A politician’s life is not a happy one

BrucebraleyIt is a tough life, being a politician. John Walsh probably thinks so. The New York Times recently revealed that he plagiarized two thirds of a 14-page paper he wrote as part of his master’s degree at the US Army War College in 2007. Since he is no longer in the armed forces he might, in many professions, have thought that issue was now a thing of the past. He may also have reflected that, if he were not a politician, the New York Times would have been unlikely to find the issue newsworthy. But, a politician is what he is. The open Senate seat in Montana would have been a tough race for a Democrat this year, so the party may have thought it secured an advantage in nominating Walsh to the vacancy which arose when Max Baucus was appointed ambassador to China. It turns that the advantage of incumbency is diminished when the incumbent has a difficult past. In defending his actions his campaign team cited PTSD, and claimed he had survived hundreds of IED attacks. They later clarified that his unit had survived hundreds of attacks. In the case of all but one of these attacks Walsh had survived through not being there at the time. Walsh has now withdrawn from the race and the Democrats are faced with the open seat they had hoped to avoid, and the embarrassing search for a new candidate.

It is not just in Montana that little things can come back to haunt politicians. First there was the fundraising incident. Rep. Bruce Braley told a group of trial lawyers in Texas that if the Republicans were to win the Senate then the next Chairman of the Judiciary Committee would be, horror of horrors, a farmer from Iowa. If Braley had been a candidate in Texas this might not have mattered, but he is running for a US Senate seat in Iowa, where people don’t like the idea of trial lawyers looking down on farmers from Iowa.

Braley is also involved in a bit of a dispute with his neighbors about . . . some chickens. He denies he threatened to sue over the issue. The specific allegation is that he said he didn’t want to get litigious. If his denial means that he doesn’t think that’s a threat, then he is splitting hairs like, um, a trial lawyer. If you tell someone you don’t want to get litigious it implies that you are willing to get litigious if you don’t get your way. 

Braley – with or without threats of a lawsuit – does seem to have complained to the homeowners’ association about a neighbor’s hens coming onto his property. Braley says that hens are not pets and “should not be permitted at Holiday Lake”. That was in a phone call to the association’s lawyer, by the way, not that he was threatening litigation. 

Braley’s neighbor claims the first she heard about her hens wandering onto Braley’s property was when she offered the Braleys some eggs and was sent away and told that they had already complained to the homeowners’ association. She feels they should have talked to her first.

Dissing farmers, and hens, in Iowa, is bad politics. On such little things control of the Senate might swing.

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com


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