FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Max Baucus, The Insider’s Insider

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

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail