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Sen John Walsh, Democrat from Montana, plagiarized Army War College paper

Sen John Walsh, D-MT
United States Senate (public domain)

Sen John Walsh, D-Montana committed plagiarism when he wrote a master’s thesis while at the Army War College on Middle Eastern policy, according to a Wednesday story in the New York Times. Roughly a third of the paper was lifted without attribution from other source material, including a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document and a 1998 essay by a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, at Harvard. The revelation places his prospects for reelection in 2014 in considerable doubt, Hot Air notes.

Walsh was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Max Baucus who had recently retired. An Iraq War veteran with centrist views, it had been hoped that Walsh might stand a chance of holding the senate seat in a state that is trending Republican. However polls showed Walsh trailing his Republican opponent Steve Daines by an average of 12.5 points before the plagerism scandal broke out.

Walsh is now claiming that he suffered from PTSD when he plagiarized the War College paper. After a staffer first denied it, Walsh has admitted that he is taking anti depression medication. This excuse is being mocked in some quarters, as the idea that having PTSD prevents one from using quotation marks beggars belief.

The incident raises questions of how papers are evaluated at the Army War College. Many colleges and universities routinely check student papers for plagiarism, using widely available software tools that compare them against other documents on the Internet. The War College is belatedly undergoing that process and is contemplating disciplinary action against Walsh.

The fact that Walsh’s slim chance of remaining a United States senator have become nonexistent goes almost without saying. How the scandal might taint the Democratic Party in general remains to be seen. In a midterm election that is more and more looking like a Republican year, the Democrats do not need anything like this happening.

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