Monday, January 30, 2017

Montana’s Mister Secretary

By Dave Skinner

...For example, thankfully-outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell grew up in the Seattle region and spent her formative weekends recreating on Northwest public lands with her parents. Despite her short stint in the petroleum industry, she brought a weekend-warrior hiker, urban point of view to her work as Secretary.

Zinke, by contrast, grew up in the Flathead when we still had a resource economy. Our community not only played in the forest on weekends, but also worked there the rest of the week, all year. Plus, there’s the additional growing up mandated by the naval special-operations environment, where there is much more at risk than who gets the corner office.

But Zinke is not completely Jewell’s opposite. He drives a Prius, and as a state senator was regarded as a greenish, “moderate Republican.” He’s also toed the Green line on a few select votes, which in my view should give him a much higher League of Conservation Voters score than the 3 out of 100 rating Zinke currently enjoys.

Importantly, Zinke pegs himself a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican” – which might be a good thing to be for the leader of Interior.

Greens like to claim Roosevelt for their own, as the guy who introduced “progressivism” to American politics, our first, very aggressive “conservationist President.” But that’s an oversimplification of a complicated man who lived in a complicated era.

...Finally, there’s something else about Zinke worth relating. Only months after retiring from the Navy, he was elected a state senator in 2008. In 2012, Zinke ran for Montana lieutenant governor instead of for re-election (and lost). In 2014, he won a crowded Republican primary and later became the first Navy SEAL in Congress. After that, common “wisdom” held that Zinke planned a 2018 run against incumbent U.S. Senator Jon Tester.

Everyone who knows the soft-spoken Ryan Zinke is also aware that he is quietly, yet aggressively, ambitious...

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