United States Senator John Walsh, who attended the United States Army War College, is reported in The New York Times to have plagiarized his master’s thesis. The revelation threatens his long-shot campaign for a full elected term.
Walsh’s poll standing already lagged behind United States Representative Steve Daines but yesterday’s report threatened to make this worse: approximately two-thirds of Walsh’s thesis regarding Middle East policy is reported to have been derived from previous publications, either by not using quotation marks or purely verbatim.
Walsh is a former adjutant general of Montana’s National Guard, a former Lieutenant Governor of Montana and a veteran of the Iraq war. He was appointed to the Senate five and one-half months ago by Governor Steve Bullock to replace Max Baucus, who left to accept an appointment as ambassador to China.
During the ongoing campaign against Daines, Walsh’s military career was already a subject of debate. A television advertisement earlier this year declared that an Army Inspector General report said Walsh had asked other National Guard leaders to become members of an association in which he was running for a leadership position. With the new plagiarism report in mind, David Parkers, a political science professor with Montana State University, said that Walsh now has “ … two blows to his reputation in the military. And that’s his strongest asset.”
Walsh and his political party had hoped his military service would be a strength but has now become a genuine vulnerability. A spokeswoman for his campaign, Lauren Passalacqua, wrote in an email that Walsh’s plagiarism was a mistake and unintentional. Another Walsh campaign official relayed that Walsh was being treated at the time with prescription drugs for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The drugs are not an excuse, the spokesperson said, but “ … provides important context for the circumstances which the Senator was working in.”
On the other hand, an unidentified aide to Walsh has said that after his tour of duty in Iraq the senator did not seek treatment. The senator himself has said that he currently is taking antidepressant medication.
Walsh’s 14-page thesis, The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy, proposes six policy prescriptions. According to the Times, each of these are “taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.”
The paper, which the U.S. Army War College refers to as a “strategy research project,” helped Walsh earn his master’s degree in 2007.
As an example of the reported plagiarism, much of the language in Walsh’s paper is also in a 1998 essay by Sean M. Lynn-Jones, a scholar with Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. A reference to Lynn-Jones’s essay is not found in Walsh’s paper.
An email received by POLITICO from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee defended Walsh, saying that the allegations are “smears.” Walsh maintains that his actions were not intentional. When asked if he had plagiarized, he said “I don’t believe I did, no.”
By Gregory Baskin