More than you wanted to know about Missoula's White House connection



The Nation wrote a long profile of former Missoulian Jim Messina, labeling him in the headline as "Obama's Enforcer." Messina served as Obama's deputy chief of staff up until his recent appointment as manager of the president's re-election campaign.

The article, which quotes a number of prominent Montana politicians, takes a critical look at Messina's position within the Obama team. It also talks a lot about his history with Max Baucus, and the nature of Montana politics. It's worth a complete read, but here are some highlights:

Obama’s fixer has arguably created as many problems as he’s solved. “He is not of the Obama movement,” says one top Democratic strategist in Washington. “There is not a bone in his body that speaks to or comprehends the idea of a movement and that grassroots energy. To me, that’s bothersome.”

Under Messina, Obama ‘12 could more closely resemble the electoral strategy of Baucus or Bill and Hillary Clinton—cautious, controlling, top-down in structure and devoted to small-bore issues that blur differences between the parties—than Obama ‘08, a grassroots effort on a scale modern politics had never seen. “It was a major harbinger to me, when Obama hired him, that we were not going to get ‘change we can believe in,’” says Ken Toole, a former Democratic state senator and public service commissioner in Montana.

The inside [health care reform] strategy pursued by Messina, relying on industry lobbyists and senior legislators to advance the bill, was directly counter to the promise of the 2008 Obama campaign, which talked endlessly about mobilizing grassroots support to bring fundamental change to Washington. But that wasn’t Messina’s style—instead, he spearheaded the administration’s deals with doctors, hospitals and drug companies, particularly the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the most egregious aspects of the bill.

Solmonese offered a different perspective, calling Messina “unquestionably one of the great unsung heroes of DADT repeal.” The two stood side by side on the Senate floor as the bill cleared the body on December 18. When the sixtieth vote came in, Solmonese said, Messina began to cry.

“If you want to have a future in Montana politics, you don’t criticize Jim Messina,” says James Anacker, a former field rep for Baucus. “That would be career suicide. People are afraid of him, to tell you the truth.”

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