After Eight Years of Saying Uncle, GOP Happy to be Rid of Schweitzer

In an article in the IR this weekend reflecting on Schweitzer’s eight year reign, past and present Republican leaders said they don’t much care for Schweitzer and are anxious to see him go. Given how many times they tried getting the better of him but ended up getting burned, I can’t really blame them for having had enough of him.

Former Senate President Bob Story complained in the article that Schweitzer ruled with an “iron hand” and often belittled the legislature and did not “share credit.” Outgoing President Jim Peterson was quoted in a grudging admission that Schweitzer has “put Montana on the map,” but went on to say that he doesn’t like Schweitzer’s “divide and conquer” strategy.

What these guys are not mentioning, of course, is that they spent the full eight years of the Schweitzer administration sending awful bills to the Governor’s desk, constipating the legislative process wherever they thought it benefited their party politically,playing games to try to jam Schweitzer politically, and often killing good legislative proposals solely to prevent good policy from being achieved by Democrats. Like, for example, the 2011 bonding bill that would have created great numbers of jobs around the state by investing in much-needed infrastructure. Clearly that would have been bad news for a GOP legislature, to have new jobs created by a Democratic governor. So they used their superior numbers to scuttle it. And yet these same bozos are now complaining that Schweitzer was somehow too heavy-handed a governor. It’s laughable.

Really what you are seeing, with these weak shots across Schweitzer’s bow in the waning days of his administration, is the agony of defeat. Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a successful Democratic executive, especially one who humiliates his opposition and occasionally poaches traditional GOP territory. And humiliated they were.

Without a strong GOP leader in either chamber, they simply got routed again and again, progressively worse each session, and in 2011 stumbled over themselves so badly that they became a national joke. And yes, the Governor took the credit for himself and his party, as well he should have. Why would he give credit to a bunch of obstructionists?

With the exception of a few moderate Republican lawmakers who have a commendable approach to public service that puts citizens above political games, the GOP crew in House and Senate have mostly focused on playing petty games, pushing Tea Party lunacy, and searching for a reason to get in Schweitzer’s way. Having morphed slowly but surely, over thirty years or so, into a party that does nothing but complain about liberals, environmentalists, “big government”, “illegal immigrants”, “people getting stuff for free” and all the other supposed ills of Democratic governance, the GOP now knows no other existence except to try to paint Democrats as boogeymen and boogeywomen. They tried the same thing with Schweitzer, but it never worked.

Worse, he beat them on their own turf: managing taxpayer money, creating a vibrant business climate, developing energy, and cutting taxes. Not to mention the bag of goodies with a more traditional Democratic flavor, including new programs like full-time kindergarten for toddlers, tuition freezes, a new public health system for state workers that might eventually be expanded for private citizens, many renewable energy projects, new protections for those seeking to avoid discrimination based on their sexual orientation, and new relations with Indian country, who were excluded from government and ignored by the GOP.

And so the GOP’s whining and moaning about Schweitzer’s shortcomings are nothing more than the whimper of a defeated army. It is enjoyable, predictable, and hopefully will continue on.

And Steve Bullock will continue the fight, I am certain. Though he doesn’t necessarily have a stage act like Schweitzer’s, Bullock showed during his campaign that he can be ruthless and nasty. His campaign hit hard at Hill. They crucified him over his taking the illegal 500lk$ and also ran brutal negative ads portraying Hill’s support of a sales tax. Hill himself has complained that these ads finished him off and were unfair. All is fair in politics.

I’ve even heard it whispered that many of the low blows dealt Hill during the primary– which forced him to empty his wallet to defend himself and caused infighting among the GOP, and ultimately suppressed enthusiasm for Hill in November–were instigated by Democrats, perhaps even Bullock’s operatives. Plausible, I suppose. If it’s so, it’s good stuff. It means he plays for keeps. It’s important, because if any of my readers think the newly appointed GOP leadership in the legislature wants to work in a constructive way with the new Governor, you are suckers, I’m afraid. A few moderates will want to do business with a Bullock administration. Otherwise, the name of the GOP’s game is to try to find ways to embarrass the new Governor. The GOP will, as always, be looking to start a knife fight. Like Schweitzer, Bullock will need to bring a gun.

