Sunday, July 31, 2005

Why a draft candidate?

The most common comment we get at Schweitzer for President goes something like this: "Why draft a candidate who doesn't want to run, who has no record yet, who isn't experienced, when there are so many good candidates to choose from?" For me, the answer is simple: not only do I not like any of the candidates that are likely to run, I don't think a single one of them can win in 2008.

Well, okay, I lied. I do like Russ Feingold; if he runs and Schweitzer doesn't, I'll support him enthusiastically. And I don't think the poor guy's divorce has a thing to do with his viability as a Presidential candidate. On the other hand, I think Feingold's reputation as a political loner, as Mr. 99-1 in the Senate, will play exceedingly poorly in a country that elected a guy because he said he was "a uniter, not a divider." I think Feingold would be a wonderful standard-bearer for the Democratic brand, and I think he'd go down to tremendous defeat in 2008.

I also like Wes Clark, sort of. I like the way he frames Democratic issues and talks tough to the Bush administration. However, he still has NO political experience (worse than Schweitzer, no?) and, if we are to judge by his disastrous 2004 campaign, the political sense of an amoeba. Also, the military top-down method of command strikes me as unsuited for civilian leadership, as evidenced by the mealy Eisenhower administration. Again, as with Feingold, I'm open to being convinced here -- but as of now, I just don't see Clark as being viable.

John Kerry -- what more need be said. The guy's lack of spine and conviction cost America much in 2004, and I'm not about to let him get another chance in 2008. John Edwards is somewhat better, but all I can think of when I hear him speak is oily, slick, slimy. Even if it's not true, he EXUDES it, and this will hurt him. Joe Biden plagiarized a speech and is beholden to credit-card companies and has publicly attacked the leader of his party. Evan Bayh, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack, Phil Bredesen, and Mark Warner are DLC hacks and do not believe in reclaiming the Democratic Party for the American people.

The others on Tynan's list -- like Rod Blagojevich, Mike Easley, Jennifer Granholm, Kathleen Sebelius, Ed Rendell, Bob Kerrey, Howard Dean, and Al Gore -- as well as others he doesn't mention -- Dave Freudenthal, Janet Napolitano, Dick Gephardt, Ted Kulongoski -- aren't running.

Which leaves Hillary, whom Kevin has discussed better than I ever could here. But I would go farther than Kevin and state unequivocally that Hillary has no political principles, no spine, and no character, and that like her friends at the DLC (Bayh, Richardson, Vilsack, Bredesen, and Warner) she is unfit for the office of President of the United States.

So we're left with a draft candidate. But why Schweitzer, of all possible candidates? Because there are several important movements that form the future of the Democratic Party, and they all intersect in Brian Schweitzer. There's the Western Democrat ideal of the straight-talking, no-nonsense Dem with spurs and a cowboy hat; the Democracy for America notion of the party with guts and spine, unafraid to stand up for what it believes; and the Daily Kos concept of the empowered foot-soldiers using the Internet to take back America. Schweitzer fits all three of those molds perfectly; I challenge you to find any other Democratic politician who does.

So we're drafting Schweitzer, frankly, because we need him. And there IS precedent for a Democratic Party, bereft of any experienced leaders with ability, to draft a newly-minted governor into the Presidential race. The Democrats did it in 1912. The result? President Woodrow Wilson.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

If not Hillary, then who?

Even a devout Schweitzer-arian (gotta be careful how I spell that) like myself understands that Hillary Clinton is the proverbial elephant in the living room of the Democratic Party. (sorry to use Republican imagery, as I am in no way attempting to smear Ms. Clinton)

My sense is that if Clinton wants the nomination, then she will achieve that goal regardless of what any other candidates for the position say, do or stand for.

But like some (and unlike others), I believe running Hillary Clinton will result in yet another presidential defeat for the Democrats, along with congressional losses.

Clinton's rep is not well-deserved but it is a reality.

She would not attract any voters from the Republican base. Her negative rating with males in the states where Democrats are seen as competitive is astronomical. I can't imagine any Midwestern, Mountain West or Southwest Democratic U.S. Senate or House of Representatives candidate wanting to campaign alongside her.

Ohio is a good example. Just how would she end up with more votes than John Kerry did? Florida is another state where I see the same difficulty.

If national security is supposed to be the numero uno issue in 2008 (which I disagree--I believe personal and political integrity will be the most resonating concern) then being female (again, this is unfair but true) will be no asset and actually a hindrance in 2008.

So, maybe, just maybe, Clinton will not run for president in 2008. Maybe she will set ego aside and realize what is best for the Democratic Party.

Then who?

Realistically, Wes Clark, John Edwards, Mark Warner and Evan Bayh are the only 'announced' candidates with any chance of success.

Clark, an extremely intelligent and thoughtful person with obvious national security credentials, was simply inept in his first presidential go-round. One slip this time and he's mincemeat again. That has to scare any supporter of his. This has to scare the Democratic Party. But he is someone who could campaign successfully in the Midwest, Mountain West and Southwest.

Edwards, another extremely smart and skillful individual, has to overcome a pretty meager record (one term as a U.S. Senator). He may be able to pull it off but positioning oneself as being for the little guy is difficult to do as a millionaire lawyer. However, he did represent average Janes and Joes in his litigation. His youthful handsomeness may woo some independent female voters but does it detract from trying to present national security gravitas? I don't see Edwards as being a candidate who can do decently in the Midwest but not pull in any Mountain West or Southwest fencesitters.

Warner has confounded skeptics by winning and remaining popular in Republican Virginia. A software millionaire, he has shown the knack for winning the votes of individuals one wouldn't expect to line up with him, despite no obvious charisma. However, he does lack national security 'gold stars' for his resume. He is a difficult one to judge regarding vying for Midwestern, Mountain West and Southwest voters but he has managed to pull it off in the Old Dominion state.

Bayh has won in redstate Indiana (his family's political legacy doesn't hurt) and despite lacking a 'wow' factor personality, is a good speaker. He obviously could campaign well in the Midwest and possibly the Southwest. I think the Mountain West voters would want more 'individualism' from him. The biggest issue for Bayh will be to go beyond sort of a milquetoast-type image (fair or unfair) and become someone people can feel the desire to rally around.

Who knows? Maybe, with Clinton on the sideline, we will finally have another political convention where things become deadlocked and other candidates get drafted.

That's where Brian Schweitzer could come to the fore. He obviously has to be very careful at this point with anything he says or does that might 'demonstrate' any interest in running.

But can he win in the Mountain West? Duh. The Southwest? Yes. The Midwest? Just give him a few minutes with farmers. Smart? Check. Ability to win over independents and fencesitters? Absolutely. Charisma? No doubt.

National security credentials could trip him up. But I have the sneaking feeling that many voters in 2008 will be focused on who they feel is telling them the truth and can be trusted, even on the issue of national security. Instilling confidence is a Schweitzer trademark.

Yes, it is early. Early for Schweitzer and for thinking about 2008. But our goal is to keep the name Brian Schweitzer visible so that come the right circumstances in 2008...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Some are saying Schweitzer is actually a Republican

A few of my Schweitzer posts on other blogs have received responses stating that Brian Schweitzer is really a no-good Republican. Guess I better inform the Montana GOP that they are attacking a comrade.

