To those of you with long memories, Max’s action in abandoning his Democrat side of the aisle to cavort with his Republican buddies is nothing new. As his Republican detractors accurately point out, Max has a tendency to sit on the fence at the best of times—and to slide a little more to the right when he has to run for election every six years.
His last stint at shifting on the pickets came during his most recent campaign, when Max, to the dismay of virtually every Democrat in the state, did everything possible to support George W. Bush, even going so far as to use footage of the infamous Baucus-Bush Team in his campaign ads. The most egregious of his party-jumping stunts, however, came in the form of his support for the $1.3 trillion Bush tax cuts for the nation’s most wealthy, while the Demos controlled the Senate and Max, by virtue of seniority, chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
Needless to say, the vast majority of those who voted for Max in the last election, are NOT among the nation’s most wealthy. What we got from the much-lauded tax cut was, as usual, the crumbs. The rest of the golden loaf went to the rich, but it’s our kids who will be paying for this give-away for decades to come.
And how will we pay? Well, let’s put it this way: When Max came to visit the Legislature in 2001, he took a few minutes to visit with Montana’s Indian legislators and tribal leaders. Since per capita income for Montana’s Indians is about a third that of the non-tribal population, it was not out of line to wonder if Max could use his powerful Senate position to push an Indian Economic Development bill. But when he was asked point-blank to do so, Baucus replied that the Bush tax cut had made it very difficult to obtain funds for any other purposes, including helping out Montana’s Indians.
How handy. In one fell swoop, Max, without whom Bush’s tax give-away would never have cleared the Senate, hides behind the budget crisis the tax bill has created and denies funding for Indians, education, senior citizens, the environment—you name it, there simply isn’t any money for it, and everybody in D.C. knows it.
But then Max votes to give Bush the power to go to war in Iraq, then votes to fund the war in Iraq with $87 billion in extra appropriations on top of the $410 billion annual defense budget for which he also voted. The extra billions were needed because $1.3 billion a day just wasn’t enough to keep the defense contractors happy.
Then Max votes for the Healthy Forests Initiative, once again tossing in with the Repubs and taking his environmental base absolutely for granted. After all, as the conventional political wisdom goes, “who else they gonna vote for?”
Then comes the Energy Bill, and once again—even after having his Rocky Mountain Front protection efforts stuffed by the Republican majorities—Max provides the decisive vote to move the pollution- and pork-laden bill out of committee. Why? Only Max knows, because he sure isn’t responding to constituent mail these days.
Finally, along comes the Medicare bill, which Republican Sen. John McCain calls the “Leave No Lobbyist Behind Act.” And who is the man in the picture with a smirking George Bush—yep, once again it’s Democrat Max Baucus.
This has not gone unnoticed here at home.
The Lewis & Clark Democratic Committee passed a resolution condemning Max’s vote on Medicare. When Baucus met with members of the Montana Senior Citizens Association in Helena, the Gray Panthers tore him up good.
Max’s reply? He claims that the Medicare bill was “a compromise” and falls back on his old worn-out cliché about “perfect being the enemy of the good.”
It’s laughable to think that Max is so out of touch with Montanans that he could think, even for a moment, that anybody in this state would ever connect the word “perfect” with the word “Congress.”
What we expect as Montanans, and deserve as citizens, is that whatever legislation comes down to us from on high in D.C. at least have had an open and public debate. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that on most of the bills Max has been voting for—he knows it and so do we.
Republicans must be laughing like crazy watching Max destroy his own voting base. Of course the voting records of Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg are nothing to brag about. “Lockstep” is the word that comes to mind to describe their level of objectivity toward the Bush doctrines of aggression, exploitation, pollution, and the creation of trillions in long-term national debt.
Max, however, is supposed to stand up for the commoners against the corporate tide in Washington, to demand open debate, and to “dance with those that brung ya.”
Instead, Max is supporting Bush, and that’s causing big problems here at home.
The good news is that Congress is out for the year. When they return, maybe Max will have gotten the message and make amends.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.