Sen. John Walsh, an appointed Democrat in Montana now running to keep his U.S. Senate seat, claimed his unattributed use of others' work in his master's thesis was really not plagiarism and he blamed any overssight on post traumatic stress.
The apparent plagiarism first reported by The New York Times on Wednesday was the second potentially damaging issue raised this year involving the Montana 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. But 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, according to The Associated Press.
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Walsh dismissed the notion that the allegations will harm his campaign. He also chafed at the suggestion that he deliberately presented other scholars' work as his own in his 2007 thesis to earn a Master of Strategic Studies degree at the U.S. Army War College.
"I admit that I made a mistake," he said. "My record will be defined by (Walsh's service in) the National Guard, not by a few citations that were unintentionally left out in a term paper."
Walsh said that when he wrote the thesis, he had post-traumatic stress disorder 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," 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.
Carothers and a Dermer spokesman declined to comment.
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.
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.
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