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A Brief Defense of Max Baucus

Senator Max Baucus has had a bumpy ride with the left-wing of the Democratic Party for a good decade now.  His accomplishments are often dismissed for his failures – look at SCHIP and the Bush Tax Cuts, for example.

More recently, Senator Baucus is getting whacked from both sides for the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce any results. “It’s Healthcare Reform deja vu.”

However, an important point is being missed in this telling of current events: Senator Baucus didn’t have to serve on the Supercommittee. In fact, he volunteered for the job. As others have pointed out, volunteering for the Supercommittee was a huge risk for Baucus.

During the debate over what would become the ACA (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), Baucus saw his poll numbers tank. It was just within the past year that his numbers had started to rebound. The smart political move for Max would have been to stay as far away from the Supercommittee as possible and, after it inevitably failed, throw stones.

I think it’s worth revisiting the recent criticism of Max. Too many politicians shy away from their duties as policy-makers in favor of  political safety. During the last three years, Max has done anything but.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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M. Storin


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      • Uh, Pete, if he *had* cut any egregious deals we’d know because there would be a result from the committee. I, for one, am not going to lose sleep over what he may or may not have offered to get a deal when the end result is the same as if he hadn’t offered anything at all.

        • ” … there would be a result from the committee,” says Rob. The key word here is secret. Even if he had cut an egregious deal, by anyone’s standards, we’d never know. He is just one voice.

          • And if he had stood strong against the forces that wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare, we’d never know. That also serves your key word of “secret”. You assume the worst with no evidence. If a deal had been “cut”, a deal would be apparent by result. There was no result. You are kvetching about something that isn’t, and then kvetching about the fact that you don’t know what is readily apparent. No deal was “cut” or struck, regardless of the fear.

            • The sessions were secret, but the participants opened their mouths after adjourning so we know a bit of what occurred. Was there a deal? No. But were deals offered? Yes. Deals that would make FDR spin in his grave? It appears so, at least to some of us, and that Baucus may have offered some.

              Tokarski suggests that much of the offering and declining was Kabuki theater, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Kailey, if I read him correctly, thinks that as long as no deal was cut, what was offered is largely irrelevant. We have a difference of opinion on that.

              Brother — or Sister — Storin thinks Baucus deserves extra credit for volunteering, that we should reward his courage by muting our criticism. That subordinates substance to form, and sort of damns Baucus with faint praise. With such friends…

              • Do learn to read, Pete. I flat out state that I have no idea what was offered or not because of the very secrecy that you point out. Look again. Matt wrote that no deal was “apparently” cut. You respond that we can’t know because of the secrecy. You are simply wrong. We can know because a deal would be “apparent”. The fact that you can’t understand clearly written words is extremely insightful.

                James, I too believe that the Super-Congress-Committee-Legion-of-legislators was nothing but theater. Where I differ from Tokarski is that I don’t see some hidden nefarious plot behind it. The “plot” isn’t hidden at all. It’s readily “apparent”. There is only one way out of the deficit debacle, and that is to raise revenues. The sole governing principle of the right is that will not happen until they are again in full political control, and then they will place that burden on the backs of the middle and working classes. This is not a mystery. It doesn’t matter what Baucus offered or didn’t on a Committee that was designed to fail because it would never accomplish the one thing necessary for any progress.

                • The word “deal” seems to be the stumbling block here, Rob. You are correct that there was no final “result.” Now Max may have stood firm against Social Security and Medicare cuts, or he may have sold those “entitlements” out. Maybe Dem. Sen. Patty Murray thought Baucus went too far on cuts or didn’t go far enough on revenue; maybe Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling thought just the opposite; maybe it was really a huge lovefest …

                  My point is, we’ll never know.

                • Your point about secrecy is well taken, and has been. The GOP has been harping about that for months, mostly to provide political cover for their own slash and burn policies. Please remember that the only reason we had a SuperDuperCommittee was because they took the nation’s funding hostage, and found that didn’t play well with the polity.

                  You’re correct about the word “deal” being a stumbling block, precisely because a ‘deal’ was what the Incredible Shrinking Bipartisan Super Congress was tasked with making. In that sense, a deal and a result are identical. I would posit that there were indeed results that came from the ISBSC. Congressional approval is at an all-time low. The deficit narrative remains dominant. The blame has shifted from the people who tried to break the country to the party supposedly in power. The electorate is more disenchanted than ever before. Notice please that all of those are a result of theater, and all favor the GOP.

  • Cut through the crap. The committee never intended to do anything it was a Kabuki dance preceding the real battle, automatic cuts to SS and Medicare, war spending somehow exempt. Baucus is, as with health care, a tool, a republican maaquerading as a Deemocrat. Political courage implies going against the grain. He never leaves the grain. He is a loser, a low excuse and poor example of a real man.

  • Max has definitely not shied away from his duty to be a good little lick spittle and make policy in favor of his financial contributors. Every once in a while Max will come out in favor of some random and fairly inconsequential policy that progressives or all Montanans as a whole support. On anything of substance or real import though he is a first class stooge. The fact the Republicans didnt feel they even needed to run a real opponent against him says a lot.

  • It kind of reminds me of religious fundamentalists searching around for messages from God, if you look hard enough at Baucus, you’ll find something you like. The problem is all the things you have to ignore, be in denial about, M Storin, a horizon behind littered with red flags.

    • Myopic thinking, Mark. There are things to like about Baucus, the person, and things to appreciate about his career. One doesn’t need to look very hard to find those things, nor does anyone need to ignore the red flags in order to see them. I write having been the first, and possibly only in 2008, left-leaning Montana blogger who wrote that I would never again vote for Max Baucus, and I clearly stated why.

      I do find it nauseatingly humorous that you task another with bowing to your singular vision of Baucus when you have gone out of your way to be kindhearted and accepting of Conrad Burns. I am of course referring to the Conrad Burns who called for a roll-call vote such that he could go on the record in defense of child slavery and sexual exploitation. That, he did for $5,000. I’m not saying that you’re a complete hypocrite; no one person is a complete anything, except seemingly to you. But you had best sort out your priorities.

      • I only reply once again to remind you that you do not understand politics, as demonstrated by your apparent belief that he public utterances of polticians have meaningful content.

        • I see you spend a great deal of time at the waffle house, Mark.

          Your reply addressed nothing save your own delusions. What I understand has been clearly stated and documented. What you understand appears to be only in your own mind.

          • The words of politicians are easily documented, fool. The content of words is in the actions surrounding those words, to which you are oblivious.

            I don’t claim to know things. I want to know, but people aren’t telling, you know, so you have to sort of use your brain, you know? Intuit, analyze, be something more than a blank slate? You know?

            Nah. You don’t.

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  • Government secrets never serve the public trust. No senator should ever agree to secret meetings explicitly to avoid public detection. Congressional business should be conducted in full public view, preferrably with field hearings in every state. The stakes are that high. The conduct is reprehensible.

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