The Missoula Independent has a long and thorough profile of Max Baucus. The conclusion is particularly trenchant:
No one doubts that Baucus is putting in the necessary work to accomplish it. In fact, observers say that he thrives in the difficulties posed by these complicated negotiations, that he's a "glutton for punishment," that bloodying his face during a marathon and then continuing to run reveals the nature of his work ethic. But there's a distinction to be made, some say, between what Baucus brings to the table and what the situation calls for—namely, leadership.
"I think we've reached a juncture, probably in history, where there's a difference between hard work and leadership," says Dave McAlpin, a member of the Montana House of Representatives who worked on Baucus' re-election campaign in 1990 and in his Bozeman office from 1992 to 1995. "Mike Mansfield passed historic legislation because of his leadership ability. And Max needs to exhibit that he can bring this issue to the fore and get a good bill passed to solve an enormous problem—probably the biggest policy problem and issue of our time—through leadership, not just hard work. I think it's too soon to tell whether Max will be successful."
When I was researching my own profile of Max Baucus, a Finance Committee source made an interesting point to me. Baucus, she said, has a very similar legislative approach to Ted Kennedy. He has long relationships with Republican senators. He has an overwhelming instinct to cut a deal. But they are viewed differently. If Baucus had been President Bush's partner on No Child Left Behind, for instance, it would be part of the case against him. But Kennedy was the president's partner on that, and suffered no blow to his liberal credibility. Kennedy is beyond reproach because he's Kennedy.
This, however, gets to this question of work and leadership. Kennedy has, over the years, given people on both sides of the aisle a pretty clear sense of his core values.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Ezra Klein on why Max Baucus is the wrong man for the healthcare negotiations: