What to make of all the gossip? The good news, at least, is that gossip is no longer just for blogs, but is now a mainstream media pursuit in Montana. The latest dish is about Tester and Baucus, supposedly sticking knives in Schweitzer and forcing him to drop out of the US Senate race.
Or at least that’s the allegation raised in this week’s Great Falls Tribune piece by John Adams. It’s an interesting idea, but not entirely substantiated by anything I’ve read so far. “Unnamed operatives” and “anonymous sources,” long shunned by the Montana press (admirably so), were cited by an Australian tabloid as claiming that Schweitzer was done in by the two senators. This story, in turn, was the basis of a story by the Tribune.
It’s easy to believe that Tester and Baucus didn’t want Schweitzer around. That much is common sense. Schweitzer always had a way of sucking the air out of the room when the three of them were together and often one-upped them, looking good at their expense by ridiculing the US Senate as an institution, and its work product (deserved ridicule, by the way). That was always Schweitzer’s favorite pastime.
And the three men fought for column space on issues in Montana. A good example is the North Fork of the Flathead, a wild ecological spot which Schweitzer brought protection with a treaty with British Columbia, a move that caused the Montana press corp to laud Schweitzer and chide Baucus, who had worked on the issue in the Senate for many years but was never quite able to nail it down.
But it seems far fetched that they would take concrete steps to stymie him. Even if you believe that Schweitzer wanted to become Senator (a questionable proposition, his exploratory activities notwithstanding), what, precisely, might Tester and Baucus, or the people that work for them, have done to “sink” Schweitzer, as the Tribune posits?
Did they try to discourage Harry Reid and Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, and their fundraising apparatus known as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign, from supporting Schweitzer? Was Obama, perhaps via Baucus acolyte Jim Messina, involved? Obama has a mixed opinion of Schweitzer, who not only remained neutral in the 2008 Montana presidential primary but also was a critic (from the left) of Obamacare, and also failed to toe the party line with the administration on resource issues like wolves, bison, the Keystone pipeline and so on.
Did any or all of these folks plant the questionable story in the newspaper a few weeks ago, about “dark money” groups that are connected to a former aide of Schweitzer’s who once worked in Washington? The Baucus team almost certainly had opposition research on Schweitzer, and for a good reason: Baucus always stood a chance of being challenged by Schweitzer in a primary. There is no chance that Baucus did not have a dossier on Schweitzer.