Someone once said that the difference between poverty and being broke is a state of mind. We’ve all been broke. I was once out of work for nearly a year. But poverty is a soul crushing state of hopelessness that often money won’t fix. The same can be said about being a winner or loser. You can finish first in a race and still be a loser because your attitude is built around losing and making excuses and blaming others. Even with Trump in the White House (or maybe because of it) you are now seeing the loser ethos fully rampant among Republicans.

As you know, Montana Democrat Jon Tester is up for re-election to the Senate in 2018. Tester is a typical liberal Democrat who talks American values back home but voted Harry-Reid-values in the Senate. Trump beat Hillary in Montana by 21 points. So his sh** is weak to begin with. Then there is Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL who is Montana’s single at-large representative who is known to be lusting after Tester’s seat. Zinke was an early Trump endorser and surrogate. Tester is crapping himself at this point.

Then Trump appoints Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior.

Yesterday, I had several friends/acquaintances circulate this gleeful story from Politico:

OUT OF CONTENTION — “Tester ally pushed Zinke for Interior secretary,” by Campaign Pro’s Kevin Robillard: “An ally of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) proved influential in President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to tap GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke as Interior secretary — a decision that will take Zinke out of contention for a planned run against Tester in 2018 if Zinke accepts the job, sources say. Donald Trump Jr., an avid hunter and a lifetime member of the group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, was involved in the interview process for Interior secretary and cited information from the group, a source familiar with the process said. A PAC and nonprofit run by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ leader, Land Tawney, spent millions helping Tester win reelection in 2012.”

ZOMG! Tester has been saved because a friend of Tester’s asked Donald Trump Jr. to put Zinke in interior. This means Zinke can’t run for the Senate in 2018. We’ve been outmaneuvered.

Before we go on let me retell a tale I used in a December 2015 post titled If You Are Convinced Hillary Can’t Be Beat, For Heaven’s Sake Leave Us Alone, which, oddly enough is about the loser mindset dominating Republicans before the race even started.

Back in the primordial slime. Back when I was an infantry captain, chomping at the bit to get command of my first company. Back when I weighed 155 lbs, had a full head of hair and thought beer was food, I was packed off to Fort Benning, GA, for the 6-month-loooooong Infantry Officer’s Advanced Course. This was during the height of the Cold War. The Soviets were chasing us out of Africa and Central America. The West Germans were looking wistfully at the USSR for cheap natural gas and a warm fuzzy feeling of security. The Nuclear Freeze movement was agitating for surrender. I’d just returned to the States from three years of debauchery a tour in West Berlin.

One of the first things that was obvious in the course was that large swaths of the US Army did not believe we could beat the Soviets. They really didn’t. It wasn’t textbook defeatism, but it was within spitting distance. The intelligence community was firmly in that camp. We received SECRET/NOFORN (which meant none of the Allied officers in our class could attend) briefings on the Red Army. We were shown what could only be described as a Soviet propaganda video of a Soviet river crossing operation.

Artillery is bombarding the hell out the opposite bank of a river. Then the smoke rounds pop. The BM-21 rocket launchers ripple fire 122mm rockets by the dozen. Smoke generators crank up on the near bank. Then the T-62 tanks with snorkels emerge from the near-side smoke screen running flat out, firing main guns and coaxial machineguns as they move.

They hit the river, submerge, emerge on the far bank and charge ahead, still firing.

This, the intel weenies told us, was how the Soviets operated. They could ford any river in Western Europe from column of march. They were ten feet tall. They could run at a hundred miles an hour. They were made of pure titanium. They had balls of cold forged steel.

For some of us this didn’t ring true. I’d interacted with the Soviets in Berlin in official duties. I’d shopped at their equivalent of a PX at Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. I had transited the Berlin-Helmstedt autobahn and encountered checkpoint guards who were obviously drunk, unshaven, and probably hadn’t bathed in recent memory. I built up a collection of Soviet militaria trading with the checkpoint guards. I was always conscious of the fact that what I was seeing was the cream of the crop: their public face to the Allied brigades in West Berlin.

After one of these diatribes, a friend of mine who had come from the 82d Airborne stood and said, “If half of what you are telling us is true we should just pack our sh** and get off the battlefield. We can’t do what you say they can do. We’re never going to be able to do it. I don’t even understand why we are here.”

His point was that the people who were providing intel to the field army were so enamored with their subject that they were creating a narrative that said the US Army couldn’t win. That narrative was being distributed to the officer corps who would undoubtedly send that message to their units. I don’t know how well we would have done had we been called to the task, but when I look at the US Army’s performance in Desert Storm versus the Russian performance in Chechnya I think we would had done well by our nation.

To believe we’ve been outmaneuvered by some random Democrat in Montana you have to hold several thoughts at the same time:

  • Zinke suddenly decided he doesn’t want to be a senator.
  • Zinke didn’t discuss his move with Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan or anyone else.
  • Zinke didn’t want a Trump cabinet position until it was offered to him out of the blue.
  • Zinke can’t run for the Senate while he’s Interior secretary.
  • There is no one else but Zinke who can beat Tester.

I don’t have any pretense of knowing Zinke or his thinking but I think we can all offer some fairly clear answers to these questions.

Zinke could very well be tired of Congress. He could have decided to spend four years as Interior secretary and run for governor. But as late at the end of November he was making noises about running for the Senate. The point here would be that there was no “out-maneuvering” of the GOP by some singular Democrat savant. Zinke either wants to run or he doesn’t. If he wants to run, the move to Interior is not a bad move. If he doesn’t want to run, then there was no “maneuver” to “out.”

The idea that Zinke did not discuss the possible move well in advance with the GOP congressional leadership approaches zero. Zinke didn’t lose an election. He didn’t resign in a huff. He was a surrogate for the winner. His decision to leave the House would have been known at least in the context of “I’m angling for a cabinet position and if it is offered I will take it.”

The possibility that Zinke, again an early Trump endorser and surrogate, didn’t have feelers out for a cabinet job until this famous friend of Tester approached DJT, Jr., is ludicrous on its face. It just doesn’t work like that at the cabinet secretary level.

For someone desiring to run for the Senate in a East Coast state, Interior is a dead end. But Montana isn’t North Carolina. Over 60% of Montana’s area is owned and managed by the Department of the Interior. If Zinke wants to run for the Senate while he’s in the cabinet, Montana is tailor-made to be a launch pad. While Zinke can’t officially be a candidate, he can a) attend political gatherings in the state, b) take actions in regards to federal lands that raise his profile in Montana, c) he will have a press office that can paper Montana with his every thought, d) as a cabinet secretary he will have unlimited air time when he visits Montana. A “Draft Zinke” PAC can sing his praises and agitate to get him to resign from the cabinet and run for Senate. True, he’d have to step down before the primary election in the spring of 2018 but cabinet secretaries leaving early is hardly news.

Finally, you have to believe there is no one in Montana who can beat Tester when the state went for Trump by 21 points. Zinke is clearly the strongest challenger but if he clears the field, someone else will step forward and they will have a great chance of winning in an off year in Montana.

The Democrats are not ten feet tall. They are not omniscient. What they do have is an entrenched media network that carries their water and they have the loser mindset of the GOP that believes it is incapable of winning at anything… even when it does.