Posted: November 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

17 thoughts on “After Eight Years of Saying Uncle, GOP Happy to be Rid of Schweitzer

  1. Farmboy

    Im going to miss Governor Schweitzer. I was a freshman in college when he first ran for the U.S. Senate against Conrad Burns, that seat is currently held by Sen. Jon Tester, Thank God, But now Schweitzer when he first ran the Democratic Party of Montana was pretty much a dead horse, with the exception of a few officeholders here and there, it was dying, Montana in 2000 managed to elect the most incompetent person to ever walk into the Governors office, and she followed an individual who I think was the most coruppt individual to walk into the governor’s office. Schwietzer was competent, and he knew how to govern, he knew how to balance a budget, he knew how to run a state. I wish we could have gotten him a third term, but Im glad Steve Bullock will take his place. Schwietzer did alot of good for this state, infact he did more good then bad, and he did more good then the three a–holes before him, Im talking Stevens, Ratco, and Martz. There is no comparison there Governor Brian Schwietzer is in a whole different class then those. I also can say this I respected the first Brown he ran against in 2004 but the second Brown in 2008 was a wimp and a weeny at best, and a slime ball at worst, Im glad he is gone from the state senate. It might have been an expensive race but he was replaced by a good man with a bright future, I see Sen. Kendall Van Dyk in congress someday.

  2. Farmboy

    One more thing before I go, Brian Schwietzer is too young to retire like he says “drink whiskey and go fishing”, there is too much tread on that tire yet, there’s too much beef left on that plate if you know what I mean. I hope he does something with it, be it private business, or government work, he still has a brain like none other, and a heart of gold, and the energy of a man half his age. I hope he puts it to good use.

    1. Rob Kailey

      I’m not actually disagreeing, James, but I think the best argument against term limits is voters. Somehow (Republicants) we’ve been convinced that politicians are slaves to our will, and the longer they spend in office, the more they serve some other. This will not do. We don’t trust people to vote ‘rightly’ so we remove good people before we should or would choose to do so. Voters are the problem, because them others might not vote ‘our’ way. So the best argument against term limits is actually democracy.

      Ironic, wouldn’t you agree?

  3. Doug

    When you think out legislature is bad, just remember it could me worse – i don’t mean nuttier, I mean larger. In New Hampshire, there are 400 members of the legislature – and the state doesn’t have many more people than we do (1.3 million people) it’s the third-largest legislative body in the English-speaking world, and you only need about a thousand votes to win a seat.

  4. CharleyCarp

    Actually, the best argument against term limits is the inability of the lege to develop leaders with the statute to take on the governor. I’m not sorry, given the party constellation these last years, and next year. But it’s a real weakness in the system.

    Life was pretty different before terms limits, as other oldsters will recall.

  5. Tangler

    If Bullock used dark arts to incite the mudslinging between Livingstone, Hill Stapleton and all the other primary guys, that is pretty f–n funny.

  6. Publius II

    Tea Party factions in our legislature need a very, very serious ADMINISTRATIVE ENEMA!! Look at the ridiculous pile of draft bills piling up, WASTING invaluable staff time WASTED on bills that are un-constitutional, redundant, outright insane (really, pay in GOLD?) and just
    plain silly.

  7. rls4568

    Oddly enough, I think the best argument against term limits is the current crop of republicans. With term limits it becomes nearly impossible to attract quality people to run for office. By the time you learn the process, it is time for you to go. You end up with an endless stream of, at best, average lawmakers and at worst people like this current crop of republicans.

  8. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

    Good read. Yes, we are incarceration nation.

    http://www.alternet.org/80-years-medical-pot-montana-mans-potential-sentence-sparks-outrage

    Regarding Scwheitzer, what can I say. Best governor we’ve ever had. But I’m quite sure that he ain’t done yet. He’ll accomplish more in addition TO fishin’ in the morning and drinking whiskey in the afternoon than most people in an average lifetime. The guy can’t rest, and that’s a good thing for the rest of us. Let him take a breather for a week or two, and then he’ll be back. I’m sure of it! Hell, if I were one of the bad guys, I’d STILL be very nervous! Ya never KNOW when Schweitzer will ride back into town!

  9. Doug

    I’ve seen the posturing by the GOP-ers in their editorials across the state claiming to be eager to start up a bromance with Bullock, but Bullock’s defining characteristic is his smarts.

    The same cannot be said of Republican leaders, so I’m doubting this relationship is going anywhere.

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