Category Archives: Political Figure

Senator Tammy Baldwin Awful Giraffe

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI-D)

Senator Tammy Baldwin (Web|Twitter) is the junior U.S. Senator for the cheesy state of Wisconsin. Prior to her 2012 election, she served seven terms in Congress representing Wisconsin’s 2nd district. A progressive champion, she is also the first openly-gay U.S. senator in history, which is pretty cool. I guess.

On April 20, 2013, Senator Baldwin was the keynote speaker at the Second Annual Humphrey-Mondale Dinner in Minneapolis, MN. Following her speech, I squeezed through the crowd where I nervously made the holy ask. To my surprise, without any hesitation or question whatsoever — BOOM!

Seriously, she was completely unfazed.

(Eh, but then again I’m sure she’s seen it all — she’s from Wisconsin, let’s not forget).

Senator Baldwin’s press team did not respond to my requests for comment.

US Congressman Keith Ellison's Pretty Awful Giraffe

US Congressman Keith Ellison

US Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-D)

 Keith Ellison (twitter) is a U.S. congressman whose district centers on Minneapolis, MN, and happens to be the first liberal politician I have ever seen in person (way back in the 2008 summer of my youth). He is the first Muslim elected to Congress, a co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus and thus a national voice on progressive issues. I try my best to keep my politics out of this blog, but I’ll admit that he’s a personal hero of mine. (I’ll also refrain from commenting on whether or not he is a better artist than Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan).

(But let’s be serious – it’s not partisanship to say that Ellison’s giraffe is clearly better. It’s artistic elitism.)

There is not much of a story behind this piece. In February 2011 I was speaking at a University of Minnesota rally at the state capitol (at which Ellison was also making an appearance) and approached the congressman shortly after he left the stage. While everyone else was approaching him to shake his hand, take a picture, and so on, I pulled him aside behind the stage and made The Ask.

And without missing a beat, asking “why?” or offering any resistance at all, he took the notebook I put in front him and began to draw. As you can tell, this was not something he just dismissed; he took it seriously and tried to make something he could be proud of.

Well, as proud as one can really be of this.

Dan Rather's Pretty Awful Giraffe

American Journalist Dan Rather

For the last few weeks an old friend of mine has been eerily hinting to me he had discovered the Holy Grail and that I should expect to see it soon. Whether it was giraffe related or if he had actually followed the Kensington, MN, Runestone to the Holy Grail in my own regional backyard, he did not say. So in suspense I waited. And waited.

And finally it came.

Groggy, my eyes glazed over and my emotions boiling because of my coffee maker’s inability to do so, I was able to find solace in the form of an email. Opening it, I was blown away:

Sir.-

American Journalist Dan Rather

Journalist Dan Rather

Enclosed is a giraffe drawn by world-renowned journalist Dan Rather, the first man to report on JFK’s assassination and who brought America through every other major event int he 20th century.

He came to St. Olaf College to give a little speech about his life’s work, full of adorable old-man anecdotes and wry smiles. Afterward, my friend Thomas Hegland asked him to draw a giraffe on my behalf. The room went silent, as if everyone was saying “Awww shit. We’re going to be remembered by Dan Rather as ‘that giraffe school.’” However, Dan was more than genial about drawing this pointy creation, but warned my friend Thomas that “If this giraffe ever reaches the public domain, I will deny having anything to do with it, and will place the blame on the world’s greatest Dan Rather impersonator.” The room became less tense, and this giraffe became history.

I’d say Dan should definitely stick to his day-job.

Best,

-Jordan Montgomery

Upon further prying it was clarified that – unlike every other giraffe obtained so far – this was not something done before a limited crowd. In fact, “the giraffe was drawn in a room full of the leaders of the [St. Olaf's] Political Awareness Committee and school administrators (about 40 people), definitely a tough crowd.”

Thomas, you’re one brave motherfucker; I tip my hat to you.

