Poor Brian Schweitzer. Or maybe not.
After a phenomenal, grounded, very human speech in Denver last night, all attention is on Hillary Clinton this morning. Her one-line zinger, “No way, no how, no McCain” is being run as the headline in many newspaper stories covering her speech from last night.
Unfortunately, the proverbial double-edged sword went to work on Schweitzer last night. On the positive end, the man got a near-prime-time speakig slot at the Democrats’ biggest show of the year (every four years, that is). The other side of the sword happens to be having to share the stage with the keynote speaker and former First Lady Hillary Clinton.
I don’t know about anyone else, but despite his “rock and a hard place,” Schweitzer got my attention last night. Hillary’s speech was dynamite. No doubt about it. But Schweitzer’s speech was dynamic.
The Montana governor suckled every second of his time in the spotlight and the convention hall lapped him up, every last drop. I suspect, so did the television audience.
I didn’t know much about Schweitzer other than he’s Montana’s governor, and a Democrat. But the man put himself on the map and served notice last night with a stirring, folksy but cutting, happily inspirational and surprisinly campy speech. The man played to the audience with a keen sense of situational awareness. He told the audience it was time to stand up, and then literally did a roll call of states–going after the swing states first (Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan…)–calling for them to literally stand up! And they responded. He had them in the palm of his hand.
Schweitzer even started his speech off on the right foot: “I’m a rancher who has made my living raising cattle and growing wheat, barley and alfalfa in Montana, a beautiful place with soaring peaks, pristine rivers and endless prairies.” The line “I’m a rancher” can be seen as a mere introduction to his profession, but upon closer inspection, it’s a hard jab at George W. Bush. Schweitzer IS a real rancher, born and bread. Bush, bought his Crawford ranch in 1999, just before he ran for president. It was charade, plain folk propaganda for a blue-blood, oil-money aristocratespecially considering he is now putting it up for sale and looking for a “retirement home” in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
The most intellectually effective part of his speech went straight at big oil. He did not even flinch. Schweitzer said, “Right now, the United States imports about 70 percent of its oil from overseas. At the same time, billions of dollars that we spend on all that foreign oil seems to end up in the bank accounts of those around the world who are openly hostile to American values and our way of life…we need to break America’s addiction to foreign oil. We need a new energy system that is clean, green and American-made.”
Schweitzer then plays against “type” by coming across as the absolute authority on energy. He labeled big oil and all those in bed with them (read Bush and Republicans) as “petrodictators” who only look out for their own best interests, not those of the American people. He effortlessly links John McCain to big oil citing McCain’s voting record in the Senate. And then he goes in for the kill, with a smile: “John McCain wants more of the same and has taken more than a million dollars in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry. Now he wants to give the oil companies another 4 billion dollars in tax breaks. Four billion in tax breaks for big oil?
That’s a lot of change, but it’s not the change we need.”
Schweitzer was poignant, funny, human, downhome folksy (anyone else remember the whoo-whee yelp?) intelligent and authoritative. Most importantly, he came across like an average “every man.”
Brian Schweitzer’s got a bright future in the Democratic Party as well as politics. It would be very difficult for Republicans to paint him as elite. And under the current politicial climate, with Republicans having labled every one with an AA degree and above as an intellectual elite and something to be scorned, Schweitzer can cause conservatives a lot of headaches for a long time to come.
Schweitzer’s got a new fan. Maybe more… I see only big skies in his future.