Senator Baucus and the IRS Scandal

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

The most dangerous man in Washington, D.C. could be Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). Mr. Baucus has been re-elected five times to the United States Senate with relative ease. He has amassed a re-election war chest of over $5 Million for the 2014 election and as Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee he could easily double, triple or quadruple that amount overnight. But despite that history and all of the money, Mr. Baucus has a problem. He was the primary sponsor of Obamacare and there is probably no where in the United States that Obamacare is more despised than in Montana. As a result, Mr. Baucus probably couldn’t get elected dogcatcher.

In mid-April, Mr. Baucus, having experienced not only disgruntlement but outrage from his constituents during the holiday recess and repeatedly on additional visits to the state, confronted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a hearing on the implementation of Obamacare and told her,

“I just see a huge train wreck coming down. You and I have discussed this many times, and I don’t see any results yet.”

Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now concurs with Mr. Baucus that it is a “train wreck.” But while Mr. Reid may be safe, having withstood re-election in 2010 against a gaff prone Republican, Mr. Baucus is tied to the tracks as the train wreck approaches. As chief sponsor and with his chief of staff having been the primary author of Obamacare, Mr. Baucus has nowhere to run. Rather than face the probability of defeat Mr. Baucus has announced that he is retiring from the Senate and will not seek re-election.

Meanwhile back at the ranch – Montana – Mr. Baucus has been complaining to friends and supporters that he was deceived by President Barack Obama and that he had no idea of the damage that Obamacare would do or the costs that it would incur. That’s not surprising since neither Mr. Baucus nor any other member of the United State Senate read the bill prior to voting for it.

But it is not just the ignobility of defeat that plagues Mr. Baucus. He has lived his whole Senate career in the shadow of Montana’s famed Mike Mansfield. Mr. Mansfield was Montana’s senator for twenty-four years, the longest serving Senate Majority Leader in history and ambassador to Japan. There are federal buildings, university buildings, endowments, and an annual Democrat confab named after the much-admired Mr. Mansfield. He received national and international honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun. He was revered for his intelligence and his leadership abilities. In short, he was everything that Mr. Baucus hoped to be but now will never achieve. Mr. Obama not only cost Mr. Baucus his re-election; he cost him his legacy.

And now Mr. Baucus is confronted by the newly emerged IRS scandal and the changing explanations from Mr. Obama and his White House word parsers. I watched a segment of a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing in which Mr. Baucus’ body language screamed disbelief at virtually every response from the IRS officials testifying followed by his promise to get to the bottom of the scandal and declaring that “a lot more is going to be coming out.” Now Mr. Baucus and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have crafted forty-one questions that they have demanded that Mr. Obama and his cronies answer by the end of this week.

Every poll conducted of late has indicated that the American public is deeply concerned by the recent trifecta of scandals and, of those three, it is the IRS scandal that most Americans believe to be the most serious. That is easy to understand because most Americans are suspicious of the IRS both as to its intrusiveness and its motivations. They have watched as a parade of presidents including Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton have been suspected of using the IRS to gather information on and punish their political foes.

So there you are. Mr. Baucus has the motivation, he has the resources and he has a receptive audience for driving exploration of this scandal regardless of where the chips may fall. He could be the most dangerous man in Washington. But the big question is will he be. Were he cut from the same cloth as Mr. Mansfield the answer would be obvious. But Mr. Baucus has always been a “team player” and has spent more time chasing the train to get on board than driving the train. He has seldom demonstrated any initiative or leadership qualities during this thirty-six years in the United States Senate – rather he has a history of doing the bidding of others, just like he did on Obamacare.

Mr. Baucus’ legacy, having been tarnished by Mr. Obama, can be resurrected by acting decisively in this IRS investigation. It could also be resurrected if he would use his considerable power as Chairman of the Finance Committee to commence hearings for purpose of rectifying the mistakes made in the adoption of Obamacare. The most surprised person in America will be me if he does either.