Frank Miele is the managing editor of the Kalispell, Mont. Daily Inter Lake. On October 12 he contributed an essay on the Montana Senate campaign to the Wall Street Journal that contained this telling anecdote:
A few weeks ago, for instance, the high-school auditorium in the town of Hamilton (pop. 4,500) was the scene of an embarrassing scrap. A debate between Messrs. Tester and Burns degenerated into an unruly shout-down in which an audience packed with Tester supporters heckled and cursed Mr. Burns, one even calling him a "psycho."
The troops of the hard left are all over Montana. Will they persuade this state to join them on the march out of Iraq and into a highly regulated future?
Jon Tester is campaigning on a demand that the entire Patriot Act be repealed. That plays well in some parts of the state where an intense libertarian streak dominates.
But a genuine libertarian looks at the demographics of the Supreme Court and understands that the left may well want to stop eavesdropping on terrorist, but it surely isn't giving up on its zeal to control private property and to leave farmers and ranchers burdened by, say, the Endangered Species Act and uncompensated for their loss of land use.
There are also more than 100,000 military veterans in the Big Sky State. Tester and the radical Democrats want to exit Iraq, just as they demanded and got a bug-out of Vietnam in 1974-75. This time the enemy won't be content to stay put in the the country we abandon, as ongoing violence in France and plots across the world demonstrate. Tester may well want to pretend that there isn't an enemy and it doesn't want to kill us. But the veterans and the practical people of Montana --are they willing to indulge this dangerous fanatsy?
They are certainly making Conrad Burns work for their vote, and he has been despite the rigors of the campaign on his 71 year-old frame. A good thing, that, as it concentrates the mind of not just Burns but the Republican majority that depends on the west for its energy and attachment to freedom and property rights issues.
So expect Montana to push Burns to the limit, and then send him back to keep the Senate in GOP control and the Supreme Court guarded during the tumultuous half-dozen years ahead.