For those who may not know who he is, Dan Rather is best known for his 43 years of work for CBS News (24 of these as the anchor of the CBS Evening News). Over the course of these 43 years Rather was the first network television journalist to report the assassination of President Kennedy, went head-to-head with Presidents Nixon, Reagan and even Saddam Hussein. Along the way he picked up some Emmys, seven Peabody Awards and for good measure guaranteed historical immortality by coining the phrase: “This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-O.”

He also once said, which could double as commentary on where GDBPWSNBDG is going, “This one’s a crotch-grabber, folks, and I’ll bet a handful of nuts it won’t be over any time soon.

Senator Al Franken's Pretty Awful Giraffe

U.S. Senator Al Franken (Or How Con. Peterson Turned Us Down)

The following comes from a friend of mine, Dillon “The Boots on the Ground in DC” McBrady, and for this I am very appreciative. Unfortunately, the last time I had an opportunity to talk with Senator Al Franken back when GDBPWSNBDG was but a threat he thought it was hilarious and a great idea, which is presumably the reason why he has been working so passionately on net neutrality issuessince I am 90% positive this website is the only thing standing between freedom, liberty and ‘Merica, and the Soviet Union [citation needed], but I forgot to make the ask and thus for the longest time Senator Franken was “the one that got away.” But not for long.

U.S. Senator Al Franken

Luckily Dillon happened to make one of his constituent breakfasts in DC, which just goes to show that we will hunt you down, and was able to solicit a drawing. Naturally, this would be the part of the article where I devolve into a long tale of trial and triumph, comedy and life friends made, but there really is not much to say. Dillon asked and he received. That’s it. Not a reference was made about the fact that Franken is well known around the state for his ability to draw a map of the United States from memory or Senator Jeff Sessions from still life.

Nothing.

But where the story of Senator Franken ends the story of the Wall of Shame grows and now I have the great burden of announcing the following: former Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee Collin Peterson, and territorial representative of GDBPWSNBDG, has turned us down. Dillon writes:

It was a normal constituent breakfast. Al Franken was making the rounds shaking hands, but when he stood up to make his usual speech, he pointed out the Representative Collin Peterson was in the crowd. My heart raced. Could I perhaps get two giraffes drawn from important Minnesotans? Peterson looked like such a nice, old gentleman. He even said, “Hi, how ya doing?” and gave me a pat on the back as he walked by me. After getting the Franken giraffe, I had the confidence to approach Peterson:

“Hi, my name is Dillon McBrady, I attend college at the University of Minnesota, Morris. I have an extremely random question for you, would you draw a giraffe for me, please?” I politely handed him a piece of paper and a pen.

He took it into his surprisingly large hands.

“A giraffe, huh? What for? Will this end up on the internet?” His eyes narrowed, looking down at me suspiciously from his 6-foot-something advantage.

“In all probabitlity, yes.” I said, smiling hopefully.

“Then no, I don’t draw too well, and don’t want to be embarassed by some awful giraffe picture I drew.” He gave me back the pen and the empty piece of paper.

After some witty repartee, I walked away. Shamefully disappointed that Colin Peterson had let me down.

It doesn’t tarnish his reputation, but it did break my heart.

These kind of things happen and all we can do is shrug our shoulders and move on with our lives (and definitely not send Peterson, who happens to be a part of the House Art Caucus, an email regarding his decision from zip code 56267). But, on the bright side, at least Dillon was able to walk away with a nice “Caraffe” that only makes me think that I should soon open up a sister website called “Camels Drawn By People Who Should Not Be Drawing Camels” since it’s apparently pretty popular.

But alas, who would read that garbage?

It has a penis.

US Congressman Paul Ryans Awful Giraffe 4 11

US Congressman Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)

As much as it pains me to admit I did not get this giraffe myself. I wish I would have been there so that I could have had the opportunity to point out that whether one calls themselves a Democrat or Republican, they still suck at drawing. Frankly, it may be the one thing that can unite us as a country.

US Congressman Paul Ryan (WI-R)

Or something like that.

