PAPER – Anonymous allegation of Senator drunkeness raises serious questions

In case you missed it, here’s the initial police report: An anonymous person posts a clip on YouTube from C-Span showing Montana Sen. Max Baucus speaking on the Senate floor during debate over the health reform bill. In the clip, which is about five minutes long, Baucus is rambling and repetitive and engages in a word battle with Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi. The YouTube headline, supplied by the anonymous poster: “Senator Max Baucus drunk/intoxicated on the Senate floor — shouts down Wicker.”

The video and its accusatory headline becomes a big hit on YouTube. The Drudge Report, another Web site, links to the YouTube video with a tagline of “Drunk With Power? Top Dem Baucus slurs on Senate floor.” It generates all sorts of Internet interest, and gets a second wave of notoriety after a news story about the video and the resulting electronic uproar lands in Montana newspapers.
Shortly thereafter, the questions begin to fly.

Was Baucus truly inebriated or incredibly inarticulate?

Baucus has a reputation for sometimes inarticulate, rambling speech and the video clip came after a series of long, intense days of debate over health care reform. It’s also fair to note that the senator’s passionate performance came in response to series of partisan blasts from Republicans, including Wicker, which weren’t shown in the short video clip.