Senator John Walsh (D-Mont.) is currently dealing with the largest Montana political scandal since his corrupt appointment to his seat after the New York Times broke the story that he blatantly plagiarized his 14-page Army College master’s thesis.
Walsh’s egregious academic violation made it onto the front page of every major Montana newspaper on Thursday, and he has been the centerpiece of dozens of national news articles and TV programs.
To put it lightly, Walsh’s actions since the story broke have been an embarrassment to Montana. The Atlantic wrote an entire story about how our junior senator is similar to a plagiarizing 12-year-old. Walsh made it on the front page of Plagiarism Today. He’s getting thrashed on Reddit. The Washington Post editorial board said “Walsh should stop making excuses for his actions.”
It would be one thing if he only “borrowed” others’ academic works without giving them credit, but that is not the case.
Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, called Walsh’s thesis a “piece of s**t in a Washington Post column.”
“Having read Walsh’s thesis, it’s not just that it’s only 14 pages of text; it’s that even if you ignore the plagiarism, it’s a pretty bad 14 pages. The thesis is ostensibly about whether the United States should prioritize democracy promotion in U.S. grand strategy. If I was supervising this thesis — and I’ve supervised a fair number them for my day job — then this is what I’d have e-mailed Walsh if he’d handed this in to me:
‘John, this is an intriguing topic, and you’ve got the bare bones of an interesting thesis topic here, but you’re going to need to do a lot more work before handing in the final draft…’
Even if I didn’t detect the plagiarism, there is no way this passes muster for an M.A. thesis. No. Way.
So here’s my question to the Army War College, an institution that I have heretofore admired greatly — how in the hell did this piece of s**t result in the awarding of an M.A. degree?”
If you aren’t already familiar with Walsh’s multiple contradicting versions of if and why he plagiarized, you can read this article by the Washington Post, titled: “Sen. John Walsh, and how not to respond to a political scandal.”
Despite Walsh’s indefensible plagiarism and poor message management by his campaign communications team, loyal Democrats are still rushing to defend him.
Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) predictably offered up “[Walsh is] not an academic” as a weak defense, as if that excuses a 47-year-old graduate student from violating basic writing standards taught in middle school.
Montana Cowgirl made the claim that Walsh was not attempting to use his alleged PTSD as an excuse. However, Montana veterans disagree with that verdict, and are not happy about it, telling the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
“I feel like it’s a slap in the face to people who have obviously been through more than he has. I just don’t see how if you have a PTSD issue it’s going to cause you to plagiarize a paper.” —Brian Rudolph, 31, Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran, Great Falls.
Cowgirl then suggests that Republicans are the ones making a big deal out of the scandal. I don’t know what internet she uses to do her research, but it’s sure not the internet used by everyone else. The Steve Daines campaign hasn’t said a word about the scandal. Neither really has the Montana Republican Party.
However, the list of organizations participating in the “outrage” include such bastions of conservative bias as: Slate, The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Bloomberg, Salon, Gawker, The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, and the BBC.
If you’re looking for an unbiased source of information upon which to judge the scale of Walsh’s scandal, look no farther than the Army War College itself, the institution from which Walsh received his degree, or this quote in the New York Times:
“It’s clear there is indeed strong reason to believe this is plagiarism,” said the War College’s provost, Lance Betros, a retired brigadier general. “We are initiating academic review procedures.”
Don Pogreba over at Intelligent Discontent asserted basically the same things as Cowgirl and wrote off the scandal as not a big deal. FiveThirtyEight sees it differently, saying “Plagiarism Scandal Moves Democrat’s Odds in Montana From Slim to Almost Zero.” Roll Call changed their rating of the Montana Senate race from “Tossup/Tilts Republican” to “Leans Republican.”
Rob Saldin, a University of Montana political science professor, said it “totally undermines his credibility.”
What about the opinion of students?
“I think it does affect his credibility and it affects the Democratic Party.” –Dan Deming, MSU student.
One of the authors Walsh plagiarized basically said the only reason he’s letting the senator off the hook easy is because he’s “a loyal Democrat.” The author did note, however, that his worked was outdated in 2007–the year Walsh copied it. Add that to the list of problems with Walsh’s thesis, in addition to it promoting Bush doctrine, interventionist foreign policy and only being 14 pages long (which has earned it considerable scorn from commenters online).
Governor Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) understandably tried to put some distance between himself and the scandal, considering that it’s his fault Walsh is in the Senate in the first place. Whether Bullock ultimately suffers more harm to his 2016 campaign from his role in handing Walsh a Senate seat, or benefits more by having Walsh off his reelection ticket, remains to be seen.
This story is still developing, and it will be very interesting to see what the Army War College ultimately decides to do about it. My prediction is that they will have to revoke Walsh’s degree in order to save face as an institution after having so much criticism thrown at them by the national media. If that happens, Walsh is toast beyond a shadow of a doubt.
At this point, Walsh has two options:
1. Stay in the race, keep denying any wrongdoing, and continue to embarrass our state until the November election (then be embarrassed himself by Daines’ margin of victory), or:
2. Apologize to the authors he plagiarized (which he still hasn’t, yikes) and drop out of the race, retaining whatever dignity he and the Montana Democratic Party have left, and hope the War College is merciful.
(P.S. I did try to make sure I thoroughly cited all of my sources, and, yes, this post probably contains more original content than Walsh’s master’s thesis).