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What Evan Bayh's retirement really says about Obama's Washington

February 16, 2010 |  1:34 am

Retiring Indiana Democrat Senator Evan Bayh

For all of its eloquence and admirable candor, the unusual retirement statement (see video below) by Indiana's Democrat Sen. Evan Bayh also revealed a stunningly keen grasp of the obvious -- for millions of Americans watching the playground antics of the elected clowns in D.C. with bipartisan head-shaking.

"For some time," Bayh said, "I've had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress; too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people's business is not getting done."

No kidding? He's a real Sherlock Holmes.

It's no diminishment of the long years of successful public service and politics in a Republican state by Democrats Bayh and his....

...father, Birch, to point out that well back in the last century another former Democratic governor, named Jimmy Carter, campaigned to bring fresh air to the federal swamp. That worked out so well that voters sent Republicans to the White House for the next 12 years.

Ross Perot was an outsider. So was Bill Clinton of Arkansas. George W. Bush of Texas campaigned to change the tone in Washington.

Why? Because, despite the utter silliness of one person promising to change a city's political culture, polls....

... told them that's what voters said they wanted to hear. Just about every potential Republican candidate for 2012, especially Sarah Palin, is also running as not-from-there.

In fact, the current coatless Oval Office guy did the same thing, promising change to believe in, even though a) he was employed there, and b) the real change he believed in was that he become the ringmaster of the very same civic circus.

With a single phone call Obama could have had centrist, bipartisan and sometimes independent Bayh on his 2008 ticket.ButtonObamaBayh

Instead, Obama went with that Amtrak-riding political force from powerful Delaware, who's a gaffe-prone gabber -- but obedient.

Monday after issuing a presidential statement on Serbian National Day, Obama squeezed in time to put out a perfunctory political pronouncement of professed appreciation for Bayh's public service.

Now comes word that later this week the Change Agent will travel to Las Vegas, the city he loves to denounce for its spending excesses, for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. There, according to the all-knowing columnist Jon Ralston, tickets only cost $30,000 per person.

As Palin, quoting a popular rebel bumper sticker, put it so sarcastically to the recent National Tea Party Convention, "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?"

Almost exactly one year ago when Obama was attempting to appoint the same old tax-challenged Washington cronies to his change administration, we wrote here about why Washington doesn't work -- and doesn't get it. It still doesn't.

One overlooked reason: Despite their growing grumbles, America's voters kept electing the same partisan pols. When better than 80% of senatorial incumbents and 90+% of House incumbents get reelected from both sides, often using the most partisan, negative advertising, the lesson learned properly by those pros is that the voters are the hypocrites, denouncing partisanship and gridlock and punishing such tactics by repeated reelection.

What offers at least a sliver of hope for some real change in the nation's capitol is that this year, faced with the costs, palpable voter distrust and anger, the seemingly real threat of losing their seats, the lack of personal satisfaction, so many members of Congress on both sides are changing themselves out of office.

Bayh, Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan, all Democrats, on the Senate side. And, so far, nearly three dozen members of the House (about 7%), most recently Patrick Kennedy, as The Ticket reported here.

Other members such as Majority Leader Harry "I Speak Your Dialect" Reid and Arlen "If It's Tuesday I Must Be a Democrat" Specter appear in serious reelection trouble. Monday, as published here, came new poll word of troubling signs even for liberal California's Sen. Barbara Boxer. Other current possible GOP Senate seat pickups include Arkansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Colorado.

Bayh's retirement statement included five very pointed words: "I do not love Congress."

In that the 54-year-old now joins countless millions of Americans -- 71% disapprove of Congress' job in a recent Washington Post poll. Hmm. Could Bayh's flat-out disapproval be the seed of a 2012 challenge by the newly-minted Hoosier outsider, a genuine bipartisan Democrat who never lost an election in a Republican state?

Related item:

President Obama Day 386: What happened to him?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Tannen Maury / EPA; CafePress.                               Video courtesy of C-SPAN

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