I interviewed Greg Gianforte in 2015, and he did not attempt any takedowns. He seemed friendly, if a little nervous. I saw no flash of the belligerence that would characterize his interactions with reporters over the next year and a half. While I disagreed with pretty much all of his political positions, he struck me as a decent person who genuinely wanted to help. Wednesday night, he made it impossible for me to keep thinking of him that way. In response to a question about the Congressional Budget Office score of the Republican health care plan, Gianforte attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, throwing him to the ground and punching him in the face. The next day, voters selected him to represent Montana in the US House. He spent election day completely incommunicado, refusing to address reporters directly or through his campaign spokesman. He didn’t come out of hiding until the results were in. I congratulate the soon-to-be Representative Gianforte on his victory. I welcome him to the office he won by outing himself as a self-pitying bully with neither adult judgment nor fixed principles, and I look forward to writing about him for the next two years. Today is Friday, and the people committed to winning at all costs have notched another victory. Won’t you survey the field with me?
First, the good news: Gianforte may have alienated the entire press corps 12 hours before he got elected, but he still enjoys the support of the Congressional Leadership Fund. The bad news is that CLF Executive Director Corry Bliss called him a “C-minus candidate” as recently as last night. That didn’t stop the super PAC from spending $2.7 million to get him into office—more than any other non-campaign entity from either party. That money accounts for the deluge of opposition research that plagued Rob Quist even before he was selected as the Democratic nominee, from revelations of bad debts to this week’s spurious claim that he hadn’t registered for the draft. Quist was a bad candidate, and the Democratic Party of Montana looks incompetent for picking him. But on the plus side, he made it through the whole three-month campaign without hitting anybody.
When you think about it, though, isn’t physical violence from multimillionaires the only way to reign in an American press that has gone mad with power? The Onion says yes, which is why it published this editorial inviting Gianforte to physically assault its entire staff. And I quote:
The Onion believes strongly in the deferential role that the press must play in American democracy, and last night’s event in Montana was just the latest positive episode in the elegant dance between journalism and power that has gone on since this country’s founding. Without the vigilance and threats of physical violence from brave men and women like Mr. Gianforte, the press would surely become too brazen and powerful.
I’m so glad they wrote this idea out in full. It’s one of those conceits that’s funny because it’s sad, like so much of the best satire. I say unto you, dear reader, that it is un-American to side with a politician over the person who is trying to tell you what that politician is up to. Yet so many have. What is their endgame? Do they believe that once the media stops criticizing the ruling class, its members will be free to look out for ordinary folks like them?
Speaking of the thoughtless worship of authority, Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee has issued a statement in response to charges that he violated the civil rights of Dan Black, whom he ordered his deputies to detain after Black shook his head at him disapprovingly on an airplane. You may remember Sheriff Clarke from two weeks ago, when he announced that he would take a position at the Department of Homeland Security, but DHS refused to confirm. Or you may know him from this Army veteran’s assessment of the phony medals he wears on his uniform. Here’s what he told his deputies to do with Black:
Just a field interview, no arrest unless he become an asshole with your guys. Question for him is why he said anything to me. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut?
Seriously, plebes: Why don’t you just keep your mouths shut? I don’t understand why ordinary citizens think they can shake their heads at a county sheriff—especially one who has artfully arranged various badge replicas in the shape of military commendations. Anyway, these people are winning. It’s not even close.
Not to conduct this train onward toward Bummertown, but America also lost one of its best living writers yesterday. Denis Johnson, author of Jesus’ Son and other masterful works of short fiction, as well as several great essays, has died at age 67. He was one of the giants of what is sometimes called blue-collar realism, and he was among the last to make it feel surprising and fresh. If you don’t believe me, check out “Happy Hour” in Granta. Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link. If you liked that—and you’d better [testy millionaire violence face]—do yourself a favor and read Jesus’ Son. It is the best collection of short stories published in America since Raymond Carver died. We’re all headed there eventually, but few can hope to achieve so much along the way.