Monday, January 23, 2006

Montanan Rick Bass profiles Brian Schweitzer, Montana and more in GRIST

Rick Bass, writing in GRIST, provides an in-depth look at Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, how Montana is changing, what effect that might have on the rest of the country and more. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Wild to Be Born
Montana's landscape is changing -- will America's be next?
By Rick Bass
18 Jan 2006

The governor is a politician of such breathtaking dexterity, ability, and raw, hungry, political instinct that your first thought upon witnessing him -- no matter whether you're a Republican or Democrat -- is likely to be, "When does he explode, and in what manner?" For rarely in American politics has anyone this good been that way indefinitely.

Brian Schweitzer has only been the governor of Montana for a year, but already, among Democrats in the state and beyond, I sense a Clintonesque déjà vu creeping in, a relief that all will be all right, that our values are protected. We are not considering how fast and bright such stars burn.

As was Clinton, Schweitzer is incredibly likeable -- he seems sometimes to be leaning forward on his toes, beaming in advance of an audience's appreciation -- but while Clinton was often guilty of working over-hard to placate his enemies, it's easier to envision Schweitzer responding with a real bristle factor when someone gets in his face, tries to be a bully or a malcontent, disruptive of a project that builds economic or community or social strength. Schweitzer single-handedly trounced the Republican Party in 2004, not just driving them from the capitol, but leading the charge to regain the state House and Senate as well -- but, bridge builder that he is, he chose state Sen. John Bohlinger, a progressive Republican, as his running mate.

The new governor displays a flair for visual, even cinematic, politics, and Montanans have become accustomed to above-the-fold photos of him knocking back a shot of sunlit amber whiskey to celebrate the 10 a.m. reopening of a historic bar in Butte, or popping a cork to celebrate the initial stages in the removal of a dam on the Clark Fork River. Already, there seems no end to the roll call of his greatest hits, and no lessening of his appetite for (or ability to provide) them.

He is remaking, in that fashion, Montana political culture -- and, argue his strongest supporters, he would also be able to remake the entire country's image, at this critical stage of necessary self-repair, were his job ever to become that of chief executive.
To read the rest, go here.


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