On throwing your pals to the wolves

Megan McArdle thinks Max Baucus has to go. She links to this story in Politico about some questionable choices the Senator from Montana has made vis-a-vis his mistress.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, gave a nearly $14,000 pay raise to a female staffer in 2008, at the time he was becoming romantically involved with her, and later that year took her on a taxpayer-funded trip to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, though foreign policy was not her specialty.

Late last Friday, Baucus acknowledged his relationship with Melodee Hanes, whom he nominated for the job of U.S. attorney in Montana, after it was first reported on the website MainJustice.com. But he said that Hanes withdrew from consideration for the job when the relationship became more serious. The following day, Baucus dismissed calls for an ethics investigation, saying, “I went out of my way to be up and up.”

I will agree with Megan that this is unseemly. While I don't know that I agree that this rises to the level of meriting resignation, I do think it reflects poorly on his judgement. The raise can plausibly be explained by the raises other staffers received, as well. The trip to Asia is harder to explain. The nomination to the U.S. attorney position is also pretty shaky. An ethics investigation would not be out of order.

That being said, Ms. McArdle makes an odd statement at the end of her post. She says:
Say what you want about Republicans, but they have a much better sense than their opponents of when it's time to grab one of their own and throw him off the sled to the wolves running behind.
Really? I don't think that this is true. Bush didn't can Rumsfeld until after the GOP had been thoroughly creamed in the mid-term elections. (Witness also how long he held onto Alberto Gonzalez.) I don't get the sense that Sen. Ensign is being treated like a leper, despite his transgressions being at least as troublesome as Baucus's.

Conversely, while the Democrats are certainly more tolerant of some ethically challenged members of Congress than I think they should be (I'm thinking of a Congressman whose name rhymes with Marles Mangel), sometimes they also make the ethically correct and politically intelligent decision to cut someone loose. I don't think either party can claim to be more savvy in this regard.

1 comment:

  1. Let's see, Ms. Hanes qualifications to be a US Attorney are? She hasn't practiced law for at least six years.

    Tossing Rumsfeld too late? Help me out here, I don't recall the ehtical morass into which he waded. Gonzales? Yeah, after he appointed his mistress to Justice, it was, oh, wait, my mistake. He never did anything like that.

    Ensign? As the MM commenters point out, he lost his spot at the NRSC and gave up his Senate leadership position. In unrelated news, Charlie "you mean I have to report hundreds of thousands in cash payments?" Rangel was demoted from chair of the Ways and Means committee to... no, wait, my mistake again, no one has done anything to take the slightest action against Mr. "multiple felony tax evasion" Rangel.