HELENA — With his “Burning Corn Cob Juggling Act” on the skids, Democratic Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, brazenly rejected 17 Republican bills using a red hot branding iron. Frenetic steers in the crowd collapsed at the sight of the violent display and subsequent burning paper. Understandably irritated Republican leaders said, “The juggling act was really cool, especially with the dancing sheep, but this branding gimmick is just a mockery of the system.” Schweitzer, unavailable for comment, spent the better part of the morning extinguishing a podium/snack table blaze.
What can Montanans conclude from this melodramatic display by the governor?
a. He’s as loony as a clothes dryer-trapped kitten.
b. He’ll do anything to get out of the office.
c. His primary aim is to make his name bigger than life for future political aspirations.
d. He loves playing with fire.
I’m guessing “d,” but it’s confusing. In the world of politics, it’s tough to peer through the smoke and mirrors of publicity stunts, onto the backstage of constituent responsibility, while choking on the popcorn of political rhetoric, and catch a glimpse of politicians in the rough — figuratively speaking. Flame appeal seems the logical choice.
As a kid, the governor probably burned anything he could get his hands on. His dad would say, “Brian, go out and fire up the combine.” Then, 10 minutes later, checking out the kitchen window, he’d exclaim, “Kay, he lit the dang combine on fire again.” That’s how obsessed the governor was with fire.
In college Schweitzer, no doubt, was elected chairman of the homecoming bonfire committee fueled by the claim of a coal reserve at his disposal. Then, the night of the bonfire, he only produced a bag of Kingsford “Match Lite” charcoals and a dilapidated dog house.
When the governor was traveling around the world, his reputation preceded him. Getting off the plane at, say, a dairy farm in Saudi Arabia a welcoming council, riding red fire engines, would offer him the traditional greeting, “No matches. Please!”
Obviously, guys live to set fires. Send a random group of male-types into the forest and the first thing they’d do, after chilling the beer, is build a fire as big as Vermont, even during a heat wave. They forage for firewood the same way politicians hunt for votes, feeling tenderly secure with each picnic bench plank flung onto the blaze. So Schweitzer comes by it naturally.
But, if this whole branding fetish continues, ads for the governor’s office staff will start looking like this:
Wanted: The governor is looking for a blazingly ambitious person. Must be proficient at basic pyrotechnic skills such as, lighting wood fires, lighting charcoal fires, and lighting Republicans on fire. Ha ha, only kidding about the charcoal. Should also possess First Aid endorsement. Fire extinguisher training a plus. Matches provided. Duties also include light filing and hearth sweeping. Send resume to: Burning for the Governor P.O. Box 34 Helena, MT.
It’s the governor’s prerogative to use a branding iron to veto GOP bills because he finds them frivolous and “stupider than a fence post.” But, when state agencies are cutting budgets to meet deficit mandates, isn’t a custom-made, zirconium-encrusted branding iron equally as frivolous? Unless, of course, you answered letter “c.” In which case it makes perfect, smoke and mirrors sense.
(Joe Barnhart writes and torches ant piles in Dillon. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)