Monday, October 31, 2005

Josh Goodman covers Brian Schweitzer

Credit Josh Goodman for alerting us to his article on Governor Brian Schweitzer at the 13th Floor blog. Additional kudos to Josh for his mention of us later in the article:

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Media's Favorite Governor

I just finished Craig Crawford's new book, Attack the Messenger, in which he claims that officeholders have increasingly turned to criticizing the media to deflect unwanted scrutiny. Crawford argues that this trend is undermining the freedom of the press and weakening our democracy. To me, however, the tendency of elected officials to blame the press reflects something far more pernicious: a lack of creativity.

There are dozens of media strategies that don't involve crying bias or casting aspersions against reporters. A prototypical example is the way Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has become a darling of the press.

Schweitzer has been portrayed favorably in publications ranging from to the Wall Street Journal. His trick is little more than being interesting and providing access.

Both of these tactics were on full display in a New York Times article published last week on Montana's upcoming (and controversial) bison hunt. Rather than quote an environmental official or one of the governor's aides, the article quotes Schweitzer himself. It also includes the sort of colorful detail that reporters love about Schweitzer: The governor himself entered a lottery to participate in the bison hunt.

For the complete article, go here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Brian Schweitzer in TIME on energy policy for this country

In our quest to cover all things Schweitzer, we would be remiss not to mention the recent TIME article that contained information on Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's quest to aid in the development of U.S. energy policy:
Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005
Coal is Back
Long dismissed as backwards and dirty, some new (and not-so-new) technologies are turning the rock into black gold

At a Defense Department briefing this spring for the nation's governors on potential future international conflicts, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer was intrigued by one war scenario. In the hypothetical case, conflict with an oil-exporting nation interrupted U.S. petroleum supplies and forced reliance on alternative energy sources that have yet to exist. The official's message: Leaders should think about tomorrow's needs today. If mining states could make gasoline from abundant coal, for example, the military would buy every drop. "That piqued my interest," says Schweitzer, whose state may hold about a third of the United States' coal deposits. Now he's spreading the word. Schweizter has campaigned aggressively all year to launch such a project. "I have people contacting us weekly, saying 'We want in.'"

Talk about back to the future: Coal, the miracle fossil fuel that jumpstarted the industrial age, but has been viewed in recent decades as backwards and dirty, is hot once again. Technology and economics may be aligning to make the black rock more useful and economically efficient than ever. And guess what: the U.S. has more of it than any place else­27 percent of the world's total. Coal-burning power plants fuel half of the nation's electricity. That was true even during the 1990s, when utilities built plants that burn cleaner natural gas. Back then, natural gas, which cost a quarter what it does today, was viewed as the bankable alternative souce for electricity generation. Now, coal is the darling. More than 120 new plants have been proposed and domestic and international demand are soaring.

But what fires up Schweitzer and a growing number of industrialists is an 80 year-old chemical trick that actually allows coal to run cars. The process, in which coal is converted into synthetic gasoline or diesel, was first developed by two German scientists in 1928, allowing Nazi Germany to produce more than 124,000 barrels a day in 1944, the last full year of World War II. Sasol, a South African firm, has the only existing large-scale plants, and operates in 20 countries. In the U.S. advocates have suggested for decades that "coal-to-liquid" production is a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil. At least nine other states are looking into it, including Illinois, West Virginia and Arizona...

...Schweitzer acknowledges some concerns environmentalists and others have about developing state land, but still argues coal-to-diesel plants can be developed with smokestack-free potential. The Billings-based Northern Plains Resource Council says that Schweitzer has not realistically confronted the emissions of heavy metals and other pollution from the would-be plant.

Like most schemes for strengthening the nation's energy options, Schweitzer's is equal parts pie-in-the-sky, politically impractical, prohibitively expensive­and worthy of consideration. . "We don't respond to vision in this country. We respond to crisis," he says. "This is big thinking for a farm boy. But if not Montana, who? And if not now, when?"
For the rest of the article, go here.

Brian Schweitzer, Democrats support American Indians

Here is an Alternet post that lays out why most American Indians support Democrats and has a few tidbits on Governor Brian Schweitzer's relationship with the American Indian population in Montana:
The Blue Tint of Indian Country
Rose Aguilar, AlterNet
October 24, 2005

During the 2004 presidential election, Democrats and Republicans heavily courted the most underrepresented group in the country: Native Americans. Although Indians make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, many live in swing states and their influence in determining the outcome of state and local elections is growing. Perhaps even more importantly, 95 percent of Indians are Democrats.

