Baucus Confirmation: Tough Questions?

As U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, brought the nomination hearing to a close on U.S. Senator Max Baucus of Montana to be Ambassador to China, my first thought was this is 90 minutes I will never get back.

Then I remembered the Montana Television Network (MTN) crew of Jay Kohn and Marnee Banks who had traveled from Montana to Washington, D.C., to cover the event. They wasted even more time and money for the short 90 minute hearing.

That’s a few thousand dollars you can’t get back. At least they were in town for the State of the Union speech!

It looked like only nine of the 18 senators on the committee even showed up or asked questions.

As for news reports about the hearing, Lee Newspapers reporter Mike Dennison tweeted “Baucus faces tough questions at confirm hearing, but sens say he’ll be next U.S. ambassador to China.”

“Tough questions” are what Supreme Court nominees and cabinet secretary nominees face, but not Baucus.

But I guess with Baucus, even “How you doin” can be a tough question.

Politico reported, “Several tough questions and suggestions from Republicans interrupted a mostly placid confirmation hearing for Sen. Max Baucus to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China.”

The Washington Free Beacon reported, “Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) did not inspire a lot of confidence in his nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to China at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing.”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester introduced Baucus to the committee. It was an epic “Ron Burgundy” type fail. Tester said:

But it’s really the footsteps of another Montana legend that Max is prepared to walk in. After 24 years in the Senate, including a record 16 as Majority Leader, Mike Mansfield became America’s ambassador to China in 1977.

Almost every Democrat touts the distinguished career of Mansfield – they want to be like Mike – but Tester failed to realize that Mansfield was the Ambassador to Japan, not China. He can probably blame it on his staff. Maybe Tester and his staffers should take some Montana history classes.

Probably the silliest thing Baucus said was that he was “no real expert on China.”

We know that. As many have speculated, Baucus has been picked to be the Ambassador to China so the Democrats can put John Walsh in as interim Senator and give him the inside track to maybe hold on to the seat in November.

Baucus may have answered several questions about his past when he said,

My fascination with China goes back fifty years to my days as a college student at Stanford. I was a young man who grew up on a ranch outside Helena, Montana, full of youthful idealism and curiosity. And so I packed a backpack, took a year off from my studies, and hitchhiked around the world. I set out to visit countries I had only imagined — India, Japan, and China, to name a few.

Maybe the real reason Baucus “set out to visit” these countries was to get out of being drafted.

Finally, nobody asked Baucus any personal questions or how ethical lapses during his career might affect his job as ambassador.

Baucus will easily have the votes to be confirmed. We’ll see how well liked he is by his fellow senators by the number of “Yea” votes he receives.

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