Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Max Baucus, The Insider’s Insider

by ED KEMMICK

You hate to kick a guy while he’s up, but is anyone else weary of the relentlessly laudatory news stories about former Sen. Max Baucus?

After Baucus was nominated and then won confirmation as the new U.S. ambassador to China, it was inevitable that barrels of ink would be spilled to chronicle his 39-year run as a House member and senator.

I suppose it was also inevitable that the stories would be overwhelmingly positive. Unless your congressman is trading his seat for a prison bunk, the press is generally quite kind to retiring politicians. And Baucus was never one of those power-hungry, arrogant pols, never a fire-breathing partisan, never vindictive, petty or corrupt in the old-fashioned sense of Tammany Hall corruption.

Above all, Baucus was supremely good at doing what senators from small-population states are supposed to do: build up enough seniority to steer a disproportionate flow of federal money to the folks back home.

In his long career in Washington, Baucus sent home the pork in a convoy of dump trucks, then sent the empty trucks out for loads of asphalt to build more roads.

And yet…

In that flood of press accounts I saw barely a hint of what is hardly a secret, that in all those years Baucus somehow failed to connect with the people of this state in a deep and lasting way. After his earliest campaigns, was there ever any sense of excitement outside the circle of his closest supporters?

If there had been a genuine affinity between Baucus and his constituents, it probably wouldn’t have been necessary to stage those rather awkward annual events where he slipped into a pair of Carhartts and spent the day “working” with regular Joes.

Baucus had none of the sage-like charisma of Mike Mansfield, the blue-collar appeal of Pat Williams, the combative bluster of Brian Schweitzer or the cornpone bonhomie of Conrad Burns.

The Insider’s Insider

It’s no crime to lack spark, but in Baucus’ case the absence of connection was directly related to how much more comfortable he seemed in Washington than he did when he came back to Montana. He was the professional insider, the quiet political functionary who knows all the right people and trims his sails to catch every passing breeze.

His signal achievement at the end of his Senate career was shepherding the Affordable Care Act through Congress. Does anyone believe that he did what he felt would be best for regular people, for the uninsured, for taxpayers? From the beginning, he rejected the Canadian model — government-funded, with services provided by private organizations.

Instead, he and a few other political insiders, in consultation with insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry and other big-money interests, came up with a system so complex and flawed that it could have been served on a silver platter to the Republican Party.

We were asked to believe that crafting the ACA was a very deep game, one that we here in the hinterlands couldn’t possibly comprehend, and that if we would just allow the rich and powerful to make decisions for us, all would be right in the end. No wonder the Chinese leaders seem to believe they have found a kindred soul in the new U.S. ambassador.

Even in what Baucus supposedly did right, there is an indication of what is so wrong in Washington. Bringing home the bacon is more or less the crux of politics in a system of government like ours. In the clash of competing interests, the end result is supposed to reflect the common good.

But when politicians are buying each other’s support with a no-limit credit card, it’s easy to be friendly, to indulge in bipartisanship. Trouble is, you wake up one day and your country is $17 trillion in debt.

So, sure, let’s thank Baucus for his many years of service. And then let’s hope that one of these days we send someone to Washington who doesn’t believe that success means becoming a Washingtonian.

Ed Kemmick lives in Billings, Montana and edits LastBestNews.com

Ed Kemmick lives in Billings, Montana and edits LastBestNews.com

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]