Representative Commander Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, a career

Ryan Zinke accidentally wanders in front of a flag while wearing a cowboy hat.

Montana sends only one delegate to the United States House of Representatives, and for the last two years it was Republican and former Navy SEAL Commander Ryan Zinke. Zinke won re-election in November, but he vacated his seat last week after the Senate confirmed him as President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. Until we pick a new one via special election in May, Montana will go without representation in the House. This situation turns out to be not so different from the one we enjoyed already.

Zinke ends his career as a congressman having sponsored no bills that actually became law. That’s not so unusual for a freshman representative. What set him apart was his flair for the dramatic—his ability to present a wild caricature of Montana values while, again, not actually expressing those values in the form of legislation. But who cares about influencing the US government when your representative used to be a Navy SEAL? Sure, he missed 80 of 99 House votes after he was nominated for Interior. But he also gave us this photograph:

God, I’m going to miss that. Remember when he said President Obama shouldn’t have attended the Paris Climate Summit because it did nothing to stop ISIS? And then a few weeks later opposed background checks at gun shows, also because it wouldn’t stop ISIS? Communications from his office consistently referred to him as Commander Zinke instead of Representative Zinke—part of a relentless branding strategy that even extended to his duties as a rep. He co-sponsored the Draft American Daughters Act, a satirical bill to register women for the draft that expressed his opposition to letting them take combat specializations. This bill also did not pass. Again, nothing Commander Zinke proposed to the House ever passed. But what fun we had!

Now he runs the Department of the Interior, a position that will make his gung-ho performance art more difficult. It’s hard to connect the Interior to foreign terrorism. I believe Commander Zinke can keep making politics more like pro wrestling, though. It was a heartening sign when he rode a horse to his first day of work last week. Seriously—you can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Montana has not lost much of a legislator, but we must bid farewell to one hell of a showman. I can’t say I agreed with his politics too often. But I love a character, and Commander Zinke has certainly been that. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Nightmare army/death cult has trouble with the books

An ISIS checkpoint outside Beiji refinery in Iraq

An ISIS checkpoint outside Beiji refinery in Iraq

The Islamic State is the combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell of 21st-century geopolitics. It’s a terrorist organization and a state. It’s a brutal army and a pious theocracy. It’s our enemy, but it is also our fault. The only way ISIS is not like a Pizza Hut/Taco Bell is that it is not profitable. Back in January, it cut its fighters pay by half. Last week, the Washington Post announced that it was paying $50 a month—more if you have a wife and/or sex slave—and was struggling to supply electricity and medicine to the regions it controls. It turns out ISIS is good at taking over Iraq but bad at running it. Of whom does that remind me?

Continue reading

Scott Atran on what ISIS wants

An ISIS soldier poses in front of prisoners digging their own graves.

An ISIS soldier poses in front of prisoners digging their own graves.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) is now selling “ISIS hunting tags” for $15 apiece through his campaign website. They come with the disclaimer that they are not government-issued hunting permits, so don’t buy that plane ticket to Aleppo just yet. Still, for the price of a large pizza, you too can feel like you’re at war with violent fanatics on the other side of the globe—and contribute to the re-election campaign of a sitting congressman. We’re not at war with ISIS yet. But plenty of people in Washington say we ought to be. Demanding military action against the Islamic State is a sure way to drum up support, whether you’re Zinke or Donald Trump. It’s also exactly what ISIS wants, according to this cogent analysis by Scott Atran in the New York Review of Books.

Continue reading

Trump’s first ad shows us how he perceives himself

The Donald Trump campaign released its first-ever television ad yesterday, and its content suggests that Trump considers features what many of us regarded as bugs. He’s doubled down on two of his most risible ideas: a ban on Muslims entering the United States “until we can figure out what’s going on,” and a wall at the Mexican border. When fact-checkers pointed out that footage of immigrants storming a wall during the “wall at our southern border” part of the ad actually showed Moroccans trying to get into Spain, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski responded, “No shit it’s not the Mexican border, but that’s what our country is going to look like if we don’t do anything.” So the tradition of decorum continues.

Continue reading

Trump releases typo-ridden, superficially inaccurate proof of health

The future "healthiest individual ever to be elected to the presidency," per his doctor

The future “healthiest individual ever to be elected to the presidency”

We all love Donald Trump, but what if he dies before he can make America great again? That would be the only way ISIS, China and Mexico could win, unless you count Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, Trump has released an open letter from his physician, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein of the beautiful Lenox Hill Hospital, testifying that health-wise, the candidate is great. “If elected,” Bornstein writes, “Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

First of all, Abraham Lincoln wrestled professionally, so let’s be careful what we unequivocally state. Second, there are reasons to doubt the absolute credibility of this letter. For one, Trump attributed it to “the highly respected Dr. Jacob Bornstein of Lenox Hill Hospital,” which the astute reader will note is not Harold Bornstein’s name. The letter also begins, “To Whom My Concern,” suggesting that Trump dictated it himself and the stenographer misheard his rhetorical question, “For whom am I concerned?”

Finally, Dr. Bornstein writes that a recent medical examination of the candidate “showed only positive results.” Positive for strep, positive for Van Patten’s Syndrome—a disease that causes hair loss everywhere but the hair line—positive for cocaine: we don’t know, because the letter mentions no specific tests or their outcomes. As the Times puts it, the letter strikes a tone “oddly similar to how Mr. Trump talks about himself.”

It’s awesome, in other words, and I thank Trump for taking a moment away from running intervals to give it to us. Please don’t die. Please don’t become president, either; run as an independent and usher in the division of the Republican Party that scripture has long foretold. You’re our charismatic, goat-legged leader. We need you to rise up before you keel over.