All snark intended, shouldn't these individuals get out a bit more and travel beyond the borders of the People's Republic of Santa Monica or Berkeley?

My response to these ill-informed souls:

Brian Schweitzer refused to take PAC money in the race for the governor's spot.

He has reached out, courted and won the respect AND votes of Montana's Native Amercians.

Environmentalists in Montana agree that they finally have someone who will listen to them after decades of being completely shut out.

Schweitzer blew off President Bush's social security reform plans likening it to selling a bum steer at a cattle auction.

Schweitzer is providing greater funding for education in Montana.

Such sure sounds like parts of the GOP master plan.

Such undercover rightwing bloggers as DailyKos and David Sirota are Schweitzer supporters --- guess we should finally expose these turncoats to the liberal community.

Still not convinced?

From the Billings Gazette on Schweitzer's first session:

Gazette State Bureau

HELENA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday passed out the accolades to members of the Montana Legislature for their work and for approving nearly all of the items on his agenda.

"I think that this Legislature has done a wonderful job in this session," Schweitzer told reporters at a morning press conference. "As the chief executive I would ask for little more than they delivered. While all the ink is not dry yet, it appears as though we're going to do some pretty remarkable things in this legislative session.''

He congratulated the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House and paid tribute to the freshman lawmakers who were empowered to stand up for their beliefs on the bills. At times, Schweitzer was able to persuade some freshman Republican representatives to support his proposals, even as the GOP House leaders opposed them.

Among the accomplishments he cited were bills to:

# Promote the production of ethanol in Montana by mandating its use in fuel.

# Require groceries to put up signs telling people the country of origin of most meat sold in stores, even as Congress had passed a similar requirement but postponed it and is considering making it voluntary.

# Reinvest money in state's colleges of technology, the two-year schools.

# Put $80 million into Montana's K-12 school funding over the next two years, which Schweitzer called one of the largest increases in state history.

# Set a balanced budget that will have a projected surplus or general fund balance of about $80 million as of mid-2007, without raising taxes and that honors the spirit of the budget spending cap.

# Eliminate the property tax on business equipment for some 13,000 businesses by raising the exemption from the tax to $20,000 in business equipment, up from the current $5,000.

# Crack down on methamphetamine use in Montana through a series of measures that Schweitzer said amount to the strongest package in the nation, apart from Oklahoma's.

# Help improve access for hunting and fishing by making permanent the Habitat Montana, block management and the fishing access enhancement programs.

# Reinstate the Made in Montana program, which the administration of Republican Gov. Judy Martz had discontinued, to promote items produced and grown in Montana.

Schweitzer listed two disappointments:

One was a failure of his ethics bill to prohibit legislators, state elected officials and their top staff from becoming lobbyists until two years after they leave office.

These people now can become lobbyists the minute they leave state government. Schweitzer said he isn't done with that issue and likely will launch an initiative on ethics issues.

His second disappointment was the defeat of his proposal to create a Corps of Discovery, funded by $400,000 of state money, to create a bipartisan committee of business executives and lawmakers to ferret out an estimated $60 million in waste and unnecessary duplication in state government.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The DLC Doesn't Get It

Right now, the 'reformist' shouts emanating from the centrist Democratic Leadership Council's get-together in Columbus, Ohio, range from the call for a larger armed forces, the absolute need the Democrats display more military muscularity, kicking the butts of terrorists and that Hillary Clinton is the energizer bunny of the Democratic Party.

Let's work backwards.

Hillary is the energizer bunny for the REPUBLICAN PARTY. Sure, I'm being a bit facetious here but she is bogeywoman numero uno for the Republican base and certainly no beatific figure for the disaffected Democrats and independents who have voted for the GOP of late. I keep asking this question: what state can Hillary Clinton win that John Kerry couldn't? Ohio? I want some of what you've been ingesting. Florida? Possibly, but doubtful. Forget any state in the Midwest, the Mountain West and the Southwest. Forget winning.

And yes, the Democrats are for massaging the butts of terrorists. I knew it all along. The DLC has traitorously borrowed this abomination from the Republicans. Name one prominent Democrat whose expressed pledge is to kowtow to terrorists? I'm waiting. I'm still waiting. John Edwards demeaning campaign pledge to exterminate the terrorists was painful to watch and utterly unconvincing to the electorate. People can smell pandering when it is being purveyed.

Ah yes, the display and use of military muscle was the hallmark of the Bill Clinton administration, the last DLC golden boy. I have fond memories of such. So do many in Rwanda.

Anyone can issue a clarion call for more enlistments in the armed forces. There are two problems with that. One, It's not that we need a bigger military, it's that the forces need to be deployed wisely and honorably, with clearcut entrance and exit strategies PRIOR TO DEPLOYMENT. Two, the numbers of those joining up are going to continue going south, as they have been, until there is resolution in Iraq. Until then, a call for more to join up is an empty, disingenuous one exploiting the sacrifices of our lower economic class citizens while the rest of us go on uninterrupted with our merry status quo lives.

And in Ohio of all places, a state currently experiencing Coin-gate and multiple GOP ethical lapses, no word emerged from the DLC convention about the need for honorable and principled political decision-making. Such is a missed opportunity.

Plus, NAFTA and globalization have played havoc with Ohio's industrial workers. The DLC has been a prominent booster of the latest boondoggle, CAFTA, Just what ray of hope did the DLC offer Ohio's unemployed? Again, I'm waiting.

No, the Democrats need to display the ideas, the integrity and the independence that highlight the differences between themselves and the GOP.

But how can that be accomplished when the Demos and Republicans have basically divided up feasance to the corporate pimps that have purchased American politics?

You want someone who will solve most of these problems for the Democrats?

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is a political newcomer but he is the person most responsible for turning Montana, a Republican majority state, blue. He didn't sit idly by when the GOP tried to "swiftboat' him in the last campaign--he fought back and kicked butt. He accepted NO political action committee campaign funding. He is smart AND tough. He's a rancher who has worked in Saudi Arabia. The NRA loves him. He 'frames' better than George Lakoff. In his gubernatorial victory, he demonstrated crossover and independent voter appeal.

Now is not the time for timidity. It is the time for someone who knows what he believes in and can express it. It is time for Democrats to coalesce around a figure who can not only activate the party base but open the doors to so many who are looking for someone to believe in. It is time to re-honor social and economic fairness.

It is time for Brian Schweitzer.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Brian Schweitzer gets a telling mention in Boston Globe Howard Dean article

In today's (Sunday) edition of the Boston Globe, Charles Pierce has a very interesting article on Howard Dean and his attempt to grow the Democrats into a 50-state party. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer gets a brief but very telling mention:
"...If you want to see what (Barry) Rubin - and through him, Dean and the Democratic National Committee - are going for, move a few degrees north to Montana, where a Democrat named Brian Schweitzer pretty much did it all by himself. Coming in virtually over the transom, Schweitzer, a gun-toting, plain-spoken rancher, got himself elected governor and brought along with him Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Montana Legislature, despite the presence of yet an- other anti-gay-marriage initiative, and despite the fact that Bush carried the state so overwhelmingly that the president took away nearly 60 percent of Montana's Democratic voters. Howard Dean has visited with Schweitzer three times since February.