Thurston County -- the only county in Nebraska that voted for John Kerry for president -- is home to the Winnebago and Omaha Indian reservations. Kerry won six of Montana's 56 counties, three of which are home to Indian reservations.

"The Democrats, I believe, have taken some of the leading steps forward for Indian country," says Janine Pease, a Crow Indian and vice president for American Indian Affairs at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.

"If you go back and study some of the legislation that's been passed, it's happened under Democratic administrations," Pease points out. "Jimmy Carter signed the law on tribal colleges. Bill Clinton signed the executive order on tribal colleges and on tribal sovereignty. There just isn't any way you can compare legislation under Republican administrations. I spent my entire dissertation looking into civil rights and education acts and the leading pieces of legislation that bring what little has happened in Indian country alive have been Democratic initiatives."

Republicans, on the other have, have "dismantled Indian country big time," says Pease. "The Reagan administration didn't appropriate any money for programs in Indian country and let them basically starve to death. We had 35 tribal programs that were contracted from federal funds for a whole number of issue areas, from the EPA to abandoned land mines. After Reagan's first term, we were down to five. That is starvation."

Century-old treaties signed between tribes and the United States government guaranteed Indians basic services in exchange for their land. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Services were created to provide education and healthcare, respectively. Those promises have not been kept, as proven by extremely high unemployment rates and poor access to healthcare...

Montana's Indians see a glimmer of hope in Governor Brian Schweitzer, the state's first Democratic governor since 1988. A statement on Schweitzer's website reads, "Montanans need to understand the treaties made between Native Americans and the federal government pre-date the creation of the state of Montana. These treaties state that the reservations are sovereign nations."

Making good on his promise to reach out to Indians, Schweitzer has appointed six Indians to key positions within his administration and another six to state boards and councils. "He's done more for Indian country in a month and a half than the other 23 governors in Montana history," said Democratic Representative Jonathon Windy Boy at one of Schweitzer's inaugural balls held back in February.

Pease anticipates major changes from the governor on down. "Where Indians live, they're in the majority, so we have a number of counties that are Indian majority," she says. "That hasn't always been the case. Fifteen years ago, two counties, Glacier and Big Horn, became Indian and so in those areas we now have county officials and school board members who are tribal members and you wouldn't have seen that 20 years ago. I believe it will slowly make a difference in the quality of life."
For the rest of the article, go here.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Missoulian presents the scoop on Brian Schweitzer's part in revamping education in Montana

The Missoulian newspaper presented an editorial today that makes transparent the role that Brian Schweitzer is attempting to and should play in revamping education in Montana. On top of that, the newspaper takes well-deserved aim at some of the critics on various sides:
Cries for ‘leadership' are disingenuous - Sunday, October 23, 2005

SUMMARY: Governor's critics want compliance, campaign fodder, not leadership.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer is under fire from Educrats and Republicans to “show leadership” in coming up with a new system for funding public schools.

What the Republicans want, of course, is for the Democratic Golden Boy to say or do something they can whack him for - anything. They're looking for something to oppose, not to support. Nobody should believe Republicans are milling around, waiting for the Democrats' Red State Wonder to tell them how high to jump.
Meanwhile, the Public Education Cartel is calling for Schweitzer's leadership, but what it really wants is his compliance. They have a school funding plan, one that involves pumping a whole lot more of your tax dollars into school budgets, and it seems rather unlikely that they'd prefer something different from the governor. At least they wouldn't if they stopped shouting long enough to listen to what the governor's been saying. The leading advocates of school funding reform are transparent in approaching this matter as an extension of union contract talks, with wages and benefits for teachers and school staff overshadowing all tangible measures of school quality. Consistently, these folks emphasize input over output, measuring the quality of education by dollars spent rather than results achieved. Without greater emphasis on how the money gets spent and the results it achieves, actual improvements to education will be elusive.

