This is the sort of thing that a congressional candidate wouldn't ordinarily wish to see, on Election Day eve, on the front page of the NY Times: "If convicted, [the candidate] faces up to a $500 fine, or six months in jail, or both."
But these days, who knows? The pro-assault-and-battery bloc is likely a key element in the party of no personal responsibility, of press-hating, of Trumpian aggressiveness. Thus who would be surprised if Montana's reporter-slamming Greg Gianforte is saved by the ringing bells in Ben Jacobs's head?
My own alarms went off when I further read that the Democratic candidate, Rob Quist, declared that his Republican opponent's physical violence against a member of the Fourth Estate was "really not for me to talk about; I think that’s more a matter for law enforcement."
I'm sorry, say what? In their "loss for words," the Billings Gazette, the Missoulian and the Helena Independent Record all reversed their Gianforte-endorsements. Although the Gazette's editorial board was "at a loss for words," in 805 ensuing ones it pronounced the Republican's violent act to be "inexcusable." It then hoped against the GOP's present reality: "We hope that partisan politics has not eroded our decency to the point where leaders and supporters feel the need to defend the indefensible."
That, of course, is precisely what the Gazette's theretofore-endorsed candidate had been doing all along, as he hugged the decency-eroding abomination of Trump on the campaign trail. Although the Democratic candidate couldn't bring himself to condemn assault and battery, the Billings paper and others could.
The Times's Jonathan Martin remarks that Gianforte's blitzkrieg on decency "was an extraordinary development in a race that was already being closely watched for clues about the national political environment in the tumultuous first months of the Trump presidency." Let us hope that politics's 2018 ecosystem cultivates a direct-honesty species that evolves beyond the less-adaptive Quistian sort. I appreciate Quist's delicate position in a crimson state, but come on — if delicacy disallows even the censure of physical violence, then delicacy becomes a pusillanimous co-conspirator.
Should Quist nevertheless pull this out, the ironic downside is that the GOP will declare that it was Gianforte's exclusive act of physical violence — not his acts of Trump-hugging — that doomed the Republican candidate. The hell of it is, the GOP could be right; we can never know.