"I knew all along that Howard Dean had been a moderate governor, a centrist governor," Schweitzer says. "When he ran for president, all people heard about him was that he was the one that was against the war, which conjured up an image that he was a `60s hippie and a passionate liberal about everything else.

"Nobody tried to find me. I just showed up, and that's the challenge - to rebuild that network. Once you're able to take the mountain, you've got to be able to hold the mountain..."
For those Schweitzer doubters, please re-read the above. Brian Schweitzer turned Montana blue--not John Kerry, not Bill Clinton, not the DLC and certainly not the DNC. Brian Schweitzer did this despite zero support from his party, despite an anti-gay marriage amendment on the same ballot and despite being in a Republican majority state.

For those who bleat that Schweitzer is too 'green' for the national scene--well, check his resume. I don't mean this to be personal but what has Hillary Clinton accomplished for Democrats? What has John Edwards accomplished for Democrats? What has Wes Clark accomplished for Democrats? Clinton won in an easy state. Edwards chose not to run again in North Carolina because he probably could not have won. Clark, although extremely intelligent and accomplished, was amateurish in 2004.

To read the entire article, go here.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Announcement -- A Schweitzer for President in 2008 Yahoo Discussion Group

Folks, there's more Schweitzer-mania for you to enjoy, and with this one you can also be a participant.

Jim in Ohio has created a Yahoo discussion group about Governor Schweitzer as a candidate for the Presidency in 2008.

Here is the direct link for people to sign up:

Okay, go over there and get signed up.

Jim, thanks for a great idea.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Six Degrees of Brian Schweitzer

As you can see above, the Center for Constitutional Rights -- a group whose mission I wholeheartedly support (can't speak for Kevin)--doesn't like the policy toward terror suspects currently being expressed by Rumsfeld, who is currently employed by George W. Bush, whose senior advisor, Karl Rove, once said some disparaging things about Howard Dean, who likes Brian Schweitzer plenty.

I like this game. Particularly when it gets this site a mention on Booman Tribune's blogroll.

Seriously, folks, go over and check out the Center for Constitutional Rights. Not a Schweitzer-related issue necessarily, but a good cause that I as a constituent of the liberal blogosphere wholeheartedly endorse.

We're kooky, yes, but it's Schweitzer-kooky...and that's a good thing

Well, it's not like we get a lotta love in the following article, but we understand. What else can an early first-term governor say when pressed about his political future and not come off like an egomaniac or seriously out of touch.

Actually, it is Roll Call that conjures up being D.C. Beltway out of touch with the label-like description of Brian Schweitzer as a "blunt-speaking, gun-toting, scotch-swilling governor." It makes for a good read but such a trivializing description comes off like Schweitzer is never without a rifle and bottle. Note to Roll Call: stress the tangible legislative achievements by Schweitzer so early in his term.

A GOP Montana pol also gets in a personal shot at Schweitzer late in the article. Not so uncuriously, he fails to address any Schweitzer policies the Republicans oppose. I wonder why. Hmmm.

Thank you Bob Anez as we feel any press on Brian Schweitzer at this point in time can only help.
Montana Gov. Talked Up As 2008 Contender
Bob Anez
The Associated Press
July 20, 2005

HELENA, Mont. -- Gov. Brian Schweitzer sits in his Capitol office, scanning a recent Roll Call article in which pundits float his name as a possible presidential contender. They say the "rancher-politician from Big Sky Country" might be the Democrats' "best shot to take back the White House." Schweitzer tosses the article aside. "These people are kooky," he says.

Schweitzer, in office barely 200 days, has drawn unusual attention for the new chief executive of a state usually on the sidelines when it comes to national politics.

His victory as a Democrat in a historically Republican stronghold helped bring him to the attention of Democratic Party leaders. Smarting from their losses in 2004, the Democrats have been looking to successful candidates in typically "red" states, hoping to find a winning strategy.

"He is no-nonsense. He understands fiscal concerns," said Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman. "He has a winning formula for Democrats. He is an example of how you win elections in the West."

Schweitzer had certain built-in advantages in 2004: He ran as a centrist against a weaker Republican candidate, and he followed a very unpopular outgoing GOP governor. But political observers also see a lot of charisma.

The 49-year-old governor speaks bluntly, ridicules special-interest influence, and likes blue jeans and bolo ties. His border collie Jag is often at his heels in the governor's office.

He recently compared President Bush's pitch for changing Social Security to a livestock auction selling bum beef, and he said this of the way the nation's capital works: "If I stay in Washington for more than 72 hours, I have to bathe myself in the same stuff I use when my dog gets into a fight with a skunk."

Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, recently referred to Schweitzer as a "blunt-speaking, gun-toting, scotch-swilling governor" -- the last a reference to news photos of him downing a shot at the reopening of a landmark bar in Butte.
For the rest of the article, go here.

Freep this poll -- vote with Kos!

If you have a Kos account, head over there and vote for Schweitzer in the fantasy poll he's put up, the first one over there to include Schweitzer. If you don't have an account, now's the time to get one!

Right now, Schweitzer is in fourth, trailing Clark, Dean, and Gore. Let's move him up a couple of notches -- particularly since Kos has said he's voting for Schweitzer!

Oh -- and no, I don't know what's happened to the site counter. Working on that. Sigh...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

This is a photo of...

This is a photo of...Montana, you say? No. Kyrgyzstan.

You're not the only one who's noticed the similarity. Governor Schweitzer has too, as Emmett O'Connell notes at Western Democrat:

"The Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United States came to compare Big Sky Country’s ranches and ski resorts, fly-fishing rivers and universities, to those in Kyrgyzstan. Although the two mountain landscapes are half a planet away, Montana and Kyrgyzstan have a wide-ranging network of connections dating back to the 1990s."

"'We would like to work in close relations with small businesses in Montana,' Sydykova said through interpreter Sharjan Tashtanbekova, one of the first Kyrgyz exchange students to the University of Montana. 'We’re trying to learn how Montana works at these industries.'”
Question: how do you build foreign policy cred as a Western state governor? Answer: any way you can. Question: why would you want to build foreign policy cred as a Western state governor? Answer: because you're running for President.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Howard Dean invigorates Montana Democrats

Howard Dean spoke to a gathering of Montana Democrats over the weekend and, minus any shouts or screams, still managed to give kudos and sustenance to Big Sky activists while upsetting the D.C. Democrat 'lords.'

Dean, with his message of empowering and supporting each and every Democratic state party, 'gets it,' while too many top-level Democrats desperately want to retain 'top down' control from their D.C. bastion.

Knowing what is takes to win and implementing such is job one for Dean. Here's hoping the other Demo powers-that-be rein in their vast egos and put the Party first.
Dean wows Dems with speech
July 17, 2005
Billings Gazette State Bureau

GREAT FALLS - Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean called for national health insurance for all Americans, prompting Montana Democrats to whoop and holler on Saturday night.

"This country needs to join the British, the French, the German, the Japanese, the Irish, the Italians, the Swedes, the Norwegians," Dean, a physician and former Vermont governor, said at the dinner speech at the Montana Democratic Party's Officers Convention. "We ought to have health insurance for every man, woman and child in America."

