If Max Baucus were a Republican, it wouldn’t matter that he was separated from his wife when he nominated his girlfriend earlier this year to become the next United States Attorney for his state of Montana. If he were a Republican, the press would take it upon themselves to dig through telephone records, interview staffers, look at travel receipts and hack into e-mail servers in an attempt to discern the exact timeline of his relationship with the staffer in relation to his separation from his wife and find anything–anything!–that could be considered rope from which to hang him, his career and his party.
If Max Baucus were a Republican, the mainstream media would spend half of the morning would be spent talking about other Republicans with well-known marital problems, such as John Ensign, Mark Sanford or Larry Craig — without discussing John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Jim McGreevey or Bill Clinton. Actually, even though Baucus is a Democrat, the press will probably still do just that.
If Max Baucus were a Republican, rabid liberal pundits would call not only for hearings into not only the preferential treatment displayed in Baucus’ case, but also for an investigation into relationships between other Republican senators and such nominees.
But Sen. Max Baucus, who nominated his girlfriend–a former staffer–to a position which would be responsible for chasing and investigating any and all corruption in Baucus’ own state, and who intentionally did not apprise either the White House, Montana’s other senator or the attorney charged with reviewing the candidates of the relationship, will get no such treatment from the press. In fact, as CBS News’ Chip Reid stated so tellingly on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program yesterday, this doesn’t even really qualify as a scandal.
Here’s the transcript (emphasis mine), courtesy of the folks at Newsbusters (perhaps the greatest repository of media bias accounts anywhere):
HOWARD KURTZ: Friday night, a new scandal story emerged involving Senator Max Baucus, one of the leading Democrats in the health care debate. Turns out that he recommended to be the U.S. attorney, the top federal prosecutor in his home state of Montana, his girlfriend, a woman who had been on his Senate payroll and suddenly was being, she did not get the job, and she was on this list. And so my question is, I looked at the papers this morning. I’ll start with you, Chip. Washington Post has it on page three, New York Times has it on page 33. I watched CNN all day yesterday. I didn’t see any mention of this story, which I thought was a stunning lapse in judgment. Why isn’t this a bigger story?
CHIP REID, CBS NEWS: Well, I don’t think it has legs because there’s no sex scandal, and it’s not like Vitter. It’s not like Ensign. There’s no scandal here. There is, and there is a long history-
KURTZ, JUMPING IN: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Baucus was married, okay, he was separated. He has a relationship with a woman on his Senate-
REID: He was beyond separated. His wife wasn’t even on his Christmas cards anymore. They were done.
KURTZ: All right, he has this relationship with a woman on his Senate payroll, and he pushes her for a top job in the Justice Department. Why would that not be a scandal?
REID: It’s because there’s a long history of Senators nominating people they are very close to for U.S. attorney.
KURTZ: “Very close to” is the key phrase.
REID: Yeah, exactly.
DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM: It is enormous because the U.S. attorney there is the chief anti-corruption officer in that district. And what are the odds that that anti-corruption officer would ever investigate anything Max Baucus doesn’t want to investigate.
MICHELLE COTTLE, NEW REPUBLIC: It’s not a story because she didn’t get it. If she had gotten it, this would have more legs, but they basically had her voluntarily withdraw from the process once the relationship got more serious or more involved or whatever. I mean, as far as scandals go, there’s no hookers, there’s no payments, there’s no, you know, this doesn’t rise to the level of juiciness.
KURTZ: Now you’ve zeroed in on it. Right. I just think that news organizations that have played this down have left themselves open to charges after the John Ensign story and after the Mark Sanford story that they’re a little bit less enthusiastic about Democratic scandals.
COTTLE: Eliot Spitzer? Come on. Eliot is everybody’s favorite.
KURTZ: Well, Eliot Spitzer broke the law!
COTTLE: Well, that’s it.
FRUM: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -the Mayflower hotel, he may as well, he might as well done it in Grand Central Station.
KURTZ: There are examples on both sides.
First, kudos to Howard Kurtz for even bringing it up, nonetheless correctly referring to it as a “stunning lapse of judgment.” The thing is, this little tit-for-tat is likely more airtime for this story than we’ll see on any of the networks or cable shows today, save for Fox News, which reports far more equitably on philandering and corrupt politicians regardless of party affiliation.
The media, because of its tendency to list to the port side, doesn’t care a lick about facts. Liberals never do. They want emotion. They want juicy details. They want anything and everything which could possibly take away from fact and reality, which rarely fall in favor of their agenda. When all is said and done, however, party trumps extraordinary each and every time. After all, what’s more sleazy than being outed as Client No. 9? Or more shocking than explaining, with a shell-shocked loyal wife at your side, that you are a gay American? Or more sordid than denying an affair, then admitting an affair, then denying the existence of a love child, then preparing to admit the existence of a love child, all while your cancer-stricken, lovely wife appears on Oprah to promote her newest book?
At the very least, though, corruption should be corruption. Unfortunately, at least as far as matters of objectivity and fairness are concerned, Max Baucus nominating someone with whom he’s romantically involved to a position of oversight over himself–corruption if I’ve ever seen it–isn’t sleazy or shocking or sordid or Republican enough to attract the attention of a mainstream press so guided by ideology that it willingly ignores truth, responsibility and standards set forth by long gone stalwarts of a rapidly decaying industry.