By Matt B. Walen
Montanans arent easily fooled by gotcha headlines or glamourous photos detailing the lives of the rich and famous.
But many are sitting up and taking notice of the recent headlines touting Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., as a possible sex fiend who fired his former chief of staff, Christine Niedermeier, because she wouldnt submit to his adult advances.
The gloves are starting to come off in the Baucus-Niedermeier battle, but so far only attorneys for both sides are throwing verbal punches.
Both heavyweights are touting secret evidence that will vindicate them in the eyes of Montanans and the rest of the political world.
I dont know if Baucus is innocent or guilty, but I do remember what the Montana senator said about the President Bill Clinton-young intern Monica Lewinsky affair.
Its been little over a year since the Clinton-Lewinsky affair made headlines across the nation and Baucus was in Havre for a Bear Paw Development Inc. meeting.
The Associated Press wire was buzzing with the news of the alleged presidential affair and the first word out of the White House was impossible nothing of the sort ever happened.
Baucus, who hadnt been briefed by his Washington D.C. staff, was very hesitant to answer the Havre medias questions.
Baucus said he didnt want to comment because not all of the facts were known. But if Clinton had the affair, Baucus said, it would be very unfortunate not only for Clinton, but the Democratic Party and all of America.
Jump ahead 14 months and Baucus finds himself right in the middle of the same situation. The news of the allegations is barely two weeks old and already Baucus has called for his former employee to make the charges under oath.
Baucus said he fired his right-hand woman because she apparently didnt work well with almost all of Baucus other staff members. He received a letter with more than 30 signatures from his other employees who said they would walk out on the Baucus experience if Niedermeier stayed in power.
The people in the know on Niedermeier say she is an honest and trustworthy woman who has worked hard to achieve her status in the political world. These same people say Niedermeier would never create a lie that would jeopardize this valued status.
But Niedermeier said she was fired because she had repeatedly refused Baucus sexual advances for the past 15 months.
If the allegations are true about Baucus, Im not entirely sure Montanans would want to kick him out of office. What other politician would continue to pursue something so doggedly for 15 months after being repeatedly denied? And that is assuming he was even in the chase from the start.
Just think how much highway funds the state would have received if Montanas other two congressmen were this persistent.
I know Baucus, Ive talked with him several times during my five-year tenure at the Daily News. I havent had the pleasure of meeting or even chatting with Ms. Niedermeier on the phone. Well, at least not any conversations that I can remember.
Im not rooting for Baucus or Niedermeier, just the good people of Montana.
Baucus has done a good job representing Montana and its people. It would be a shame if he jeopardized that relationship for a few moments of passion that went up in a puff of No.
Niedermeier had it all a good job directing a powerful senators staff in Washington, D.C., a healthy salary and many career opportunities. For her sake, Niedermeier better be able to present some evidence backing her accusations of Baucus unwanted advances or else her political career will be dead in the water.
Americans got over the Clinton-Lewinsky explosion. Im sure Montanans will survive the Baucus-Niedermeier war of words in the coming weeks.