Gazette opinion: Not the White House, but your house, Mr. Schweitzer

2014-06-23T02:00:00Z 2014-06-27T15:10:06Z Gazette opinion: Not the White House, but your house, Mr. Schweitzer The Billings Gazette
June 23, 2014 2:00 am

It's a pity that former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer apparently has never given himself the luxury of an unspoken thought.

He seems genetically incapable of not uttering whatever pops into his mind. What he has tried to pass off as plainspoken folk-wisdom is too often little more than grandstanding and rude behavior.

While the rest of the country seemed genuinely shocked last week when Schweitzer made cracks about U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor being gay, most Montanans just rolled their eyes, having learned long ago to accept this type of vitriol from our state's erstwhile leader. Schweitzer didn't stop there, likening U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to a prostitute for her stances on spying at the National Security Agency.

These comments, while hardly shocking or completely out-of-character, went beyond Schweitzer's typical pale. They weren't just boorish or mean-spirited. They were stereotypical, bigoted, unfair and symbolize the depths of how uncivil our public discourse has become.

Thankfully, the reaction to Schweitzer's off-color remarks in the National Journal was swift and uniform.

The only good to come from these awful remarks is that it should effectively torpedo any hope Schweitzer has of a national presidential run. These kind of comments may raise a few eyebrows throughout the state of Montana, but they simply won't be tolerated nationwide.

And really, they shouldn't be tolerated here.

There are some who might rally around Schweitzer, saying that his blunt assessment is being punished by the political correctness police. Others might even see him as a courageous rogue who speaks a truth to a over-sensitive audience. But, there can be no excuse for the hurt inflicted by his statements. To his credit, he apologized for the remarks, but it's hard to know whether that was because of a quick and furious backlash. Or, did Schweitzer apologize because the criticism from Capitol Hill jeopardizes his 2016 presidential race?

Let's be clear: There are plenty of reasons to criticize Cantor. And, Feinstein's record of trading away civil liberties is indeed troubling. But in no way was Cantor's defeat due to his sexuality or his Southern heritage. The statement is simply off the wall. And while criticism of Feinstein is warranted, likening her to a whore is so far out of bounds, it's hard to find words strong enough to condemn the comments.

Black eye for state

If Schweitzer wants these words to be his legacy, fine. What is troubling and saddening is that it's hard to find a reference to him without seeing the name "Montana" attached somewhere. Schweitzer has given our state a black eye.

It's important to know that Schweitzer speaks for Schweitzer. He has given the impression that Montanans are a bunch of insensitive bigots.

As Billings discusses a proposed non-discrimination ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexuality, Schweitzer is living national proof that these backward stereotypes about sexuality still exist here. We can do better than this. We aren't a bunch of loud-mouthed bumpkins who believe every man from the South is effete, or any woman with whom we disagree is a hooker. Our state is the proud heir to many politicians who rose to do great things on a national stage, chief among them former Sen. Mike Mansfield.

Just because Schweitzer is, for the moment, on a national stage doesn't mean he should be placed in the company of many honorable politicians this state has sent to D.C.

Delusions of grandeur

The truth is Schweitzer has been reduced to just another crackpot in a bolo tie.

We hope Schweitzer stops these delusions of political grandeur. To put it in the type of unvarnished language he's so keen on: Mr. Schweitzer, please proceed not to the White House, but back to your house.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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