In any event, let the record show that Gov. Schweitzer is offering leadership on the school-funding issue. It started shortly after he took the oath of office last winter, when he announced that state government would live within its means. He reiterated that point during a recent visit with us when he noted that the

$82 million increase for public education he signed into law last spring comprises the second-largest increase in school funding in state history and suggested he doesn't see a whole lot more money in the offing. Coming up with a better funding system is the Legislature's job, but the governor certainly has been a meaningful partner in the efforts.
For the rest of the editorial, go here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Brian Schweitzer and the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC)

Even though not being a Montana resident, I am (obviously-duh) a big Brian Schweitzer supporter and hope there is some politically viable way for him to be in the 2008 Democratic presidential mix.

With the recent and past back-and-forth, pro-and-con posts I've read about the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), I want to submit a question:

Would the DLC visibly support a Schweitzer candidacy if he were to become the 2008 nominee for the Democrats?

One would think so based upon Schweitzer's ability to win the governorship in Montana (a state with a registered-Republican majority).and his 'centrist' image. After all, how in the world could the DLC think Schweitzer is too 'left' if he won in Montana? C'mon.

But I submit that the DLC would reject a Schweitzer candidacy and vow to 'sit this one out' if Schwetizer was at the top of the Democratic presidential ticket in 2008.


Because of Schweitzer's unwillingness to swallow the DLC kool-aid about corporate-financed (influenced) candidacies. Because of Schweitzer's attempts to pass legislation in Montana ending the revolving door and re-writing the rules for being a lobbyist-turned-legislator-turned-lobbyist-turned-legislator...

Hell, these are some of the reason why Schweitzer won the support of the electorate in Montana.

Schweitzer is an economic populist who supports legislation that benefits everyday people, not corporate bought-and-paid-for interests. Such a positon is anathema to the DLC.

Am I being too harsh on our Democratic brethren?

Well, look at some of the DLC's own talking points.

One example sounds pretty good:

  • We believe that as advocates of activist government, we need to reinvent government so that it is both more responsive and more accountable to those it serves and to the taxpayers who pay for it.

So does this until the actions of the DLC are examined:

  • We believe that the promise of America is equal opportunity for all and special privilege for none

Just why would (and this is just a sampling) British Petroleum, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coca-Cola, Dell, Eli Lilly, Federal Express, Glaxo Wellcome, Intel, Motorola, U.S. Tobacco, Union Carbide, and Xerox, AOL, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Citigroup, Dow, GE, IBM, Oracle, UBS PacifiCare, PaineWebber, Pfizer, Pharmacia and Upjohn, and TRW, Aetna, AT&T, American Airlines, AIG, BellSouth, Chevron, DuPont, Enron, IBM, Merck and Company, Microsoft, Philip Morris, Texaco, and Verizon Communications be financial donors to the DLC if it is not for the purpose of influence? Can you spell s-p-e-c-i-a-l p-r-i-v-i-l-e-g-e? No, then try h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y.

For another helping of hypocrisy, why does the DLC slam members of its own party for so-called 'catering to special interests,' when the DLC does exactly what it accuses others of doing?

I, for one, would rather be representing your average Joe and Jane on Social Security, health care, budget reform, the environment and consumer protection than the financial elite of this country. Apparently not so for the DLC.

But I come here not to completely bash. There are other positions and policies put forth by the DLC that I can and do support.

But until it can demonstrate an independence from being in lockstep with the corporatocracy, until the DLC can show a difference between accepting the 'show-me-the-love' financial contributions that is also the hallmark of the Republicans, then I cannot trust the DLC to honestly represent me.

If somehow it comes to be, which lame excuse will the DLC employ?

Yeah, that radical Schweitzer guy. A flaming lefty, I tell you. Too dangerous. Who wants to back the governor of the Massachusetts of the Mountain West?


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Brian Schweitzer has a plan for lobbying and lobbyists

In today's issue of The Missoulian, the first part of a three day editorial is presented on the subjects of Montana, lobbying and Washington D.C.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has a plan to clean up the rancid practice of lobbying, at least in the state of Montana:
Cash games and taking names in Washington, D.C.

Missoulian State Bureau
October 9, 2005

Editor's note: Today, the Missoulian begins a three-part series on the business of influence: how lobbyists represent Montana's interests in Washington, D.C.

HELENA - Desolate Carter County is where the blacktop ends. Literally.

About 20 miles south of Ekalaka, Highway 323 - the north-south route that connects Ekalaka to Carter County's other town, Alzada - becomes a gravel road. On a wet day, it's gumbo, usually impassable.

