It was fun while it lasted … if you didn’t blink. With Hillary Clinton stumbling in her long-prepared book launch and tour, speculation on who might challenger her for the 2016 nomination had shifted to the gubernatorial ranks of the Democratic Party. Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has made no secret of his desire to play on the national stage, and got a sweet perch for it at the 2o12 Democratic National Convention. Given his interior-West libertarian leanings and otherwise liberal-policy instincts, Schweitzer might have provided a colorful and dynamic challenge to the establishment of both parties, plus some real executive experience. His presence would have at least been a boon for political bloggers until he either wised up or flamed out.
Schweitzer appeared on Morning Joe last week and discussed his greater authenticity in relation to Hillary Clinton:
Unfortunately, the latter happened long before the former, and at least a few months before any serious thought of campaigning. In a lengthy National Journal profile titled “The Gonzo Option,” Marin Cogan revealed that Schweitzer thought Eric Cantor was gay, and that Schweitzer’s pretty impressed with the accuracy of his “gaydar”:
(It wasn’t the only time Schweitzer was unable to hold his tongue. Last week, I called him on the night Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in his GOP primary. “Don’t hold this against me, but I’m going to blurt it out. How do I say this … men in the South, they are a little effeminate,” he offered when I mentioned the stunning news. When I asked him what he meant, he added, “They just have effeminate mannerisms. If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say—and I’m fine with gay people, that’s all right—but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he’s not, I think, so I don’t know. Again, I couldn’t care less. I’m accepting.”)
For the record, Cantor and his wife Diane have been married for 25 years, and have three children. Cogan added this as a parenthetical almost at the end of the article, but the NJ editors knew to highlight the quote in one of its graphic bars in the piece. The gonzo thus released, Schweitzer began to reap the whirlwind, mostly from the base he’d have to win over in a primary fight:
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) June 19, 2014
He also called Dianne Feinstein a whore, as the Huffington Post noted, although in his defense he meant politically:
Schweitzer compared Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to a sex worker for the intelligence community, Cogan wrote.
“She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees and now she says, ‘I’m a nun,’ when it comes to this spying I mean, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor — but she was all in!” Schweitzer said of Feinstein.
The New York Daily News suggested that his standing as a potential opponent to Hillary Clinton may have been affected by “his recent candor” regarding Cantor and his gaydar. Aaron Blake puts it more bluntly at the Washington Post:
Why Schweitzer felt the need to make these comments is anybody’s guess. What’s pretty clear is that he’s got basically no filter. So what seems folksy and spontaneous one day could just as easily turn into campaign-ending gaffe the next day.
Add to that Schweitzer’s odd decision to attend Mitt Romney’s confab over the weekend and his comments critical of President Obama, and the list of questionable actions grows.
Anybody with illusions that Schweitzer could be a major player in the 2016 presidential race should probably re-evaluate themselves.
Especially Schweitzer, it seems. Political pundits will also have to re-evaluate the potential for fun in the 2016 Democratic primary, or hope that Schweitzer’s lack of self-awareness extends to his political ambitions.