Appreciation Day” or Jon’s role in getting ESPN to air football games, I would expect it to have shared more of Jon’s substantive record over the past year.
As for Jon’s refusal to give up on his popular Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, he’ll continue pushing his responsible Montana jobs bill because thousands of Montanans expect no less of him. Jon’s bill is a balanced, made-in-Montana solution to a problem that Congressman Rehberg has refused to address during his 35 years in politics. Now Congressman Rehberg admits he asked his party bosses to prevent a vote on the bill because he knows it would hurt his own senate chances.
So what is Congressman Rehberg responsible for? Very little, actually, unless you count trying to decimate Planned Parenthood, Head Start and Jobs Corps earlier this year. Or calling student financial aid “the welfare of the 21st century.” Or suing Billings firefighters. Or trying to take undue credit for Jon’s legislation (I don’t call that “bickering”; I call it setting the record straight—something newspapers should be doing). Congressman Rehberg has a long list of irresponsible decisions that have only hurt Montana.
In November of 2012, let’s hope for an outcome determined by facts and illumination. I look forward to more of that in these pages.
Aaron Murphy,Communications Director
Montanans for Tester