Just when you thought that we couldn't descend any further down the rabbit hole, Montana Senator Max Baucus, (D-Mont.) `fesses up to having pushed the nomination of Melodee Hanes, a former staffer who also coincidentally happened to be his girlfriend. A spokesman late Friday told the Associated Press that the love birds later decided she should withdraw her nomination because they intended to live together.
For those who really groove on soap operas, Roll Call is reporting that the couple began their relationship roughly a year before the senator and his wife divorced this past April.
Here's the text:
".....Senator Baucus is currently in a mature and happy relationship with Melodee Hanes. They are both divorced, and in no way was their relationship the cause of their respective divorces. When Senator Baucus and Melodee Hanes, his former state director, realized that their relationship was developing beyond a purely professional nature, Melodee began the process of resigning her Senate employment.
With an extensive background as a prosecutor and extensive legal experience...Ms. Hanes submitted her name for consideration for the U.S Attorney position from Montana. Her name was one of six that was submitted for review by Senator Baucus to an independent, highly respected Montana attorney who reviewed the applications. After an extensive evaluation of all the applicants' qualifications, Ms. Hanes was one of three applicants the third-party reviewer recommended for consideration. Senator Baucus and Senator Tester then interviewed those candidates and Senator Baucus then submitted those three names to the White House, with no ranking or preference.
While her personal relationship with Senator Baucus should in no way be either a qualifier or a disqualifier for the position, during the nomination process and after much reflection, both Senator Baucus and Ms. Hanes agreed that she should withdraw her name from consideration because they wanted to live together in Washington, DC. After withdrawing from consideration for U.S. Attorney, Ms. Hanes independently applied for her current position at the Department of Justice. Having extensive experience and qualifications in the field...Ms. Hanes was awarded the position based solely on her merit. Since then she has excelled in her role."
Their personal relationship is a private matter, of course, but what about the appearance of self-interest and string-pulling surrounding this novella? For those who complain about the rank cynicism and hypocrisy infecting our political system, this script provides confirmation of their suspicions. (It's also unclear what motivated Baucus to choose this exact moment to go public with the disclosure. That likely will come out in time.) Meanwhile, suffice it to say that the popular opening line of many a Washington conversation today will begin something along the line of, "And you thought Tiger Woods had chutzpah?"
Not to get too down on Baucus, though. With one declaration, he has managed the nigh-impossible, bringing together left and right in a rare moment of bi-partisan unity. Now, that's a rare political touch.