A spin doctor unwinds 

Election Aftermath

“Congratulations Senator-Elect Tester.”

Those were just a few of the gracious words J.P. Pendleton, U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns’ outgoing communications director, had for Jon Tester on his blog just days after his boss lost his job in the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

Pendleton, Burns’ self-described chief spin-doctor of nearly six years, is one of the 30 or so senatorial staffers who will be out of a job come January when Tester is sworn in as Montana’s next U.S. Senator. And while he’s admittedly pained by the loss, Pendleton has been a model of civility in his parting from politics (he says Burns’ loss is his political “swan song”), offering the incoming junior senator from Montana a few words of sage advice on his way out the door.

“This wasn’t like winning the Super Bowl. This is more like having a baby,” Pendleton writes, “a celebratory event for sure, but the work is just beginning.”

His Nov. 9 blog entry titled “Breaking the ‘Cone of Silence,’” (maryandjp.com/blog/ 2006/11/09/breaking-the-cone-of-silence/), dedicates several paragraphs to praising Tester’s character and offering words of encouragement. Montana bloggers from across the political spectrum have lauded Pendleton’s candor. Some have even speculated that if Pendleton had been in charge of Burns’ campaign rhetoric instead of election ringer Jason Klindt, the outcome might have been different. But Pendleton, tired of the rancor and bloodletting of today’s bitterly partisan politics, is simply looking forward to finding a new job…hopefully one that doesn’t involve asses and elephants.

“The thing that has frustrated me the most is the negative rancor on both sides,” he tells the Independent, now that he’s not “worried about upsetting the boss.”

“It’s probably a bit utopian of me but I still think there is room in our nation, and especially in Montana, to not have that lowest common denominator in political discourse.”

For reasons he declined to share, other than to say, “I do what I’m told,” Pendleton was virtually absent from media coverage in the months leading up the election. But given his experience and demeanor, he’s not likely to disappear from Montana journalists’ Rolodexes. And given his professionalism in good times and bad, we hope his swan song isn’t the last we hear from him.

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