The crowd of 450 rose en masse to cheer on Dean's call for national health insurance. They yelled so loudly during the speech that Dean said later he should have started his 2004 presidential campaign in Montana instead of Iowa.

He suggested President Bush and Republicans have abandoned their traditional values of small government, sound fiscal management and moral leadership. Democrats have seized these issues, he said.

"We will promise you a balanced budget, and we will get government out of people's lives," Dean said.

"Republicans say that they are a party of small government, just small enough to fit inside Terri Schiavo's bedroom," Dean said. "Republicans say they're in favor of small government, but they don't mind telling women what they can or cannot do with their health care.

"Whatever happened to the rugged individualism in the Republican Party?" Dean asked. "It is very much alive and well in the Democratic Party."

He blasted the fiscal policies of his recent GOP predecessors for not balancing the federal budget over the past 35 years.

"Only Democrats balance the budget," Dean said. "You cannot trust Republicans with your taxpayer money. Borrow and spend. Borrow and waste. That's what the Republican Party stands for. We will do better."

The Rocky Mountain West will provide the winning margin for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, Dean predicted. He has spent the past week in this region, flying to Montana on Saturday from Utah.

"You know why I think we're going to win in the Rocky Mountain West?" he asked. "Because Republicans have forgotten who they are, and we've remembered all of a sudden who we are."

Dean praised the Montana Democratic Party's 2004 electoral gains - electing Brian Schweitzer as the party's first governor since Ted Schwinden left office in 1989, controlling the state Senate for the first time since 1993 and achieving a tie in the Montana House that Republicans had dominated since 1991.
For the rest of the article, go here.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Schweitzer's candidate, rancher Dennis McDonald, to head Montana Democratic Party

It took two rounds of voting but Dennis McDonald, Brian Schweitzer's choice to head the Montana Democratic Party, prevailed Saturday.

From the Great Falls Tribune:

McDonald elected as chairman of state's Democrats

Tribune Capitol Bureau
July 17, 2005

It took more than one ballot, but Melville rancher Dennis McDonald — the choice of Gov. Brian Schweitzer — won the nod Saturday as new chairman of the Montana Democratic Party.

McDonald, 61, something of a new face in Montana politics, vowed to make the party competitive in all parts of the state.

"If I have anything to do with it, no Republicans will run unopposed in any district," he said. "I'm convinced there are good people out there, and I will make them feel more comfortable about running."

Delegates to the party officers' convention in Great Falls chose McDonald over three other candidates, giving him a one-vote majority on the second ballot early Saturday afternoon.

They later took a largely ceremonial vote to unanimously endorse McDonald for the two-year post, in which he will oversee fund-raising, candidate recruiting and campaign strategy for the party.

While convention delegates endorsed the choice of Schweitzer and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., for party chairman, they did not follow suit when voting for the vice chairman.

McDonald was running with Jen Hensley of Butte as candidate for vice chairman, but delegates instead elected Tracy Velazquez of Bozeman, who was one of three people McDonald had defeated in the race for party leader.

Velazquez said she and McDonald will make a good team, and that she'll concentrate on encouraging more women to become candidates.

McDonald and his supporters said he can speak persuasively to rural Montanans about voting Democratic, and thus help the party build on its 2004 electoral victories.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Deja vu all over again?

Close to thirty years ago, the United States was suffering the ill effects of a foreign war.

Gasoline prices were skyrocketing.

Citizens were aghast and disgusted at the immorality and dishonesty exhibited by national leaders.

Because of all this, Jimmy Carter, an obscure governor from Georgia, was elected in 1976 as President of the United States. The voting public veered away from the same-old, same-old continuation of politics as usual.

Is history going to repeat in 2008?

Well, here's betting that a majority of the American electorate three years hence will be yearning to vote for an outsider, someone carrying the mantle of reform, an individual with common man/woman roots.

Who will play the Carter role?

On the Democratic side, is that John Kerry? Hillary Clinton? John Edwards? Joe Biden? Evan Bayh? Bill Richardson?

We didn't think so.

Possibly Wes Clark and Mark Warner fit the description. But Clark came off ill-prepared and unqualified in his aborted 2000 run and he will need to demonstrate from the get-go that his is more than a vanity candidacy. Warner, though successful in governing Virginia, is a millionaire many times over and will need to show an immediate ability to connect with disaffected voters as a 'change' candidate.

Outsider. Reformist. Everyday man. Such certainly describes Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

He has already positioned himself as the anti-D.C. Democrat. His is a reformist administration to date in Montana. Talk about someone you would want to have a beer with---that's Schweitzer. Plus, he's an accomplished 'artist' at 'framing' language.

Three words: run Brian, run.

We lied.

Three more words: vote Brian Schweitzer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Matt Singer is eloquent

[Lots of new people showing up today because of Ron's story. We will remind them to sign the petition. We are nearly halfway to our goal of 100 signatures by the end of July! Now...back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Matt Singer is eloquent. Captain Obvious statement of the day, of course. Matt's been around since the days when we were all Deaniacs -- he's he guy that created the Dean Defense Forces, and we tag-teamed a couple times on the old DeanBlog back when I went by the handle "Nonpartisan" (as I still do on some of the older sites). Now he runs Left in the West, probably the preeminent Montana opinion site on the web, and has taken a leading role in creating ProgressMontana, the new interactive center of online Montana politics.

Today Matt's penned the cover story on Governor Schweitzer for In These Times, and it's a doozy.

Since [2004], Democrats across the country have turned to Montana for answers and hope. Some critics denigrate Schweitzer's victory, claiming that a red-state Democrat must simply be a Republican lite. But that analysis falls flat: Schweitzer is a strong proponent of choice, as well as an advocate for the environment and for middle-class Montanans. And those who have seen the outspoken Schweitzer challenge the Bush administration in the press lately realize: Real Democrats, not faux Republicans, won in Montana.

If Democrats can succeed this well in Montana, they can win anywhere. The question is how. ...

Meeting [Schweitzer], it is clear how he grew in the public mind. Schweitzer is a big man, athletic, and ready with a handshake and a smile for anyone who greets him. He talks loudly, plainly and quickly, with ideas flowing out of his mouth at near breakneck pace. He works hard, sleeps little and is known for reading Montana's newspapers as they become available online in the wee hours of the morning.

When a reporter from an independent weekly newspaper visited his ranch to write a profile, Schweitzer took him shooting. After he won the gubernatorial election, Schweitzer threw a massive inaugural ball with three venues and more than 3,000 guests. When Butte, Montana's famous M&M bar reopened, Schweitzer stood in the middle of the bar at 10 a.m., downing a shot of Jameson's.

...[Schweitzer] drove across the state [during his campaign for Governor], meeting people in rural areas and asking what they needed from government. Those discussions resulted in an agenda that included healthcare reform, economic development and a new approach to higher education with an increased emphasis on community colleges and technical schools. Schweitzer then took his new issue agenda and crossed the state again, giving speeches that never fell into wonk speak. Instead, Schweitzer ran on values, delivering a talk about his family homesteading in Montana, building a church and a community with their friends and neighbors. He talked about being a Bobcat (a graduate of Montana State). He talked about talking to people.