After trying for almost half a century to get federal money to pave the road, Carter County two years ago joined a growing number of state and local government entities in Montana and hired a Washington, D.C., lobbyist. Since then, the county has spent $92,250 in public and private money to lobby for the road project.

The investment seems to be paying off. Congress gave more than $8 million for the road work in 2003 and allocated another $9.6 million this year, a total of more than $13,000 for every one of the county's 1,324 residents.

Not bad for a sparsely populated county in Montana's extreme southeastern corner, where the U.S. Census Bureau counts 0.4 people per square mile.

Crews are preparing to pave another section of the highway this month.

”I would think within four years, we would see it paved all the way through here,“ said Carter County Commissioner Bill Loehding.

Montana officials who - like Loehding - have hired D.C. lobbyists say the practice works, reaping far more in federal dollars than local governments spend on lobbying.

Alex Knott, political editor at the Center for Public Integrity, a D.C.-based nonprofit group, takes a different view, characterizing the industry as a network of money, influence and power. Often, Knott said, lobbyists donate money to the lawmakers they're lobbying; their corporate clients do the same, and in many cases, the lobbyists are former lawmakers or staffers of former lawmakers making profitable use of their experience in public service. The ongoing scandal surrounding indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff underscores the need to track the industry more closely, he said.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has taken a stand: He won't employ registered lobbyists in state government and has referred to the industry as part of the ”manure piled around government.“ Schweitzer has also questioned the millions that Montana government entities have spent on lobbying, often to hire lobbyists who compete against other Montana projects. Schweitzer would like to see one lobbyist represent the state, something 47 other states already have. But he also wonders why Montana's three-man congressional delegation can't go to bat for Montana projects.

”These (lobbyist) guys aren't elected officials, but they're acting as gatekeepers to elected officials,“ he said.

Other Schweitzer comments in the article:

"...Democrat Schweitzer questioned why lobbyists and their corporate clients would donate money to lawmakers if not to buy a little influence, creating a situation where citizens who want help from Washington may be better off going to a lobbyist who gives money to their congressman than going to the congressman himself..."

"...During the 2005 Legislature, Schweitzer unsuccessfully proposed a plan to spend $250,000 to hire one D.C. lobbyist for the entire state - an idea he still supports. That way, Schweitzer said in a recent interview, the lobbyists earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money could be replaced by one and the state would save money..."
For the rest, go here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Brian Schweitzer editorializes in The New York Times

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has an 'energy' editorial in today's New York Times on what this country can do to rely less on foreign oil:

The Other Black Gold

AMERIA has a substance abuse problem, and Montana may have a cure.

It is easy to forget, but before the hurricanes bumped up already outrageous fuel prices, President Bush was forced to ask the royals of Saudi Arabia - the country that gave us 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers - to lower the price of oil so Americans could afford to drive. He was refused.

In truth, he had no choice. America is addicted to foreign oil, and like any addict we are at the mercy of the pushers and require an intervention. Montana, among other states, is trying to help America get clean by promoting a range of modern domestic energy strategies. Yet our biggest idea is actually a very old recipe: gasoline made from coal instead of oil.

Most people are surprised to learn that we can produce gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products out of coal. Indeed, the process was used in America as early as 1928. In World War II, 92 percent of Germany's aviation fuel and half its total petroleum came from synthetic-fuel plants. South Africa has used a similar technology for 50 years, and now makes 200,000 barrels per day of synthetic gasoline and diesel.

"Synfuels" have remarkable properties: they are high-performing substances that run in existing engines without any technical modifications, and they burn much more cleanly than conventional fuels. The synfuel process, which is nothing like conventional coal use, removes greenhouse gases as well as toxins like sulfur, mercury and arsenic. And the technology has other applications: a synfuel plant can generate electric power, make synthetic natural gas, and produce the hydrogen that many (including President Bush) believe is the energy source of the future.

Montana thinks synfuels make a lot of sense for America, especially since our state has 120 billion tons of coal, more than a third of America's reserves. That's the liquid fuel equivalent of one-quarter of the oil underlying the Middle East. Responsible development of even a small fraction of these reserves could give America control over the price of gas, dissolve the oil bonds that tie us to the Middle East, and create wealth and jobs that would remain on American soil.