Anyway, the following has been relayed to me by a friend of mine named Joe Hartmann (Facebook) who, coincidentally, ran into the congressman in a DC airport. For those who may not be familiar with U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan, he is the chairman of the House Budget Committee who has been in the news lately because of his proposed federal budget and its ensuing controversy. I’ll try to keep my opinions to myself.

Packed up and at the airport ready to return to the state after spending a weekend in the capitol city for an environmental conference, I can only presume Joe was not aware that he was on the cusp of history. Note even knowing the name of the congressman until the deed was done, turning to another bystander and asking “Who was that?” I can only presume that Joe had any clue that he would be interacting with one of the most powerful men in Washington.

As Joe is waiting for his plane to arrive a great commotion breaks out in the distance. Suddenly lights begins to flash and the chattering of the crowd fills the terminal – Joe doesn’t recognize the person but surely someone must. As Ryan signs autographs and takes pictures with fans, the only clear fact is that he’s a celebrity. So what is one to do?

Approaching the congressman, my friend is blunt: “Can you draw me a giraffe?”

Ryan is equally so: “No.”

Though Ryan continues to excite the crowd, Joe continues, “My friend has a blog where he collects giraffes drawn by people who should not be drawing giraffes. It’s gaining some steam and he already has some drawings from other politicians ….” Even though I can only extrapolate and piece together the exchange through my conversations with Joe, the fact that it worked implies that it must have been divinely inspired. There really is no other rational explanation for it.

Pulling out a piece of paper,  Ryan practices his art. Unsatisfied with his first attempt he tears the sheet out of the notebook, crumples it up and puts it into his back pocket. Trying again he creates what can only be described as a masterpiece that may or may not be better than Congressman Tim Walz’s giraffe.

A Pretty Awful Paul Ryan Giraffe

Though I’m not sure why it has black, soulless eyes ….

Brian Melendez 1 11

Fmr. DFL Chairman Brian Melendez

Being out of town for the last several days I have not had the opportunity to write the articles I’ve been meaning to, but I assure you that the Gary Snyder and maybe even the Lawrence Krauss story will go up this week. Until then, enjoy the very first giraffe ever drawn from February ’11.

Brian Melendez is the former Chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (2005-2011), lawyer, contributer to Black’s Law Dictionary and most impressively: the guy with one of the highest ranked reviews of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (9th Edition) on Amazon.com. A graduate of Harvard, Melendez is perhaps one of the smartest guys you could ever hope to meet.

Also, he draws really terrible giraffes as I discovered when I approached him at a DFL event celebrating his years of service. Now that I have called in my one favor for the years of volunteer work, I am not sure how to feel. After all, all I got was the following and weird look – was it worth it?

Oh yeah.

Fmr. MYDFL chairman Arron Olson's pretty awful giraffe drawing

Fmr. MYDFL Chairman Arron Olson

Arron Olson is the former chairman of the Minnesota Young DFL, a constituency caucus within the larger Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party designed to organize around issues pertinent to young people. He also apparently believes that giraffes wear kneepads.

Fmr. MYDFL chairman Arron Olson's pretty awful giraffe drawing

(Spoiler: they don’t).

RT Rybak - 2 11

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak

R.T. Rybak is the current mayor of Minneapolis, MN, (serving since 2002) and a former writer for the Minneapolis Tribune who has also contributed to MPR. More importantly, he’s been known to crowd surf at First Avenue concerts. Yeah, that’s Minnesota for you.

So I will start by saying that I have nothing less than the utmost respect for Mayor R.T. Rybak. The guy is kind, smart, passionate and is often the best speaker in the room regardless of the venue. With that said, it is with a heavy heart that I must report the following: when I invited the mayor to participate in GDBWSNBDG at a recent local foods banquet in Montevideo, MN, the first reply I got was “What does a giraffe look like?”

Needless to say I was speechless. Though I do not know the mayor on a personal level, I have spoken to him at enough political functions to know that this question must have been in jest. Or, at the very least, a question of metaphysics.  After all, I as an armchair philosopher I can sympathize: what does anything truly look like?

At least for both his sake and mine this is the story I’m sticking to.

“Well, they have long necks,” I said.

