The editors of The New Republic have just pilloried Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) for his close deal-making with the White House and Republicans on various tax and finance related bills. Maybe he does deserve some knocking around, but the Montana rancher is only following in the footsteps of other centrist type Dems like John Breaux and Bill Bradley — and comes nowhere close to being “as dangerous” as Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson have been to the Democrats.
Max Baucus wasn’t smooched by President Bush at a State of the Union speech after all.
Breaux and Bradley were more subtle in my view, but Max has never hidden his penchant for deal-making.
I sat next to him once on the Senate floor when I was occupying a chair wedged next to that of my then boss, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Baucus was enjoying watching a staffer of his scurry around the Senate chambers offering this trade for that in a major tax bill on the floor. Baucus leaned over to me with a gleeful look and said, “I’ve got so many deals buried in Roth’s bill they have no idea.”
On one level, I thought Baucus’s approach was not very senatorial and a bit amateurish. But since then, I’ve seen him get a lot done — particularly in the trade and tax arena, and usually good for Dems.
In any case, I don’t want to argue much with TNR about Max — but it seems to me that they could apply the same logic they are applying to Baucus to Joe Lieberman (D-for a few more months-CT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE).
Nelson and Lieberman love to cavort with Republicans and be endorsed by them. Max Baucus may not be the swiftest bulb in the Senate and he’s an every guy’s kind of guy (though he’s a millionaire rancher underneath) — but in truth, he sees the White House and Republicans not as his allies but rather as rivals to be tricked and seduced.
The possibility is that he may be the one getting seduced, but there is a difference between Baucus on the one hand and Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman on the other. But TNR adores Lieberman and probably won’t apply the same calculus to him.
— Steve Clemons