Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) claimed last week that he pulled his recommendation of girlfriend Melodee Hanes for a U.S. Attorney post because the “relationship intensified,” as the New York Times put it. But now Jodi Rave, a former reporter for Lee Newspapers, writes on her blog:
As a reporter who covered the story here in Montana…I have a different perspective about why Hanes and Baucus jointly agreed to withdraw her name. I talked to Hanes and to Baucus spokesman about the relationship…I called the senator’s spokesman and told him we were going to finally print the story…Within what seemed like minutes, K Barrett Kaiser sent an email to the newsroom and said that Hanes “was NOT” a candidate.
So, it seems safe to say that her name was not withdrawn because the relationship had intensified; it was arguably withdrawn because the relationship was not a big secret here in Montana.
Baucus’ statement last week defending his actions made compelling legal points:
Mel and I have a wonderful relationship. We are living together and enjoying spending time with each other and our families. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.
Not only has the normally ravenous Washington press corps bought into Baucus’ defense, but it has come up with things even sillier. A Dana Milbank column in the Washington Post on Thursday suggested that Tiger Woods should take a page from the Baucus playbook. Milbank wrote:
Baucus’s secret? Call it the Dork Defense. The Senate Finance Committee chairman, who turns 68 this week, is just too much of a nerd for a sex scandal to stick. Consider:
The career lawmaker wears crooked wire-rimmed glasses.
He totes around charts bearing messages such as “Distribution of High Cost Insurance Excise Tax.”
While running in a road race a few years ago, he fell on his face, requiring surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.
He subscribes to a word-of-the-day e-mail service and attempts to use the five-dollar word in that day’s conversations.
He once said the highlight of his day was listening to Garrison Keillor on National Public Radio.
Milbank is not a comedian. He purports to write serious commentary. The column tells us more about Milbank’s bias than about Baucus. Dana may want to shift to other topics for a while because more holes are being poked in Baucus’ story. Maybe Max is not such a dork after all. According to Lee Newspapers in Montana:
Sen. Max Baucus’ former state director — and now his live-in girlfriend — met at least twice with the senator’s divorce attorney to discuss the Baucuses’ divorce eight months before the senator and his wife, Wanda, separated.
The meetings took place in the summer of 2007, according to billing documents obtained by Lee Newspapers.
Contacted this week by Lee Newspapers and asked about these documents, Wanda Baucus said she knew nothing about those discussions in 2007 and that couple had never had a discussion about getting a divorce. (emphasis ours)
Melodee Hanes, Baucus’ former chief of staff and current girlfriend, met at least twice with Ron Waterman, the Helena lawyer who worked on the senator’s April 2009 divorce, the billing documents showed. At the time, Hanes was a lawyer and high-ranking aide to the senator.
In case you think the two lovebirds are not letting on to the whole story, Baucus’ office was quick to reassure everyone that things aren’t what they appear. The article continues:
Ty Matsdorf, a Baucus spokesman, said Thursday, that Hanes met with Waterman in her official capacity as a member of Baucus’ staff.
“Melodee Hanes’ interactions were in her official role as state director and focused on scheduling and logistics, including how a potential separation between Sen. Baucus and (his ex-wife) Wanda could impact the senator’s travel and work,” Matsdorf said in a statement.
Hanes and Baucus were not involved at the time, Matsdorf said. They began their relationship in the summer of 2008, a few months after Baucus moved out of the Georgetown home he and Wanda shared in March of 2008.
Dana, this is starting to get funny.