The Two Things You Can Expect From Every Tribute To Kent Conrad From The North Dakota Media


Senator Kent Conrad’s career is over, thankfully, and so the time has come for the North Dakota media to lionize his career, and enshrine him in the pantheon of North Dakota political sainthood.

But there are two things you can expect from every single retrospective and eulogy of Conrad’s career coming from the state media which, throughout that career, was ever the willing servant of his narrative and agenda.

These phenomena have already manifested themselves in the Grand Forks Herald and the Bismarck Tribune, but it will be fun to watch as pretty much every other media outlet in the state follows suit.

First, you’ll read not a word about the scandal which tainted the last years of Conrad’s career and no doubt loomed large in his decision to retire instead of seeking another term. Conrad was one of dozens of elected officials and federal bureaucrats who took big-money mortgage discounts from Countrywide Financial in apparent exchange for helping the company dump hundreds of billions of dollars worth of subprime loans on the US taxpayer at the height of the housing bubble. The quid for Conrad’s quo was relatively small in comparison to some of the other participants, the grand total of the discounts he received on the apartment complex he claimed as his official residence in Bismarck as well as his multi-million dollar beach house in Delaware was around $10,000, but selling out cheap doesn’t exactly lighten the stain of the sin.

But Conrad needn’t worry. That sorry chapter in his career will be thoroughly whitewashed by his friends in the state media.

Second, you’ll probably read some reference to Conrad’s self-appointed status as a “deficit hawk,” and the fact that a lot of his critics didn’t think he deserve it, followed by an explanation for why his critics are wrong.

“A frequent criticism of Conrad is that he voted for too much spending to be fairly called a ‘deficit hawk,'” writes editor Tom Dennis on behalf of the Grand Forks Herald before noting that Conrad sometimes talked about cutting spending (even if he didn’t often back words up with action).

“His conservative detractors took umbrage when Conrad was labeled a ‘deficit hawk,'” wrote the Bismarck Tribune in their tribute to Conrad. “They could not make the connection between the senator’s conservative economic rhetoric and his votes for spending programs authored by Democrats.”

“Conrad saw the need to be fiscally responsible, but he also saw the need for social responsibility, just as he saw the need for a federal safety net for farmers at the same time he worked to create a long-term plan for reducing the federal debt.”

In other words, being a hypocrite is ok, as long as you’re the right sort of hypocrite.

On a related note, which airport or public building or highway do you think is going to be named after Conrad? I’d like to name the street outside of the apartment complex Conrad used as his phony “official residence” after him, but something tells me I probably won’t get my way.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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