Quite the lede opens Tom Lutey’s piece in the Billings Gazette about how Billings-area legislators saw the first half of the session:
Citing extreme media bias, Republican lawmakers home on their midsession break Friday told supporters that their best work was being ignored by the press.
What follows is an awfully one-sided look at the Legislature’s first half, with significant omissions about what the Republicans have done—and not done—to open this session. It’s clear that Republicans are getting nervous that the public is understandably frustrated by the absurdity coming out of the session, but rather than fixing the problem and focusing on jobs, they’re going back to the old tried and true strategy of blaming the media. In this story, it worked.
Lutey got played like the referees get played by Phil Jackson during a playoff series; after so much crying about media bias, he let the Billings Republicans get away with saying whatever they wanted—in the name of “balance.”
Lutey lets the Republicans (without any response from Democrats or labor) claim that their punitive worker’s compensation bill will create jobs and that (without a response from Democrats or environmental groups) that there MEPA rollbacks will not harm the environment.
Finally, Lutey even makes an argument for the Republican legislators, without even troubling one of of them to make it for him:
Many of the social and political bills that have captured headlines in the first half of the session will not in the second half, because several weren’t transmitted to the opposite House. Those that don’t cross by the halfway point are done.
That’s a handy way to throw away the first half of the session—none of those pesky “social” bills really mattered because the work of the Legislature happens in the second half anyway. If true, couldn’t the fiscal conservatives in the GOP have started work immediately on the the budget and left sex ed. and constitutional scholarship at home?
There is a reason that Montana is becoming a national laughingstock. It’s not media bias; it’s Republican extremism. For a reporter to indulge these paranoid fantasies and lame excuses is a real shame. Republican Representative Walter McNutt said it best: “Quit scaring our constituents and quit making us look like a bunch of buffoons.”