Mike Taylor's announcement Thursday in a press conference that he is withdrawing his bid to become a U.S. senator caught everyone off guard. Montana politics, long known for their bawdy theater, reached a new low, even by our state's standards.
Taylor said he understood and accepted that politics in Montana are a contact sport, and "welcomed the rough and tumble, the clashing of ideas and visions for the future." But Thursday he said he was not prepared for the extent of the lies his opponents spread about him. If it were only him, he said, he would continue the battle. But his family and his good name had been damaged.
Besides, he doubted he could win and so it was in the best interests of our state that he steps aside.
It's one thing for Taylor to denounce the allegations of the Montana Democratic Party that he improperly benefiting from student loans from his beauty school 20 years ago. But his assertion that the Democratic Party used footage from one of his old infomercials to deliberately imply that he is gay is absurd. A bad dresser, yes, but we all have wardrobe horrors in our closets.
Mike Taylor and all politicians running for office should know that there are no safe skeletons in any candidate's closet. This is the information generation and nothing is beyond approach. But the public is also smart enough to know that nobody is perfect. Taylor's declared role model, Teddy Roosevelt, said, "The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything."
There have been plenty of candidates who have stepped up and admitted their mistakes and plenty who have not and still won a campaign. Taylor knew the obstacles he faced when he announced his candidacy and promised to campaign to the end. To admit defeat and take the role of the martyr now, less than a month from Election Day, does not benefit his party or his supporters.
The Democratic Party has every right to bring to the public attention the allegations of improprieties at Mike Taylor's Beauty School and did so at a press conference. Taylor had run his own ads attacking Baucus. However, the beauty school rumors had been circulating for months, and the Democratic Party's timing of its ads challenges its self-righteous contention that the public has a right to know. Max Baucus was way out in front, and the beauty school commercial was unnecessary and downright slimy. Baucus distanced himself from the commercial, but we would think that the state's lone Democrat in Congress would wield more clout with his party.
Teddy Roosevelt said in 1906, "The men with the muckrakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them, to the crown of worthy endeavor." The Montana Democratic Party would be well served to make note.