Rebecca Tescher Robison, publisher of the Yellowstone County News, has written the one newspaper editorial I have seen endorsing Conrad Burns. It was reprinted in the Big Sky Business Journal, so you can find it here.
I like Becky and respect her work. I have called her the best newspaper editor in Yellowstone County. I think that we both want similar results from government. So how can we disagree so thoroughly on Burns vs. Tester? Let's take a closer look at why she backs Burns.
He's against raising taxes.
True, but he certainly doesn't seem to be against spending tax dollars. Fiscal conservatism means spending no more than necessary and paying for what you buy. That ain't Burns.
He does NOT support a 23 percent sales tax. He supports a national sales tax but won’t support a tax increase but will consider it only as a replacement tax. No one is sure where his opponent got the 23 percent figure.
The 23 percent is, presumably, what it would cost to use a national sales tax as a replacement tax. I think Tester is silly to make an issue of this ridiculous proposal, but, let's face it: Burns did say he supported it.
Tester does not support the Patriot Act – Burns does.
Fair enough. I'm not one of those who thinks the Patriot Act is the disaster that some civil libertarians fear. Even the ACLU now thinks the act isn't so bad. But Burns also supports the far more damaging Military Commissions Act, which gives the government powers unimagined in the Patriot Act.
Burns is pro economic growth. State Senate President Jon Tester, apparently, is anti-growth and anti-jobs.
The sole evidence offered for this assertion is that Tester voted against allowing the Bull Mountain mine permit to be passed along to a new owner without further government review. The potential for abuse in such transactions seems obvious, and the state's risk, particularly for reclamation, is substantial. Tester's vote may or may not have been wise, but it doesn't sound anti-growth.
Burns is anti-abortion, pro-marriage. Tester is a die-hard supporter of abortion.
I've seen no evidence that Tester is a die-hard supporter of abortion. He does oppose a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Good for him. The Constitution should not be the place where Americans resolve controversial moral debates. It is the place we go once those debates have been resolved.
"Pro-marriage" appears to be code for "anti-gay marriage." Again, Tester opposes a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Again, he is right to do so, for the reason cited above.
Burn is for a less intrusive government, smaller government.
Even six years ago, I might still have believed that. But no more. Burns has faithfully backed an administration that has plunged this country into massive deficits, ill-considered foreign wars and an unprecedented expansion of executive power. Even Burns' campaign ads, which focus on his skill in steering tax dollars our way, sound like they could have been written for a liberal Democrat. Tester won my vote when I heard him tell Yellowstone County Democrats that if all they cared about was bringing more tax dollars to Montana, then they probably shouldn't vote for him.
The rest of the editorial focuses on the Abramoff allegations. The thrust is that no evidence has surfaced to prove that Burns has committed a crime. True enough, and I don't really much care about Abramoff. Only Burns can know in his heart whether Abramoff's dollars influenced his votes. But I do think that the Abramoff allegations add to the perception that Burns has been in Washington too long, to too little good effect.
It's time for him to go.
UPDATE: Here's Keith Olbermann's blistering take on the Military Commissions Act.