Sen. John Walsh Plagiarized a Research Project for his Master’s Degree at the U.S. Army War College

He’s a soldier, not an academic. He obviously screwed up – but I think it’s totally unintentional.”— Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) in an interview with Politico

General_John_Walsh uniformAn academic review board will meet next month to consider whether to revoke a Master of Arts degree awarded by the United States Army War College to Montana Senator John Walsh, based on revelations of plagiarism first reported last week by The New York Times.

The college’s provost, Lance Betros acknowledged there is “strong reason,” to believe Walsh plagiarized substantial portions of a 2007 paper required for his graduation. However, Betros also noted that the college has only stripped degrees from eight of its graduates in the past 25 years and only six of those were for plagiarism.

  • The 14-page paper was submitted by the Montana Senator to the U.S. Army War College in 2007, when Colonel John Walsh was 46 years old.
  • Walsh cribbed lengthy passages from several authors, including a whole page from a Harvard paper.
  • The six policy proposals presented were also taken without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document.

Honestly, I’m not outraged. Although I don’t condone plagiarism, I was surprised and mildly flattered that Sen. Walsh had decided to incorporate so much of my paper into his, albeit without citing me once.” — Sean M. Lynn-Jones, research associate at the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Walsh, who was appointed to the Senate less than six months ago, has leaned heavily on his military service in his campaign to keep his seat on Capitol Hill. Television commercials supporting his candidacy use photographs of the former Lieutenant Governor in uniform — including those of him with a soldier under his command who was injured in combat — and show images from the American war in Iraq.

  • Walsh, a 33-year veteran of the Army National Guard, was appointed to the Senate in February by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
  • The paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” extols the virtues of the Bush Doctrine.
  • After The New York Times’ Johnathan Martin broke the news of Walsh’s plagiarism on Wednesday, the college launched an investigation.

In the immediate aftermath of the scandal, Walsh appeared to blame the incident on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brought on by combat in Iraq and the suicide of one of the men under his command. He later walked back that comment, suggesting that PTSD is not an excuse for passing off someone else’s work as his own, but it may have contributed to his mistake.

I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor.” — Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) in an interview with the Associated Press

The “good news” for Democrats, Slate political reporter David Weigel wrote, is that Walsh was unlikely to win election against his Republican opponent, Congressman Steve Daines – even before the allegations of plagiarism surfaced. The “bad news,” Weigel says, is that “The list of people who have recovered from plagiarism charges in the heat of campaigns is blank.”

  • Colonel Walsh was promoted to Brigadier General in 2008 after getting his master’s degree.
  • The Senator resigned his position as Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard in 2012 to run for Lieutenant Governor.
  • He continued to serve as a traditional guardsman until December 2012, when he retried, after his election.

It’s clear there is indeed strong reason to believe this is plagiarism. We are initiating academic review procedures.” — U.S. Army War College Provost Lance Betros in an interview with The New York Times

Walsh’s fellow Democrats in the Senate were quick to defend him without condoning plagiarism. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Politico “We’re behind Walsh all the way,” adding that his mistake was unintentional. Likewise, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) acknowledged that Walsh had made a mistake, but placed it in context of the campaign by taking a swipe at Daines, saying “He’s got an opponent who’s made a whole bunch of mistakes on his voting record.”

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