Synfuel can also aid military security. The Department of Defense - America's largest consumer of foreign oil - has stated a desire to run all battlefield equipment on a single, multipurpose synthetic fuel. A Pentagon report released last year, which presciently warned of Gulf Coast hurricanes as a major threat to military fuel supply, says synfuel is ideal as a stable, clean, domestically made battlefield fuel.

So what are the drawbacks? The hurdle in making synfuel has always been the cost of production, about $35 a barrel, more expensive than oil has historically been. But as we all know, times have changed. Yes, there will be significant start-up costs for private companies, but risk can be alleviated with long-term buyers like the military and with new federal loan guarantees. And while Montana will do its part to help with appropriate transportation and other public facilities, a stronger federal investment - like the billions in annual subsidies and tax breaks big oil companies have long received - could really kick-start the industry.

Once, our government made such investments. In the 1930's and 40's, the United States made more than a million barrels of synthetic gasoline at several test plants. But the oil industry persuaded Washington to abandon the research. Ever since, presidents and Congresses have been unwilling, or unable, to combat Big Oil and make energy independence a top priority. The pattern continues. Four years after 9/11, Congress and the administration have given us an energy bill that by the president's own admission provides no relief from foreign oil any time soon. Meanwhile, less-advanced nations are passing us by. China, Malaysia and Qatar are building large synfuel facilities; Brazil has a new generation of cars that run on any combination of ethanol or gasoline in a single tank, allowing drivers to use whichever is cheaper that day.

Like all Americans, Montanans are tired of this nonsense. We are tired of paying $3 a gallon for gas, tired of watching third-world nations overtake us in energy innovation, and tired of supporting the kind of tyrants that young Americans have spent two centuries fighting and dying to defeat.

Synfuel, ethanol, biodiesel, wind power, solar power, hydrogen - these are no longer dreamy ideas. They are now real and ready solutions, and with a national committment behind them, America can kick the foreign oil habit for good.

Brian Schweitzer, a former soil scientist and a Democrat, is the governor of Montana.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

At the risk of sounding like a broken record...

We have written this before and this week none other than The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol said such---that maybe, just maybe, the American public is going to be so fed up with the Corruption, Incorporated that is presently Washington D.C. that anyone affiliated with Congress, Democrat or Republican, will have no chance for the presidency in 2008.

Oh, for it to be so!

Well, we truly believe that 2008 will be the Year of the Outsider, a la little known Jimmy Carter coming out of Georgia to win the presidency in the wake of the scandal-ridden Nixon era.

That is why we have our plan of presenting Montana Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer with a petition laden with thousands of signatures in 2007, asking and urging that he consider running for President of the United States in 2008.

Straight talk and action, coupled with integrity, transparent values and ethics on display---all will be like manna from heaven to so, so many of the electorate desperate for a time of integrity.

And that description is representative of Brian Schweitzer, who was elected by a majority of Montanans looking for such a change in 2004.

Think about it--Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry loses Republican Montana by close to 30 points while Schweitzer pulls out a victory. Montana became Lourdes for at least a day!

This happened because Schweitzer talked-and-walked his values, stating it was time for the average Joe-and-Jane to have a representative in government, that government policy solely by-and-for the corporatocracy would be over with his election. Schweitzer had no interest in governing as a means of enriching himself or his cronies.

No, Schweitzer is not a candidate for sainthood. He would be the first to say this, along with his usual caveat that such is not a position of any interest to him. What drives him is his vision to return control of Montana to its citizens who just want a fair economic shake, a fair educational shake, affordable health care coverage, a healthy land to enjoy and just plain honesty from its elected officials.

Please check out the Schweitzer For President petition to the right of this post. For your sake, for this country's sake.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Even Rolling Stone gets in on the act!

Well, it wasn't featured as strongly as first thought, but national news coverage is national news coverage:

Montana has hottest governor, says Rolling Stone

HELENA (LEE) -- Rolling Stone magazine ranks Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as the nation's "hot governor" in its 2005 "Hot List" issue, but a planned story about Schweitzer and his photo didn't get into print.

Instead, Schweitzer received his mention in the crawler running across the bottom of one of the 50 pages in the Rolling Stone's 20th annual "Hot List" issue. Someone from the magazine called Schweitzer a couple of months ago and interviewed him briefly, and the Rolling Stone requested photos.

