Maybe it’s just hunting season catching up with us late, but there seems to be a theme developing, unbidden, in our pages this week. First, we have Ron Selden on the Montana Human Rights Network’s “Shooting for Respectability: Firearms, False Patriots, and Politics in Montana” report targeting Montana Shooting Sports Association’s Gary Marbut. Then there’s Andy Smetanka’s report on locals Lo-Fi Soul Rebellion’s plan to take aim at the greener pastures of Bellingham, Wash. And don’t forget Jed Gottlieb’s Info explication of music giant BMI’s heat-seeking pursuit of unauthorized local open-mic nights. Call it the Target Rich Environment issue.

Given that theme, we can’t help but mention poor Max Baucus. Montana’s long-time senator bends like a willow in a hurricane to avoid taking anything resembling a controversial stand, and what does he get for his troubles? A big fat national raspberry from no less a source than the Wall Street Journal.

On the eve of congressional approval of what the Journal—and Molly Ivins, if you want to get bipartisan about it—have called a travesty of a Medicare bill, Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt on Nov. 20 unloaded on the Senate Finance Committee’s senior Democrat for, well, bending like a willow in a hurricane. Baucus, the Journal opined, joined with the pharmaceutical industry patsies in the American Association of Retired Persons to give political cover for a bill that will hurt poorer seniors and weaken traditional Medicare.

So what does the Journal really think of Max? “Always looking over his shoulder politically”; “Wilts under pressure”; “Politically timid.”

The normally right-leaning Journal goes on to quote congressional scholar Thomas Mann saying that Baucus “stiffed his party” and “abdicated his congressional responsibilities,” before reporting House buzz that Baucus should be denied his senior position on the Finance Committee.

Will Baucus eat crow for Thanksgiving, or is this just another example of shooting turkeys in a barrel?

•••

Finally, in the category of shooting our own mouths off (and perhaps having a side of crow ourselves), we’d like to acknowledge the almost perfect 9-point landing stuck by Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin in wrapping up his much-discussed six-part road trip series on whether or not the rest of the state hates our fair town. The Friday, Nov. 21 paper carried the series’ swan song, and Devlin tied up the admittedly meandering assignment’s loose ends with what we thought was quite a nice bow. “…for the most part,” Devlin wrote, “they like us out there. They really do. And you know what? They’re pretty nice folks themselves.”

Last week in this space, we had—perhaps unfairly, in retrospect—lumped Devlin’s series into a triple-threat of Missoulian divisiveness, alongside a wrongheaded editorial about (not) supporting higher education opportunities for in-state students and an ill-thought-out contest called “Why I Hate Christmas.” Having now had a chance to follow Devlin to the end of his travels, we’d like herewith to rescind our confinement of his work to the divide-and-conquer circle of journalistic hell.

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