Pity poor Max Baucus 

Pity Max Baucus. While so many other politicians are having an easy time of things, sleepwalking through their terms of office, blissfully unaware of how many enemies they’ve made and how indifferent their constituents are toward them, Baucus can’t find a moment’s peace. If it’s not George W. Bush coming all the way out here just to cajole him into backing the Republican tax cut (during Bush’s tactical rally in Billings last March, Baucus told a reporter, “He’s here for me”), Max is having to defend Montana from wave after wave of stupid ideas from the new administration (the latest of which, of course, is to drill for oil on the Rocky Mountain Front). So it’s bad enough that, as the lone Democrat in the Montana delegation, Baucus is walking around Washington bearing the brand of Cain. Now, on top of everything else, a national magazine is putting words in his mouth.

Last week’s issue of the satire magazine The Onion greeted its readers with an editorial written under Baucus’ name. Above the column, and alongside a mug shot of the Democrat, ran the headline, “I’m Such a Shitty Senator.”

In it, the senator bemoans all of the screw-ups he’s prosecuted over the past 23 years in the Senate, from poorly written bills to forgetting the names of constituents who visit his Washington office. In the end, he decides that he’s leaving politics for good. “Because, folks, I am telling you,” the editorial goes, “I am hands-down the shittiest senator in the history of the Senate. The worst.”

Now, for those of you who are not used to the unique but legendary rhetorical flourishes of The Onion, it bears mention that everything in it is fake. To give you a sense of what you’re dealing with, the editorial published under Baucus’ name ran alongside such stories as “God Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder” and “First-Grade Teacher Apprehends Urinator.” Previous Onion editorials have been attributed to fictional office managers, fake immigrant nannies and inanimate objects. But this week, it was Baucus’ turn.

Naturally, this has caused much consternation and confusion on the part of the mainstream press, whose members never even heard of The Onion until last week. But seasoned readers will understand that there’s no real reason Baucus was singled out for this artificial apologia—the paper simply thrives on the obscurity of its own humor. The senator’s press spokesman Bill Lombardi, however, sees it a little differently: Everybody’s picking on the poor senior senator these days.

“He’s Max in the Middle,” Lombardi says. “He’s the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and when you’re in that position, you’ll be poked at from both sides.” If it’s not twentysomething wiseasses writing opinion pieces under the senator’s name, it’s conservative groups campaigning against him on TV; in recent weeks, Lombardi points out, Montana has been deluged with Republican-funded commercials urging viewers to prod Baucus into abolishing the death tax. It’s enough to put a little-read, snot-nosed bit of satire into perspective. “Most [Montanans] probably read The Weekly World News in the checkout line more than they read The Onion,” Lombardi says.

If you’d like to support your senior senator in this time of strife, you can send bouquets of bitterroot blossoms or Chinese-manufactured gift baskets to his office: 511 Hart Building, Washington, DC 20510.

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