He continued fundraising at a fast clip, raising more than any other candidate for governor in Montana's history, despite refusing PAC money--another decision he credited to talking to people. He toured the state to find a lieutenant governor. In the process, he talked to dozens of Montanans, people who rarely get one-on-one time with a major candidate for governor. Most of them, he says, told him that they did not want to be lieutenant governor, they simply wanted to talk to someone who could change things. ...

Schweitzer's team never confused common sense with mealy-mouthing or bipartisanship with timidity. ... Ultimately, the hard work paid off. Schweitzer was elected as the first Democratic governor in 16 years. His approval rating is slowly marching upward, approaching 60 percent, while Bush has slumped to 53 percent approval in this red state.
Here I should note that the new SurveyUSA poll shows Schweitzer's poll numbers have dipped by an infinitesimal 4 percent, to only 58% approval; also, Republicans no longer support the Governor by 12% as they did in June, instead opposing him by a tiny 6%.

Think about that, folks. Schweitzer's got 40% approval rating from Republicans in Montana. And people think this guy will have trouble on the national stage.

Anyway -- back to the article. Having demonstrated Schweitzer's prowess, Matt explores three important lessons that can be learned from his campaign:

- Fight everywhere. Schweitzer didn't write off the rural areas of Montana that have recently become Republican strongholds. He campaigned statewide, winning two counties typically lost by Democrats and narrowing the margin in dozens of others.

- Fight back. When Schweitzer got "Swift Boated," his campaign staffers didn't sit silently. They hit back fast and hard. And in his first months in office, Schweitzer didn't refrain from criticizing the president who received more votes than he did. He aggressively criticized Bush on a number of fronts. Now he's more popular than the president among Montana voters.

- Actions speak louder than words. Unlike other Democrats who revel in meta-analysis or theorizing over values, Schweitzer simply did it. Rather than saying he was a real Montanan, he talked about his homesteading ancestors. Rather than talking about reclaiming the flag, Schweitzer just did it--prominently on his Web site and on pens the campaign distributed. And both Schweitzer and the Montana Democrats had plans. They just realized that having the plans was more important than talking about them non-stop.

If Democrats across the country learn these lessons, they'll be on the right road to winning America back.
For once, I frankly have nothing to add. Good on you, Matt.

The shot heard 'round the blogosphere

I'm sitting here at my computer with nearly a dozen websites open that sport current pieces on DraftSchweitzer2008 -- and most of them because of the shot heard 'round the blogosphere -- yesterday's Roll Call article covering the nascent movement.

Tynan heard it. Taegan heard it. Sirota heard it. The Big Sky Young Dems heard it. Bob Brigham heard it, which is perhaps not surprising as he was interviewed for it -- and, consequently, felt within his rights to post nearly the entire article on his site. I'll make it clear here for copyright purposes that I'm quoting Bob at SSP, not Roll Call.

It is this willingness to criticize Republican policymakers in plainspoken ways that has some Democratic activists touting Schweitzer as a dark-horse candidate for president in 2008.

“I’m still waiting to see if the Democrats will get behind a pro-choice, red-state governor, who says what he means and means what he says,” wrote Bob Brigham, co-creator of the Swing State Project, a Web log affiliated with a political action committee for Democratic bloggers. “Bonus points for a western candidate, double bonus points for speaking Arabic. Triple bonus points for a dog named Jag.”

Schweitzer’s supporters think the governor, a rancher and farmer who picked a Republican state Senator to run with him as lieutenant governor last year, has a knack for critiquing GOP policies in a way that sounds more populist than partisan.

Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is also backing Schweitzer, whom he called “a genuine version of Bush’s fake ranch.”

Because Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is seen as the overwhelming early favorite for the Democratic nomination, and because so many better-known politicians are gearing up for 2008, the idea of Schweitzer running for president may seem preposterous. Brigham doesn’t think so.

“What do the insiders know?” he asked. ...

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane doesn’t think anyone can be elected president in 2008 who is not seen as strong on national security. But the former spokesman to then-Vice President Al Gore does not think Schweitzer is at risk of looking weak.
“The way he communicates, the way he looks, the way he talks — he obviously is a hunter,” Lehane said. “His whole character and personality profile make it clear that he is no softie.” ...

Another potential problem for Schweitzer would be time on the ground in the states that host the early contests. Warner will be out of office starting in 2006. Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), another Democrat hoping to upend the Clinton train, is already out of office.

But in a party with a history of nominating heretofore obscure governors, nobody is writing Schweitzer off just yet.

“It’s a huge leap to go from being the governor of Montana to a presidential campaign in a couple of years,” Lehane said. “On the other hand, the guy seems to be a huge talent. He could be the Jimmy Carter of 2008.”
Big stuff. But not quite so big as the other guy that noticed the story -- and us: Ron Gunzburger of, which now has our site on the front page. We've gotten nearly a hundred hits from their site in the past three hours, and three petition signatures (bringing the total to 39), and our total money pledged to Schweitzer is now a whopping $865.

Wow. Wow. Um -- thanks, Ron. Thanks a heck of a lot.

Monday, July 11, 2005

...And even more Schweitzer publicity

When David Sirota talks about Schweitzer, I'm all ears. Particularly when he's quoting from an article in Roll Call. And even more so when he's got Schweitzer standing up for Muslims in the Middle East, showing off more of his nascent foreign-policy acumen:

"Schweitzer said, 'When any political leader in America uses the term crusade, you can hardly imagine the kind of angst that you get in the Islamic world. That would be like waving a Confederate flag at an NAACP meeting in Alabama.'...Schweitzer said he doesn’t know what the president’s 'end game' in Iraq is. 'We now have the greatest part of our military force sitting smack-dab in the Middle East,' he said. 'It is true that Iraq is full of al Qaeda and lots of bad guys — we’ve attracted them like honey to come and fight us.'"
Quoth Sirota: "[Schweitzer] understands that, especially when we are bogged down in a seemingly endless war, Americans want their political leaders to demand honest answers from the powers-that-be." Hear, hear, David.

And on a personal note: a near-endorsement of Schweitzer from Chris at Javelin Blog, which has added us to their blogroll.

Montana Republicans dogging it

The Montana Republicans sure are straining themselves in yet another attempt to go after Governor Brian Schweitzer. Their veins must be popping out on their foreheads, their faces flush and hernias just around the corner with the heavy lifting the Montana GOP is doing.

Now, they have gone after Schweitzer's dog in trying to discredit the new Montana Governor.

From the Montana Republican Party web site comes this entry:

"Did you hear about Gov. Schweitzer’s 4th of July trip? (7/8/05)

It seems the Gov. pulled a hamstring in a parade, and then had to ride the rest of the parade route in a car and cancel appearances in a few other parades over the holiday weekend. The official report out of the Governor’s Office said he injured himself tossing a football with onlookers. But credible sources have it that Schweitzer actually injured himself when he tripped over his dog and constant companion, Jag.

How ironic. During the campaign, Schweitzer boasted that he would fire the governor’s bodyguards and use Jag as his sole means of security. Note to Jag: bodyguards are supposed to prevent injuries. Regardless, Schweitzer discarded the no-bodyguard pledge shortly after the election was over and, in fact, he now has the largest security force in state history."
Our take:

Karl Rove, unindicted or indicted, couldn't have put it better. "Credible sources" sure pins it down. Any bets that said sources have been seen in and around the gutter in front of Montana Republican Party headquarters?

