Montana Chamber of Commerce releases endorsements


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., flanked by his wife and son, backs Donald Trump at a Billings rally.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce has come out with its endorsements in statewide races, and the only surprise is the total lack of surprise.

There’s the usual heavy bias toward Republicans, the usual focus on the candidates’ perceived tilt toward business interests, the one token Democrat endorsement (Jesse Laslovich for state auditor).

To which one might make the usual complaints: There really isn’t much evidence that picking Republicans helps the economy. In fact, the evidence at the presidential level since World War II has been quite the opposite, for reasons that are very much open to debate. In Montana, the evidence is no more convincing.

Nor is there compelling evidence that the Republican prescription of lower taxes and less regulation is the magic formula for economic success. We have an ongoing test case of this argument: California adopted the highest state income tax in the nation in 2012, and Kansas cut both income and sales taxes that same year in what was practically a lab test of current GOP philosophy. Guess which economy is doing better.

One might also quibble with specific choices. Corey Stapleton is a capable guy, but is his record really a match for Monica Lindeen’s proven administrative success in the secretary of state race? Do Elsie Arntzen’s years of teaching experience match up to Melissa Romano’s national awards and reputation for teaching excellence in the race for superintendent of public instruction?

But the only remarkable thing about the Chamber’s endorsements is the use of “great” to describe three candidates: gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, Attorney General Tim Fox and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke.

Gianforte might indeed make a great governor, but he has provided no clear vision of exactly why his skills and experience would be better put to use in a government job than in the private sector.

Fox might be a great attorney general if he focused less on national issues and more on Montana.

And many adjectives might be applied to Zinke’s service in Congress, but “great” is not one of them. He is serving in the more dysfunctional house of the most dysfunctional Congress in U.S. history. That’s not his fault, but what “great” thing has he done to fix it?

He has tended to constituents’ concerns, to be fair, and he has introduced legislation to improve the quality of military lawyers. He also voted against a government shutdown.

But he has introduced moronic legislation to make women sign up for the draft. He has signed off on legislation designed not to make Obamacare go away but to make it worse. He has argued that global warming is not “settled science,” which is true only in the narrow sense that gravity is not settled science.

And he has backed legislation that would require the president to report the nation’s strategy to defeat ISIS to Congress every two years—a great idea if you think the best way to win a poker game is to lay all your cards on the table. Perhaps he can get ISIS to issue similar reports.

Finally, Zinke has endorsed the least qualified and least temperamentally suited candidate in U.S. history to be president. And he doesn’t even seem to know why.

On May 26 at a Donald Trump rally in Billings, Zinke said, “It is time for Montana to make America great again.”

On June 14 in Washington, D.C., he said, “America is a great country.”

Boy, that was fast. But not fast enough. Any candidate who at this late date remains uncertain about the greatness of America is a long way from greatness himself.

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