Thursday, August 25, 2016


Last April I posted that while there were certain superficial similarities between Greg Gianforte and Donald Trump, there were also big differences: Gianforte, while not much of an original thinker, was a civil guy and a straight shooter. I didn’t think he would stoop to the abuse, fear mongering, narcissism and falsehoods that come so naturally to Trump.

Well, I spoke too soon.

Last week the Gianforte campaign mailed out fliers attacking Steve Bullock for “bringing Syrian refugees into Montana” and assuring us that if he is elected, Gianforte would “BAN refugees from countries known to harbor terrorists like Iran and Syria.” It was pure Trump, filled with frightening but deceptive imagery, misstatements of fact, and absurd boasts about what Gianforte would and could do to make us all safe.

Like Trump, Gianforte depicts Syrian refugees as masked, armed terrorists, not the kids and mothers and fathers who are being bombed in Aleppo or drowning in the Aegean as they try to escape. He says his heart goes out to these people and that we have a moral obligation to help them. No doubt he believes that, but what is he really prepared to do? It’s a mystery how we can help them if we refuse to provide shelter from the incessant bombs and rocket fire and bullets and poisonous gas that are killing them every single day. The name says it all: they desperately need refuge.

Like Trump, Gianforte exploits the public’s anxiety by claiming that refugees coming to Montana would be “unvetted,” when it has been reported over and over again that nobody entering the United States from abroad is exposed to more comprehensive vetting than refugees are.

Like Trump, Gianforte promises to do something that he cannot possibly do. He either doesn’t understand or willfully ignores the fact that as governor of Montana, he cannot ban refugees from any country, let alone from a list of countries of his own choosing. He cannot stop refugees admitted to the United States from settling in Montana communities. He cannot protect Montanans from violence by preventing refugees from settling here.

And like Trump, when his absurdity and dishonesty are exposed, Gianforte simply denies that he meant what he clearly said.  As the Missoulian reported last week, when asked about the flyer, Aaron Flint, Gianforte’s spokesman, claimed, incredibly, that it wasn’t about refugees, but ISIS. Equating refugees to ISIS fighters may make Gianforte look resolute in the fight against terrorism, but it also reveals a frightening willingness to follow, politically, the path of least resistance.

I assume that Gianforte’s decision to take this position was a calculated one. I imagine he’s looking at polls and finding that the narrow and worn out economic message he has been purveying up until now just doesn’t have legs, and Trump, playing on the voter’s insecurities, is doing a lot better. So Gianforte, if he ever did have reservations about doing politics Trump’s way, has now abandoned them.  Anything to get elected.

As Trump himself likes to say, “Sad.”