And including a note to a dog in the post? Jag is a pooch of many talents but reading is not one of them.

Note to Governor Schweitzer: you better increase your bodyguard allotment because these individuals appear to be willing to stop at nothing. If you also have a pet cat, keep it under surveillance for approaching strangers bearing litter boxes.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Why support Brian Schweitzer now?

At least two questions have been raised concerning our support for Brian Schweitzer becoming the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee.

The first (why Schweitzer?) has already been addressed in various posts here. We'll have another somewhere down the line but don't believe enough time has lapsed since the last post on said subject.

The second (why now?) deserves a response.

Our sense is that at this point, any Democratic outsider needs as much media attention and speculation as can be generated. That is why we are doing our part NOW for Brian Schweitzer.

When Hillary Clinton sneezes, media coverage abounds. John Kerry still receives 'carryover' attention. John Edwards is getting C-SPAN spots during his various jaunts around this country. Wes Clark has joined FOX NEWS as an expert commentator. Joe Biden can appear on any Sunday morning political news show he desires. Even Evan Bayh and Bill Richardson are recognizable names and hitting the talk show circuit.

Save for Richardson (although he has logged time in D.C.), all the others are Beltway insiders and easily available. On a whim, they can call a press conference that 'requires' print and possibly television coverage, thereby 'forcing' the media to both cover and feature the powers-that-be, the so-called frontrunners, the 'qualified' candidates-- generally the known, the accessible, the ones previously featured.

This becomes a self-perpetuating, symbiotic relationship between the major players and the major press. Each feeds off the other.

The D.C. Democratic insiders, the politicians, the elite and the old guard, want it that way. No need to rock the boat for them--it's working well. Win or lose elections, the bigshots will be fine, financially and otherwise. There are consultant fees to be collected and corporate boards to grace.

But what about the ordinary rank-and-file Democrats throughout the country? The ones who get called upon to do their 'duty' once every four years, are expected to be ever so grateful for that opportunity, and then are supposed to shut up and be quiet until called upon again. The working women and men hurt by the feasance of the Democratic insiders to corporate and other special interests.

Brian Schweitzer is the reform candidate, the antithesis to the Beltway pols, a representative of the average Joe and Jill, one who can lead the 'makeover' so desperately needed by the Democratic Party.

The major media players have already missed the most important Democratic story of 2004--that being the rise of Democrats in the Mountain West. So don't count on any better coverage in 2006 or 2008.

In Brian Schweitzer's case, what self-respecting Washington/New York media person wants to trudge out to Montana to sniff around and see if there might be a 'story' brewing'? This would probably involve two or three different flights (the horror, the horror) and certainly questionable cuisine in the Big Sky Country. And what about the possibility of stepping in manure.

This is where we come in. If you can't bring the media to the story, bring the story to the media.

We repeat, that is why we are doing our part NOW for Brian Schweitzer. And that is why we thank those of you who have already signed the petition.

Some answers about Schweitzer's coal panacea

Finally, from the science-and-technology e-magazine (filched from the Missoulian), an article that answers my burning questions about the Governor's idea of creating a clean-coal processing plant in Indian country. Apparently, the thing is called Fischer-Tropsch technology:

Montana owns 600 million tons of coal, located alongside 600 million tons owned by Great Northern Properties and 1.2 billion tons owned by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

The coal conversion process produces no air pollution, uses no water and creates electricity as a byproduct. The petroleum fuels produced could be shipped out-of-state by pipeline.

"It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?" Schweitzer said in a recent interview. "This is a physicist at the Department of Defense saying we're getting serious about this, and we'll buy all you produce."
Damn right it sounds too good to be true. But Schweitzer, whose master's degree in soil science gives him the background to understand this sort of thing, describes the chemical process in detail:

"What you do first is the coal gasification process," Schweitzer said. "You crush the coal, heat it and get your gas. From there, it's a chemical reaction. You have a big tank and use either cobalt or iron as the catalyst. What you get out of that is the building blocks to make fuel. You get carbon .monoxide and you get hydrogen. With those two, you can make any fuel you would like to make - diesel, gasoline, heating fuel, plastics, fertilizer or pure hydrogen."
Fischer-Tropsch technology hasn't been used, says the Governor, because it's until recently been more expensive than traditional petroleum, but that's changed now. The process was successfully used by Hitler and also by the De Klerk government in South Africa during the worldwide embargo there.

And Schweitzer's thinking big -- really big:

"We're not talking about one plant here," Schweitzer said. "I want to get the first one off and going, and it could look like this all over Montana."
What he's saying is, he's going to create in Montana a new source of energy that, as he's said before, can power the entire U.S. for eight hundred years. He's going to make a the ultimate supply-side economy for the state, and the DOD is going to lap up everything he makes to ensure that the supply is matched by demand. He's going to share the profits with Montana's most impoverished Indian tribes in order to drag them out of poverty.

In short, Schweitzer is going to make Montana the envy of America, a move that will immediately catapult him into the top tier of the Presidential race, even without the netroots support he's beginning to achieve (thanks again, Kari).
Of course, like any visionary plan, this one is fraught with risks -- the initial plant alone is going to cost $2.5 billion to build. But Schweitzer, like the enlightened leader he is showing himself to be, isn't afraid to take risks when they make sense and when the payoff is great. If Schweitzer succeeds in this, he will literally be the man who singlehandedly averted the energy crisis, the new Herbert Hoover (that is, the 1928 Hoover, who built dams and electrified the West and could do no wrong).

The Governor seems to understand just how important, possibly seminal, this issue is.

"I'm not going to be shooting from the hip here," he said. "I'm going to bring in the best there is to be our advisers."
So for now, we'll wait and watch. But the possibilities are astounding, both for Schweitzer and for the future of American energy.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Changing of the Guard

33 signatures on the petition and $440 already pledged to the cause -- the Draft Schweitzer movement just keeps on truckin'!

And with the success of the petition, it's time for a changing of the guard. Henceforth, this blog will be run by our own Kevin McCarthy, who had this idea before I did and who has far more time and energy for the cause than I do. I'll continue to write for the site and such, but it'll be Kevin who's really in charge. Congratulations to Kevin!

Stay tuned, folks -- more surprises and of course your usual news, views and action alerts coming soon from Schweitzer for President!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Update on petition

Per Lefty Limblog's suggestion in comments, I've edited the petition so that you can register that you want to pledge a specific dollar amount to the campaign if Schweitzer runs. This is non-binding and will not actually take your money, but I urge you to be honest about whether and how much you want to pledge; inflated money pledges, as the Clark campaign found out to their detriment, will not help a potential candidate.

Data about the money will have to be tabulated by hand, which is fine for now. Also, if you've already signed the pledge and wish to add a monetary pledge, I'd ask you to sign again under the same name you originally signed. I'll go through periodically and delete repeat signatures (again, inflated totals won't help the Governor), leaving the one with your pledge up there.