The Rolling Stone cover features a photo of a scantily clad actress, Evangeline Lilly from the television show "Lost," and there's plenty of female and male skin shown throughout the "hot" section.

Schweitzer was squeezed out by stories such other hot topics such as L.A. Sunday pool parties, a fantasy girl, actor Joaquin Phoenix, singer Fiona Apple, bathhouses and recreational drugs.

In the end, Schweitzer wound up on a page with stories about Microsoft's Bill Gates, the company's Xbox 360 video game player and a couple of video hot games.

After hearing about the issue, Schweitzer said he was pleased to be mentioned "on the boring page with Bill Gates."

Schweitzer said he doesn't subscribe to Rolling Stone, but does take Better Beef, Progressive Hay Producer, Montana Farmer Stockman and the Wall Street Journal.

"Since Hunter S. Thompson left, Rolling Stone hasn't been worth reading," Schweitzer said.

Sarah Elliott, Schweitzer's spokeswoman, said, "I don't think he reads the magazine. He relies on some of more hip staff."

Brian Schweitzer gets profiled by

Here is yet another profile of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer:
Five Minutes With Brian Schweitzer

The Washington Post, America’s most influential political Bible and occasional newspaper, recently quoted Brian Schweitzer this way: "You know, if John Kerry could do what I do, he'd be president."

That kind of language might be considered bragging in some quarters if it weren’t true. The cattle ranching, mint farming, first-term governor of Montana is a fast learner who got his backside kicked in his first try at political office, a run at the Senate in 2000. Four years later, he shocked the Democratic power elite when he won the Montana governorship by 4 points while Kerry was losing the state to Bush by a 20 point landslide.

Landslide, hell. Let’s call it an avalanche of historic proportions. Heat sensors, helicopters and a dozen St. Bernards couldn’t have found Kerry under the Montana snow pack. The difference in vote count between Schweitzer and Kerry was astounding in a general election where tenths of a percentage point was the norm. Suddenly, Hillary wanted to be his best friend.

Here’s what he told the Post’s Blaine Harden about that first political try. "In politics, it doesn't matter what the facts are. It matters what the perceptions are. It is the way you frame it." In politics, especially states like Montana, he explained, “it’s important to be likable, be self-deprecating, don't be a know-it-all using a lot of big words."

It’s a lesson that seems to escape 21st century Democrats everywhere, much to the delight of the Republican party.

Montana is a ranching state that has an innate distrust for the big East and I’m not talking about the college sports conference. The folks of Big Sky Country (or is it “The last best place?”) tend to cover their hip pocket - the side with the wallet, not the side with the tin of Skoal - and slowly back out of the room when they hear a politician talking with an Eastern accent. They reacted with a speedier retreat, almost a stampede, when John Kerry got anywhere near the state during his campaign.

Schweitzer believes the best way to frame an issue in Montana is to get horses and guns into the picture. Maybe a mule or two in the background would help, a lesson learned after he lost his Senatorial campaign when he discovered a significant percentage of Montana men “are mule-headed, unwilling to change their minds on issues, even when presented with information showing that their views are not supported by facts.”

It was the male gender gap that cost him the Senate post. Polls showed that he won among the ladies but lost the farm when the men of Montana stepped into the voting booth. So he started doing ads John Wayne style - sitting on a horse, often with a rifle in hand. All he needed was an eye patch and a bottle of redeye and he could have been Rooster Cogburn, a character with true grit.

Explaining his approach to male voters, he said, "Ninety percent of them don't ride horses and many of them don't shoot a gun, but my ads said visually that I understand Montana. My gender gap disappeared. I think I have just summed up why Democrats lose elections."

He’s not afraid to shoot his rifle, either – the rhetorical firearm, that is. He hit Alberta cattlemen hard on the trade issue, threatening to slow down the flow of Canadian animals through his state after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously countermanded Montana Judge Cebull’s border closure order and re-established cattle trade. Not trusting the USDA to do its job, Schweitzer said he would require the state’s vets to check every animal. Alberta’s premier, Ralph Klein, followed up on Schweitzer’s declaration of a renewed border war by inviting him to party with an annoyed group of provincial cattlemen during their centennial celebration last month. Schweitzer quickly accepted.

