Prairie Lights: Pushed into a corner, politicians deflect
I’m still trying to decide who had the worst response to last week’s political scandals — Roy Moore down in Alabama or Troy Downing here in Montana.
Moore is the Republican U.S. Senate candidate who brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai and presented them to the chosen people of Montgomery, Ala.
Last week, the Washington Post published a long story detailing alleged improper relations between Moore and several teenage girls.
At least one of the relationships would have been a crime because at the time the girl was 14 and Moore was 32 — and he was an assistant district attorney who should have been familiar with the concept of “sexual abuse in the second degree,” as defined in Alabama law.
In response to the allegations, Moore’s campaign chairman played the Trump card, calling the Washington Post story “the very definition of fake news.” Moore himself, in a Trump-like Twitter storm, cast himself as a Christian martyr being persecuted by godless liberals and other agents of Satan.
Some of his supporters went completely off the rails, defending Moore on the grounds that when the parents of Jesus got hitched, “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter.”
The same witless defender, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler, also pointed out that the father of John the Baptist was an old geezer when he took himself a young wife.
Do I need to add anything? Is there any way to mock this kind of stuff that is more compelling than the way such comments mock themselves?
Anyway, I found one statement from Moore’s campaign even more telling: “After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”
This kind of explanation, this appeal to logic, is often used by guilty parties who have no other defense. It is the kind of deflection a defense attorney might engage in, not the response of someone who knows he is not guilty of a crime.
Which brings us to Troy Downing. Downing is the Big Sky resident — or sometime vacationer, which is the crux here — who is hoping to win the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen Jon Tester next year.
The Bozeman Chronicle reported that the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued several citations to Downing, alleging that he illegally bought state hunting and fishing licenses at a time when he was paying non-resident taxes and referring on his personal blog to being “home” in California.
In response to the allegations, his campaign released a statement saying, in part: “Troy spends tens of thousands of dollars to support our wounded warriors in fishing trips in Montana, and, he overpays by tens of thousands of dollars to fish and hunt to support other charities here in Montana. It makes no sense that he would try to skirt a small difference in a resident vs non-resident license in Montana.”
There it is again, that appeal to logic, as opposed to a categorical denial and the presentation of facts.
The release also made the charge that “the liberal Montana FWP deep state is on a witch hunt.” The term “deep state” has a long history, but Downing apparently used it in reference to career employees buried in state government who follow their own agendas and attack political enemies.
Whatever he meant by it, it was another deflection, an attempt to shoot the messenger rather than dealing with the message.
Just as bad was the gratuitous attack on the judge who unsealed the Fish, Wildlife and Parks search warrant application that contained an affidavit detailing the charges against Downing. The Downing campaign said the release of public information was a “politically motivated” action by a “Democrat judge, appointed by Democrat Gov. Schweitzer.”
There were all sorts of other such instances of whining and question-begging in the release, but not, as far as I know, a single word about the actual charges. The affidavit said Downing filed income taxes as a non-resident in 2013 and 2014, two of the years in which he obtained Montana hunting or fishing licenses.
If that is not in fact true, couldn’t Downing prove it by simply producing his tax returns? Or is that something he, like Trump, would never do? Likewise with the blog comments, which Fish, Wildlife and Parks quote in the affidavit.
Did he or did he not write, in 2013, as reported by the Chronicle: “This part-time Big Sky resident’s latest ventures include throwing grape-stomping parties at his working vineyard on his southern California property”?
Don’t tell us it would have made no sense for Downing to cut corners. Show us the documents contradicting the allegations made by the deep-state operatives.
But that’s not all. Even if Downing is able to prove that those operatives are lying, he’ll still have to explain how a relative newcomer to the state, who lives part-time in the exclusive bubble of Big Sky, could ever presume to represent Montana in Washington, D.C.
Ed Kemmick is the founding editor of Last Best News in Billings.