FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”

They say “hindsight is 20-20” and certainly it’s not uncommon to look back and acknowledge the path not taken. It’s even more evident for former politicians who often make pronouncements that seem inconsistent with their behavior while in office.

So it was when Montana’s former U.S. Senator, Democrat Max Baucus, opined last week that the U.S. was “squandering leadership” while referring to the trip eight sitting Republican senators, including Montana’s Steve Daines, made to Russia over the Fourth of July. Combining the increasingly inflammatory relationships with America’s long-time allies and 20-20 hindsight, it’s no surprise Baucus understands exactly what “squandering leadership” means.

As our longest-serving senator, Baucus was Montana’s voice in the U.S. Senate, once described as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” Perhaps in the old days, when the true orators held forth to eloquently debate important policies to serve the public, that description was accurate. But in the last several decades the Senate has morphed into “the 100 individuals most targeted by wealthy special interests.” Those are the same wealthy special interests senators rely on for their multi-million dollar campaigns and that contributed to many of Baucus’ own “squandered leadership” opportunities throughout his years in the Senate.

Rolling back through time, let’s remember that it was Max Baucus who tried to exempt mining waste from the Superfund law in the late ’80s. Mind you, this was coming from a Montana senator whose home state contains the largest Superfund site in the nation. Stretching from Butte and Anaconda for 100 miles down the Clark Fork River to the Milltown Dam, the Clark Fork Superfund complex was easily among the nation’s most challenging and worthy restoration projects.

Instead, Baucus “squandered leadership” when he could have brought national attention to the enormous task of cleaning up those communities and the river that connected them. He could have strengthened the Superfund law to ensure a full and complete cleanup for the vast number of mining-related waste sites across the West. He could have put the kibosh on the secret back-room deals between regulators and those responsible for the pollution. And he could have ensured permanent funding for the Superfund program until all of America’s toxic waste sites were cleaned up.

But since the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) had inherited responsibility for the clean-up, its lobbyists went to work convincing Baucus that, unlike barrels of toxic waste, mining and smelting produced “high volume, low-toxicity” wastes that didn’t belong under Superfund and its onerous requirement that polluters pay for remediation. Luckily for Montana, Western states’ attorneys general opposed and ultimately killed Baucus’ amendment.

And then there was Obamacare. The Democrats controlled majorities in both chambers of Congress as well as the presidency. But when the opportunity to lead fell on Baucus’ shoulders, he “squandered leadership” health care in the U.S. in favor of putting insurance companies between patients and their doctors. Montanans were demonstrating at his offices for single-payer — or at least a public option — but whose desires Baucus ignored in favor of those very wealthy insurance company lobbyists, one of whom he actually hired to write Obamacare. By including the incredibly unpopular “individual mandate” to buy insurance or be fined by the federal government, Baucus doomed his fellow Democrats to their minority status when they could have been heroes.

Believe Baucus when he says the U.S. is “squandering leadership” at home and around the globe — it’s something he knows all too well. Unfortunately we, as well as future generations, will suffer the consequences of Baucus’ own squandered leadership for years to come.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

February 21, 2019
Nick Pemberton
Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era
Chris Orlet
The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour
Bruce E. Levine
“Heavy Drinking” and the NYT’s Offensive Obit on Herbert Fingarette
Lisi Krall
This Historical Moment Demands Transformation of Our Institutions. The Green New Deal Won’t Do That
Stephanie Savell
Mapping the American War on Terror: Now in 80 Countries
Daniel Warner
New York, New York: a Resounding Victory for New York Over Amazon
Russell Mokhiber
With Monsanto and Glyphosate on the Run AAAS Revokes Award to Scientists Whose Studies Led to Ban on Weedkiller in Sri Lanka and Other Countries
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Fake National Emergency Moves America Closer to an Autocracy
Alex Campbell
Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid
Jonah Raskin
Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer
Binoy Kampmark
Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380
Elliot Sperber
For Your Children (or: Dead Ahead)
February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail