Senator Conrad Burns Attacks Firefighters

Montana Republican Senator Conrad Burns berated firefighters at the airport for having done a “piss-poor job” in coming from clear across the country to help fight a fire in his state.

Sen. Conrad Burns ‘ recent verbal attack on a firefighting team for its work on a Montana blaze angered some firefighters, drew harsh criticism in state newspapers and has left the three-term Republican scrambling to repair the political damage.

Burns, one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the fall elections, confronted members of a firefighting team at the Billings airport on July 23 and told them they had done a “piss-poor job,” according to an official state report and the U.S. Forest Service. The Hotshot crew had traveled 2,000 miles from Staunton, Va., to help dig fire lines for about a week around a 143-square-mile wildfire east of Billings. The crew was awaiting flights home when Burns made his comments. The senator, who has a house in Billings, said he was expressing the frustration of ranchers who were critical of the way the fire was handled. He later apologized for his harsh remarks.

People say idiotic things when they’re angry (or drunk). But one would think a seasoned politician like Burns would have more self-control than this.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. madmatt says:

    Got to suck up to those big money ranchers even if you don’t have any facts to back up your rants!

  2. Wayne says:

    It seems to becoming more prevalent in our society to think getting help is a right and not a charity to be appreciated. Most likely the help could have been better organized but those responsibilities usually lies with the administration skills of those receiving the help.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    But one would think a seasoned politician like Burns would have more self-control than this.

    Why? Is he running opposed? 😉

  4. legion says:

    Why yes Dave, he is 🙂

    Burns appears to be suffering from the same long-term politician’s disease that is killing Lieberman – the idea that the people he hangs out with (in this case, the wealthy ranchers) are the only people in his electorate that matter. That works as long as enough people are willing to keep you in office solely on name recognition, but when your name turns to mud (as Burns’ has, thanks to things like this & his connections to Abramoff), you’re doomed.