George Ochenski’s “what-about-ism” started over a year ago. Oct. 24, 2016, Ochenski’s Missoulian column “Ennui” see-sawed back and forth, railing against Donald Trump, then bemoaning Hillary Clinton. Seemingly, neither should be elected president. The column’s last sentence? “lt’ll be over soon.”
Now, Republicans are blowing up the world with climate change ignorance; obsequious groveling to the National Rifle Association; promoting an accused pedophile to the Senate over a moderate, ethical Democrat; opposing net neutrality; stealing health insurance; taxing the poor and middle class; cheating and gerrymandering; savaging Medicare and apparently supporting a corporate oligarchy of wealthy, white, male rulers instead of a democracy. Meanwhile, Ochenski lashes out against Montana Democrats and Gov. Steve Bullock in particular.
In his Nov. 20 column “Discouraged, disgusted, dysfunctional,” Ochenski writes about Montana Republicans’ private prison deal and willfully misrepresents Rep. Ellie Hill, who stated private prisons “incarcerate people for money.” Hill meant private prisons incarcerate people for profit. We know public prisons need taxpayer money. But public prisons are not trying to profit from an individual’s imprisonment. Ochenski, you must have grasped this distinction. Why didn’t you elaborate on the evils of prison privatization, which incentivizes imprisoning citizens for self-harm crimes that don’t harm others, all for filthy lucre?
Your column also mentions Al Franken’s groping, Bill Clinton’s womanizing and “the corruption of Hillary Clinton ‘s campaign,” a veritable litany of Republican talking points. Ochenski’s “what-about-ism” implies a false equivalence between Franken (alleged groping, forced kissing) v. Roy Moore (alleged child molestation). Ochenski suggests that Hillary Clinton’s corrupt campaign was on a par with Donald Trump’s treasonous one.
Ochenski should compare Bullock’s tenure as our last Democratic attorney general with current Montana Republican Attorney General Tim Fox. Bullock was the attorney general who took Montana’s campaign finance law barring corporate money in our elections all the way to the Supreme Court. He tried to overturn “Citizens United.” In American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock (2012), he argued in favor of Montana’s sane, thoughtful elections law, which limited corporate campaign spending after “Copper King” William Clark bought his Senate seat through egregious bribery years ago. Our law had been in effect for over 100 years. Because of the Citizens United decision alleging that corporations are people, corporations now have free speech rights. This evil legal decision opened the door to dirty, dark, unlimited campaign money, and Montana voters subsequently elected the likes of wealthy low-level criminal and liar Greg Gianforte.
Fox, on the other hand, signed on to Donald Trump’s illegal Muslim ban. He also opposed the Clean Power Plan. Unfortunately, Fox reflects the very familiar, stubbornly ignorant Republican climate catastrophe denialism.
Emily Johnston, a valve-turner being tried in Minnesota, has been allowed to use the “necessity defense” at trial. Johnston reflected on her upcoming trial in The Guardian (Nov. 24). Some excerpts:
"The classic example of a legitimate use of the necessity defense is when someone is arrested for breaking and entering after they hear a baby crying in a burning building, and rush in to save her ... it’s not just scientists seeing the truth anymore: the building is indeed burning, and all the world’s babies are in it.
"l’m heartened by the way the law can be supple — not a thing that, once set, holds that exact shape forever (or we’d still have slavery, and I couldn’t vote or marry), but a thing that responds — slowly — to our evolving understanding of what is just and true."
Emily Johnston faces long imprisonment for her heroic actions. Yet, she is still able to write positively and truthfully about her circumstances. Ochenski, your “what-about-ism” is sadly shallow and petty in comparison.