“Right!”

He then took the notebook from my hand and began to draw, clarifying that he would need to draw a rough draft. (One could say that he was drawing a rough gir-aft, but one should probably not say that because it would make them look like an asshole).

Figure 1: Mayor Rybak’s Rough Gir-aft.

Commenting on his work (“Hm, not bad!”) he then tore the draft from the notebook. Becoming serious, he took to his art like a bird to flight …

… If said bird was filled with helium, therefore making it a fowl-ish Hindenberg.

Normally the story would end here, but the moment he finished (taking the time to “touch up” the work with neck-arms and a pigtail) he then took the sketch and ran off. Not knowing what was going on (and hoping to get my notebook back), I followed only to see that he had sought out his wife with cries of “Honey, honey, look what I drew!”

The reply? “That’s very nice, Raymond.”

Yes, very nice indeed.

Robert Bruininks' Pretty Awful Giraffe Drawing

President of the University of Minnesota Robert Bruininks

As you will find on his Wikipedia page, Bruininks has been working with the University of Minnesota since 1968 and was named the 15th president of the system in 2002. In May 2010 he made his intentions clear that he would be stepping down as president, which led the creation of a search committee that eventually selected president-designate Eric Kaler of New York. So with that said, it must be made clear that of everyone I have approached asking for a drawing, my confrontation with President Bruininks had to of been not only the least fruitful (he drew an amoeba and labeled it “Bob’s Horse”) but also the most awkward.

I found myself in the Twin Cities campus in the McNamara center on February 10, 2011, for a luncheon with the Board of Regents to discuss the state of the university financially, the direction it would be moving down the road, how students could work with the administration, etc., and happened to run into the president. While I have seen him at several functions, my personal interaction with him has been light to say the least; even so, my few interactions with him have been nice to say the least. So I did not think this would be that big of a deal (it certainly had not  been so with other folks), but after making the pitch all the president could do was stare at me.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” He asked.

I repeated myself, trying to maintain my confidence; this is after all a serious business.

“I guess I can do that,” Bruininks says, taking the pen and paper from my hand and using a nearby table for a flat writing surface. Compared to those who use a single, solid line to create an outline, I see that he uses the pen to scratch a half-inch long head followed by a peanut body, which is then given legs and a tail (?). Out of the desire to be polite I try to bite my tongue – this is the worst thing I have ever seen; absolutely no effort – and can feel my tongue shed blood when declares, “It’s not much, but I’ll call it ‘Bob’s Horse.’”

He then signs it and hands it to me.

I die a little bit inside.

Robert Bruininks' Pretty Awful Giraffe Drawing

This is not a giraffe.

U.S. Congressman Tim Walz's giraffe

U.S. Congressman Tim Walz (Minnesota)

I made my way to the 2011 DFL Business Conference in Cokato, MN, in February because I am the the associate chair of the Chippewa County DFL, and for those not familiar with the workings of a political party this is where activists from across the state elect the chairman, secretary, affirmative action officer, and so on, who will be leading the party for the next two years. While there, as I was doing some campaign work for newly-elected Secretary Vanessa Blomgren, I ran into U.S. Congressman Tim Walz (office page). Pulling him close, I watched his arms fold up to listen to the hardball question he was likely expecting me to throw his way, but instead I made the typical pitch:

Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota

MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery

“Hello Tim, I know you’re really busy, but there’s something I would like to ask you. I’m working on a website called (blah blah blah) and while I think you are an amazing gentleman, you seem like someone who should not be drawing giraffes. Could you do me the honor of drawing a giraffe?”

The congressman then burst into laughter, saying he would give it a try and that the idea was overall “pretty damn funny.” While I expected him to simply scribble a drawing out so he could move onto other business, he seemed legitimately interested in contributing it, being invested enough to say “I have no idea what the hell that is” when he made the awkward neck-bubble (goitre?) on the giraffe.

Of everyone the editorial board has talked to so far, Tim has been the most receptive and for that we thank him.U.S. Congressman Tim Walz's giraffe