As of now we are, in a single day, nearly at one-quarter of our goal for the month (23 signatures as of now). Exciting! You guys rock!

P.S. We are also approaching the 500-visitor mark for this site. Our average is about 10 hits a day.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Draft Schweitzer 2008 petition is here! Sign it now!

[Cross-posted at many major liberal blogs and websites.]

Introducing the Draft Schweitzer 2008 petition, designed to convince Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer of the tremendous grassroots support he will find if he agrees to stand for the Presidency in 2008. Now those of us who want the Governor to run can finally take direct action on his behalf!

Please note -- and this is important: you DON'T have to be certain that you're voting for him in order to sign the petition. You just have to want the guy to run. Running will increase his national stature and help spread his reformist Democratic message across America, revitalizing the Democratic Party and helping it win elections.

The petition won't be sent to the Governor until Dec. 31, 2005, so we've got some time. However, at the end of this month (July), I'm turning over site administration to my co-blogger, Kevin McCarthy. Before then, I'd like to have one hundred signatures on the petition. So tell your friends. Tell your parents. Tell your husbands. And let's tell Governor Schweitzer how we feel!

Thanks to Kari Chisholm, who knows everything about politics, and to strandsofpearl, who is currently building a Schweitzer2008 Store and who provided valuable editorial assistance. Here's the text of the petition, written by Kevin and myself.

Draft Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer for President in 2008

We, the undersigned, declare our fervent hope that you, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, will stand for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008.

America is in a state of crisis. Our military is stretched to the breaking point, hindering our national defense. Our soldiers and their families are enduring enormous strain due to lack of planning, producing overextended tours of duty and reduced veteran benefits. Our international standing is at an all-time low. Our domestic economy is suffering from a prolonged recession exacerbated by the policies of this administration, which is increasingly dividing our nation into haves and have-nots. Corporate special interest groups rule the halls of government, helping themselves to the spoils of power instead of helping the American people. The natural world is under continued assault by the government charged with protecting and conserving it. More and more Americans are finding their rights and liberties eroded. Partisan politics is dividing our country into two bitterly opposed camps, destroying America's spirit of community.

With the soul of our nation under attack by its own government, you and you alone have shown the kind of honest, principled, and decisive leadership necessary to restore this country's integrity and spirit. Where other politicians perform chameleon-like acrobatics in speeches, you are comfortable in your own skin. You stand for what you believe, and you lead with your heart rather than by what polls or focus groups say.

Furthermore, your leadership on issues of national importance has marked you as an outstanding standard-bearer of the Democratic Party, making you, more than any other Democrat, fit for the national stage. Your open-armed welcome to Montana's Native American community has shown the tolerance and willingness to compromise which are necessary to conduct successful foreign policy. Your innovative energy policies have set a standard that, if enacted at a national level, may well avert the looming energy crisis. Your attacks on corporate interests and your creative economic problem-solving are revitalizing the economy of Montana and are sorely needed in the rest of the country. Your passionate defense of conservation along with your devotion to individual liberty will be a welcome corrective to the disastrous policies of the current Republican administration. Your selection of a Republican for your lieutenant governor running mate is ample evidence that you are willing to be flexible in trying to end the partisanship that is gridlocking and poisoning Washington D.C. and spreading to the rest of the country. You recognize the hotbed of corruption that national politics have become, and your moral strength gives you the power to change things in our nation's capital, to renew American government from within. Most importantly, your inspiring honesty and belief in the American dream transcend politics and provide an opportunity to re-engage the American people in the political process, giving our government back to the populace.

For these and many other reasons, we urge you to consider our country's aching need for your leadership, and to take your message to America by running for President in 2008.

As any viable Presidential candidate must begin campaigning by January 2007 at the latest, this petition will be sent to you, Governor Schweitzer, on December 31, 2006. Thereafter, we hope to be able to support you with votes and donations rather than simply signatures.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Schweitzer's patriotism beyond question

Look at the way the Governor reacted to the Fourth of July, as pointed out in the Billings Gazette:

One of [Schweitzer's] earliest memories of deep connections to his country came years ago, at the age of 7, Schweitzer recalled. ... [The Cuban Missile Crisis] was the first time he felt fear, understood what being an American was and that the United States was vulnerable, he said.

"We were Target Zero," he said. "I can remember my emotions, the consequences of those missiles arriving in Cuba. That's young to be burdened with that. ... That emotion will never leave me."

All these years later, patriotic moments are still very personal and moving, he said.

"This may sound a little hokey, but every time I go to a sporting event or to a public gathering and I see the colors being presented and hear the 'Star-Spangled Banner,' I get a little choked up," he said. "It brings tears to my eyes."
As always, Schweitzer is the Democrats' cure-all, nimbly finding the words to eliminate the Dems' perceived patriotism problem. He may not have served in a war, but Republicans had better watch their backs if they think they can tar this one with being anti-patriotic.

Sort of goes along with Armando's argument that Democrats need to exude tough more than anything else if we are to win back our country.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Schweitzer backs rancher as next head of the Montana Democratic Party

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and U.S. Senator Max Baucus have both announced their support for Dennis McDonald, a rancher, as the next head of the Montana Democratic Party.

This appears to be a somewhat controversial choice (read why in the Billings Gazette article) but it makes absolute sense on at least one level: the other candidates are a labor leader, a marketing businessperson and a consultant to non-profits.

Now I have nothing against the occupations of the other three individuals (they would all probably do a fine job) but ask yourself this: for those Montanans on the fence or wavering in their political leanings, what background provides instantaneous credibility?

Having a rancher head the Democrats in Montana would be yet another coup in the campaign for a political makeover in the Big Sky Country.

Plus, McDonald's political history of bipartisanship (again, read the Billings Gazette article, is actually another plus. Not that the other candidates agree.

Horse sense: Baucus, Schweitzer back rancher
Charles S. Johnson
Billings Gazette
July 3, 2005

HELENA - In an unusual move, two of the state's leading Democrats - U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and Gov. Brian Schweitzer - have thrown their weight behind Melville rancher Dennis McDonald to become the next chairman of the Montana Democratic Party.

In addition, three veteran Democrats - labor leader Gene Fenderson of Helena, marketing businessman Pete Talbot of Missoula and former congressional candidate Tracy Velazquez of Bozeman, are vying for the post at the party's convention in Great Falls July 15-16. Bob Ream is stepping down as Democratic state chairman after eight years and helping restore the party to power.

Although the other three candidates all have more Democratic Party experience, Baucus and Schweitzer praised McDonald for offering new leadership that can attract what the governor called "fresh blood" to the party.

It's rare for top elected officials to openly try to influence the rank-and-file's choice of party chairman, and it can backfire as it did four years ago at the state Republican convention, embarrassing some top GOP officeholders.

'Hard to say no'

McDonald, 61, is president of the Montana Cattlemen's Association and a founder of R-CALF. Raised in Montana, McDonald received a law degree in San Francisco and practiced law there until returning home to Montana as a rancher in the late 1980s.

"I think I can help reconnect, or maybe better said, continue the connection between rural Montana and farmers and ranchers in the Democratic Party," McDonald said. "Governor Schweitzer has certainly created a model for that. What I want to do is seize upon the momentum that's been garnered."

