Senator says he had PTSD when he wrote thesis

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Sen. John Walsh of Montana said
Wednesday his failure to attribute conclusions and verbatim passages
lifted from other scholars’ work in his thesis to earn a master’s degree
from the U.S. Army War College was an unintentional mistake caused in
part by post-traumatic stress disorder.
The apparent plagiarism
first reported by The New York Times was the second potentially damaging
issue raised this year involving the Democrat’s 33-year military
career, which has been a cornerstone of his campaign to keep the seat he
was appointed to in February when Max Baucus resigned to become U.S.
ambassador to China.
National Democrats said Wednesday they
remained "100 percent behind Sen. Walsh" in his campaign against
Republican Rep. Steve Daines.
Walsh told The Associated Press when
he wrote the thesis, he had PTSD from his service in Iraq, was on
medication and was dealing with the stress of a fellow veteran’s recent
suicide.
"I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want
to say it may have been a factor," the senator said. "My head was not in
a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."
Walsh
submitted his thesis, titled "The Case for Democracy as a Long Term
National Strategy," to earn his Master of Strategic Studies degree in
2007, nearly two years after he returned from Iraq and about a year
before he became Montana’s adjutant general overseeing the state’s
National Guard and Department of Military Affairs.
The paper includes a series of unattributed passages taken from the writings of other scholars.
The
first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by
Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, and a 2009 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron
Dermer called "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome
Tyranny and Terror."
Sharansky is a former Soviet dissident and
chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Dermer is the Israeli
ambassador to the United States.
All six of the recommendations
that Walsh listed at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word
without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and
three other scholars at the institute.
One section is nearly
identical to about 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a
scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a
research institute at Harvard. Carothers and a Dermer spokesman declined
to comment.
Lynn-Jones said Walsh appears to have received a
degree on the basis of work that was not entirely his own, and that
anyone seeking credit for an academic degree "needs to acknowledge where
the material is coming from."
"Maybe he unintentionally didn’t
cite my work, but it’s up to the Army War College to determine whether
this is acceptable by their standards or not," Lynn-Jones said.
An after-hours call to the Carlisle, Pennsylvania, school rang unanswered Wednesday.
Walsh
declined to answer repeated questions about whether he believed he
earned the degree if the thesis’ conclusions were not his own.
"I
know about war strategy and defense because of firsthand experience
leading a battalion and the Montana National Guard," he said.
The
senator said when he wrote the paper, he was seeing two doctors and
taking medication to deal with nightmares, anxiety and sleeplessness. He
said he has since worked through those issues with his doctors and
family, though he still takes antidepressant medication.
Justin Barasky, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the committee stands
behind Walsh.
"John
Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it’s disgusting that Steve Daines
and Washington Republicans are going to try denigrate John’s
distinguished service after multiple polls show him gaining," Barasky
said.
Daines spokeswoman Alee Lockman said she had just seen the Times’ report and had no immediate comment.

Even
before the plagiarism revelations, top Democratic strategists saw
Walsh’s campaign as an uphill pull, never counting on it as key to
holding their Senate majority.
Republicans need to gain six net
seats this fall to control the Senate. South Dakota, West Virginia and
Montana are seen as likely GOP pickups, and Republicans have several
opportunities to grab the other three contests they need. Top on their
lists are incumbent Democrats running in states President Barack Obama
lost in 2012: Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Alaska.
Walsh
is the only senator who served in the Iraq war. He capped his long
career in the Montana National Guard as the state’s adjutant general
before becoming lieutenant governor to Gov. Steve Bullock, who appointed
him to the Senate seat.
Walsh’s military record was first
questioned in January when records revealed the Army reprimanded him in
2010 for pressuring guardsmen to join a private association for which he
was seeking a leadership role.
Walsh was adjutant general at the
time and wanted to become vice chairman of the National Guard
Association of the United States. In the reprimand, Army Vice Chief of
Staff Peter Chiarelli said he questioned Walsh’s ability to lead.
Political
scientist David Parker of Montana State University said Walsh’s thesis
combined with the reprimand raise questions about the senator’s
integrity.
"If this were it, in isolation, I don’t think it would
be a big deal," Parker said. "But now we’ve got two issues of honor and
competency."