Not content with firing a shot across international borders, Schweitzer called USDA officials “a bunch of stooges” that were in bed with the big four meat packers. He fired this verbal volley at the boys in Washington: "All I said was Montana will watch the regulators and the USDA became unglued because we were going to require that they actually do their jobs.”

Schweitzer yelled long and loud when the feds, perhaps reacting to that political flesh wound, temporarily shut down Ranchland Packing in Butte for violating sanitation standards. He saw it as a cause-and-effect; the USDA denied it, of course. The plant quickly reopened and Gary Wold, Ranchland’s owner, acknowledged Schweitzer’s political clout in the issue when he said "Montana is being singled out, and we circled the wagons here and got to where there's enough pressure on them (the USDA)."

From his command post in Helena, Schweitzer is definitely an influential man in the cattle business. Politically speaking, he’ll have a voice in the national scene when it comes time to nominate the next Democratic presidential candidate. It’s time to spend five minutes with the new man in the national power elite.

Q - You're from a ranching background. Can you give us a little bit of history on the Schweitzer family?

A - Ranching is a big part of my family history, and it continues to shape the way I live and do business. Both sets of my grandparents homesteaded in north central Montana near the Canadian border. Following in their footsteps, my parents made their living in agriculture as well, expanding their operation in the 1950’s when they moved to Geyser, Montana. They raised primarily Registered Hereford cattle and a few grain crops like wheat and barley. In the late 60's, my parents became leaders in the Simmental industry after having the first Simmental calf born in the USA. I’ve been in the cattle industry my whole life. I’ve exported American cattle, semen and embryos around the world. I understand free and fair trade issues.

Q - What do you do to relax when you're not in Helena or battling the Feds?

A - I don’t have much free time, but I have been able sneak in a couple of fishing trips on some of the streams near Helena. Now and again, I make it back to the ranch with my wife, kids and border collies, but as you can imagine there is plenty work to be done there too.

Q - You took the governorship in one of the reddest states in the country. The lone member of the House of Representatives is the far-right Denny Rehberg, and Montana's senators include an ultra-conservative Republican and a conservative Democrat who many consider a Republican in disguise. How did you pull off such a huge political coup?

A - It was not an easy campaign, but I worked very hard and traveled to all 56 Montana counties more than once. In each community, I would head right to where people were gathered, usually the local coffee shop, and listen. Folks from all corners of Montana and all walks of life told me their concerns and their ideas to improve government. I can tell you one thing - the people of Montana are not concerned about democrats or republicans, right or left. They are worried about quality education for their children, affordable healthcare and good paying jobs that will keep their families near them here in Montana. People in Montana want to make sure we have clean places to hike, fish and hunt for generations to come. That’s what we spent our time talking about, the issues that Montanans were concerned with and how we could ensure that government was a help, not a hindrance.

Q - Despite your outspoken position against importing Canadian cattle, your neighbors to the north still invited you to help celebrate their Centennial. How warm was your welcome in Alberta?

A - I love Alberta, heck, my wife was born in Calgary. I had a great visit to Alberta and I was honored to help them celebrate their centennial. I took some time to visit with Premier Klein about the border and cattle imports and we had a good discussion. He understands that I am committed to the ranchers and consumers of Montana and that we will take every precaution available to us to protect Montanans and the Montana cattle industry. I assured Premier Klein that Montana's Department of Livestock will inspect cattle imported into Montana from Canada in compliance with the USDA rule, nothing more and nothing less. If the USDA won’t do their job, we’ll do it for them. It’s important to note that cattle, goats, hogs, sheep and horses cannot be exported from Montana to Alberta. I’ll say that again, Montana is NOT ALLOWED to export livestock to Canada. The border has been used for decades to stem the flow of Montana cattle into Canada on weak health arguments. Alberta cattleman who criticize Montana’s inspection regime is like the pot calling the kettle black. The Premier assured me he would work toward opening the border North for Montana cattle, not just south into Montana. Premier Klein is a good man and I think I was able to explain my position and my commitment to the producers and consumers of Montana. I’ll be back in Alberta again and I look forward to it.

Q - The rumors persist that you might be tempted by the national stage. What circumstances would make a presidential bid a likely proposition?

A - I already have the best job in America and live in the greatest place on the plane.
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