McDonald said he wouldn't be running without Baucus' and Schweitzer's blessing, adding: "It's pretty hard to say no to Montana's senior senator and governor."

Schweitzer called McDonald "a true Montana hero and success story" and a national leader on cattle issues. He said McDonald grew up poor on a small farm in the Bitterroot, worked his way through California colleges and saved enough to return home.

"I think he has demonstrated the kind of leadership that will deliver what I believe the Democratic message is," Schweitzer said. "We are the party of small business. We are the party of those aspiring to own their first business."

Baucus is proud to join Schweitzer backing McDonald because "he has demonstrated the kind of commonsense leadership the party needs right now," spokesman Barrett Kaiser said. "He will provide a strong Main Street voice for Democrats representing Montana's No. 1 industry - agriculture."
For the rest (and do read it all, go here.

-- Kevin McCarthy

Friday, July 01, 2005

Schweitzer and Western Dems make American Prospect; V says sort of the same thing

An awesome, awesome article by the Prospect's Robert Kuttner on why Western Democrats are on the rise. Exhibit A is, of course, everybody's favorite Montana Governor:

The Mountain West has trended (to put it mildly) Republican in recent decades. But its progressive Democratic legacy is being rekindled. Nowhere is this happening more than here in Big Sky Country, where Brian Schweitzer, the newly elected Democratic governor, ran a full 15 points ahead of John Kerry as the Democrats took control of both the governor’s mansion and the Montana Legislature for the first time since 1989. ...

Brian Schweitzer is characteristic of a new wave of western progressives. “He presents himself as a problem solver, rather than in ideological terms,” says Lake, “but the policies are progressive and they build popular support for progressive government.” Since taking office, Schweitzer has had a terrific six months. In the legislative session, he steered through a tax increase on tobacco, the proceeds of which will subsidize health-insurance purchasing pools and lower the cost of prescription drugs, as well as a pioneering ethanol program that a coalition of greens, farmers, and ranchers had been pursuing in vain for nearly three decades. Under the new law, 10 percent of basic motor fuels consumed in Montana will have to be ethanol, distilled from grains. A byproduct of the process will produce feed for cattle ranchers.

The new law also provides for country-of-origin labeling to help farmers and ranchers, and will produce an estimated $250 million of new economic activity for Montana thanks to the ethanol refining. Schweitzer deliberately picked a fight with extractive-industry interests, which would rather see oil drilling in the pristine Front Range just north and east of here. The ethanol program was so popular with farmers that he was able to split the Republicans and force several to cross the aisle and support it. Schweitzer comes across as a pragmatist, but he’s also a canny partisan. The centerpiece of his program is a jobs and economic-development initiative.

Schweitzer is emblematic of a new kind of western politician who is both progressive and entrepreneurial. He inherited a failing family farm and turned it around by planting, of all things, mint. By researching and then efficiently serving an untapped market, he became a millionaire, and was able to enter politics as a farmer and small-business man as well as a progressive Democrat. He shrewdly allied himself with sportsmen, not just as a gun owner but as one determined to protect the fishing and hunting environment. He was one of the first politicians to lead prescription-drug bus trips to Canada. Campaigning statewide, Schweitzer lost a cliff-hanger election to Senator Conrad Burns in 2000, then prevailed by 18 percent in the 2004 governor’s race. Two progressive Montana Democrats, Senate President John Tester and State Auditor John Morrison, are jockeying to take on Burns, who is probably the Senate’s most vulnerable Republican in 2006.

Montana is also prime territory for a progressive Democratic resurgence because it remains a state where it’s possible to do politics retail. It takes only about 4,000 votes to win a seat in the Legislature, and $10,000 is an expensive race. Montanans are suspicious of big money in politics. This is still the kind of “small-d” democracy Jefferson had in mind.
Read the whole article, particularly the part where Celinda Lake says, "A lot of the red on the outside, blue on the inside."

And then go read V at Left in the West, who has some fascinating things to say about how Schweitzer is uniting unions and conservationists in an old-time Populist marriage:

One of the most depressing things I have seen happen in Montana is the move of conservation Democrats away from union Democrats, and I think that the future of Montana’s Democrats lies in reforging the old bonds between conservationists and unionists under the common flag of Populism. This is why the victory of Brian Schweitzer is such a big deal here. That is why Brian is such a good thing for the Democratic party even if runs with a Republican running mate for the rest of his life. Brian cares about the future of our party and I think that he is offering a strong hope of reforging the strengths of the party, but for some reason people still don’t seem to get it.

Conservationism is about people not places. It means being sure that people’s lives are not devoid of the beauty of nature and the necessity of the clean air and environment that it takes to stay healthy. It also means being able to hunt animals in parts of this state where you are positive that your quarry has watered in non-toxic streams and breathed in the same beautiful Montana air that you have.

The goals are the same for unions, simply put making the life of a worker fair and better. Whether by keeping the minimum number of workable hours manageable and the pay fair so that workers can support their families, or by being there to stand up against bosses united and not divided so that these and other workers’ rights don’t fall by the wayside, now or ever. The goals of both these groups boil down to one: we care about people, and damn it we care enough to fight for them from the bottoms of dank mines and on the tops of great mountains.
Remember, this campaign for Schweitzer goes beyond just the Governor himself. It's a campaign to retake the West from Republican dominance. It's a campaign to promote the Western style of Democratic populism. More than anything, it's a campaign to promote honesty and integrity in American politics.

Schweitzer roundup, 7/1/05

Lots and lots and LOTS of Schweitzer news today (and yesterday, because I was busy reading instead of Schweitzerblogging):

First of all, the Governor declares victory on Amtrak when Capitol Hill decides to leave the mass-transit system's funding intact. Montana's infrastructure depends on the train system's extensive rural network, and Schweitzer worked closely with Baucus, Burns, and Rehberg on this one.

More fantastic news on Schweitzer's collaboration with Native America: the Governor plans to improve communication with Indian tribes, again. Go read the whole article -- this is some great stuff:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer threw open the Capitol doors to Montana's American Indians Wednesday and rolled out a new communication plan that he hopes will better serve the tribes needs. ...

"You made your promise to work with the tribes, and I look around the room and I see this happening," said Joel Clairmont, deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture and a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. "This is something that needed to be done. It was a long time coming."

The new Indian council gives the tribes "a portal" into state government, Schweitzer said.

"We tried to put together a council that will better deliver government services in Indian country," Schweitzer said. "We want to make sure we are responsive." ...

"This is the beginning, this is not the end," the governor said. "We are leading the rest of the nation in state-to-tribal relationships."
Schweitzer says more good things about alternative fuels, complete with this quote:

"The future of Montana energy will be a future made in part with ethanol fuel," Schweitzer said. "We fully intend for Montana to be a leader in renewable fuels."
The Governor defends his state against FEMA, which is refusing to declare a disaster area for rural electric co-ops that the state can't help.

Apparently, fully one-sixth of the bills Schweitzer has signed this year are health-care bills.

And Schweitzer sets up a commission to determine the design for the Montana statehood quarter and lets local historians in on the process. (I know you don't care, but I'm a historian and a coin collector. So there.)

And if you want to be a judge in Gallatin County, the Gov's taking applications. Better get on this one quick.