Lambasting Max Baucus is one of TNR traditions I most cherish, but it's been a while since we've indulged in it, and it's nice to see Steven Pearlstein thwack around the feckless Senate Finanxce Commitee Chairman today:

For my money, there's no better example of the failure of the Democratic leadership than the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus - and, in particular, his performance on the president's deficit-reduction commission.
It's a mystery that Max was appointed to the panel in the first place, given that he had led the fight against its creation. His beef was that by establishing a mechanism that required Congress to vote up or down on an austerity plan it couldn't amend, lawmakers were turned into mere bureaucrats. More to the point, it also threatened Max's power and prerogatives as Finance Committee chairman. So when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chose Max for one of his three slots on the commission - bowing, as Reid always does, to Senate hierarchy and tradition - he had to know that Baucus would vote against any plan that might emerge. ...
There are two possibilities. One is that Max is so parochial that he can't get behind anything that might jeopardize his popularity with the Montana Cattlemen's Association or the Billings Chamber of Commerce. In that case, he has no business chairing a committee that handles issues of national and international significance.
The more likely possibility is that he played the rural card simply as convenient political cover for his real motive, which was to prevent any challenge to his own authority. In that case, he has revealed himself as too petty to be a serious national leader.