I've been pretty hard on Max Baucus for a while, especially as he spent months and months negotiating fruitlessly while Democratic political capital rotted away. But it's worth pointing out that his plan, assuming he had one, worked perfectly. Three months ago, the main storyline in the press on health care centered on whether Democrats would craft a bipartisan bill (yay!) or go it alone (boo!) Through his painstaking, and often pathetic, desire to reach an agreement with the GOP, Baucus proved beyond a doubt that serious GOP support for any remotely comprehensive health care reform was totally impossible. Indeed, the "go it alone" theme was all but disappeared from the press coverage. Meanwhile, the right-wing grassroots anti-reform insanity has largely burned itself out, and the popularity of President Obama and his health care reform has bounced back.
I still think he's more Mr. Magoo than Machiavelli, but fair is fair. Credit to Baucus.