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

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

Comments () | Archives (50)

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Elect a new congress.

If these "Public Servants" actually cared about the "Public Good", they would have the decency to resign en mass, and start the who thing over... sorta like a big red button some nimrod used in a photo op some months ago with the Russians, only in real life.
As most in the three branches of "government" have already reneged on their Oath's, I don't see any hope of change within this present power structure.

Nice cop-out. Stop blaming the voters. The voters are not hypocrites. WE DON'T HAVE ANY CHOICE BUT TO VOTE FOR EXCREMENT. The Democrats and Republicans control the candidates. Try running a campaign without the support of either party. I have never voted for a Republican and I have only voted Democrat once. I will vote for any third party candidate. The only hope for a return to democracy is to break the two party system.

The key undermining point to all this "centrist" nonsense is that on the major issues - healthcare reform, Afghanistan, Iraq, Social Security, immigration the economy - Republicans and Democrats are DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED. The Democrats in Washington have tried to accommodate Republicans with the healthcare bills and the recent job bills failure and look where it got them.

The Democrats shouldn't be trying to please the minority party, they should be working for the people who gave them their majorities and the White House. If what they pass isn't palatable to voters they'll lose and if voters like what passes they'll keep winning election. The party should stop trying to please the people who are hell bent on opposing everything they do and start working for the people who supported them in 2008. If they don't, then 2010 is going to be the beginning of the end of the Democratic majority in DC.

Great Article.

May God bless you for your absolute truth and candor. Thanks

Gee, its so nice to see how impartial you are about President Obama and the Republicans. The Republicans lie on a regular basis, obstruct everything the President attempts to accomplish,sends Sarah Palin out as their point person even though former Vice-President Cheney says she isn't qualified for the Presidency.Your a disgrace to your profession and our country, wake-up get a real job, find out why people won't invest in a stock market, they don't because the people running it are out of touch.Get off your back side visit let say a few states and find out why people are upset with you and the politican!!! Simple your out of touch!!!!

So what does Bayh's retirement tell us, that we didn't already know?

America, the only Democracy that keeps two major party in power for 2oo+ years. Even old Romans knew that over 2000 years ago that takes at least 3
independent senators to make a decision. Can't we learn something from the
past instead to follow same mistakes over and over. If we have house divided by
political interests of two parties that just peruse their own interest over the one of the people who elected them.

As the land of many and free can't we produce another independent political party from grass roots to represent any segment and interest of the people by the people which would keep balance of the power and democracy going?


The "take away" from this article is that we keep electing democrats and republicans over and over again, expecting things to change (the cliched definition of insanity). When does the calculus of "not voting for a secretly preferred third-party candidate becuase it would take votes away from the lesser of two evils" change? When can we agree to take the risk of voting for who we really want? Does it have to be when we truly have nothing to lose? When we truly have nothing? Vote third party. Any third party. Please.

Pathetic coward. Quitting just when you are needed most. Good riddance.

In content this means absolutely nothing weather it becomes impactful remains to be seen. Obama said he would change the status quo and he "IS"! So much to the disdain of his critics cries are vicious and obstreperous. So goes the Bayh's Dodds and Dorgan, so what!!! It's amazing (not surpising) those who fight change, kinda like the good ol boys in the south who relished their self proclaimed purches rooted in supremist doctrines. EEEE Haawww!?! "WE" rise together as a country or fail as ideologs.... Change is a force of nature!

The fact that we can't work together as a nation in our economic crisis signals the beginning of the end of the global economy.

So now we can sit back and watch story after story spun to say that he left because of Republican obstructionism and the fact that he's a moderate Democrat will be left out altogether. The sad thing is that so many Americans will buy the spin because they simply want to or maybe at this point they actually need to.

Reagan achieved a great deal because he inspired the public and captured the support of the American people. Even Clinton accomplished much because he read the political tea leaves and partnered with the Republican house. But as long as Obama is intrenched in his idealogy, and he forces his fellow Democrats to submit to HIM, he is lost. Nothing will get done.
Remember, the Obama legacy will be zero accomplishments despite the majorities in both houses

Wow... another tribal partisan stab. How refreshing.

I think what's happening in Washington might well be shaping up to a real shakedown. I can't remember a time when such a strong third party movement, for example, got under way—this one feels very different. And I like your comparison to Carter. Not only did he give Republicans a nice long run following his administration, but he also became fodder for a new joke I recently heard that Jimmy Carter voted for Barack Obama so that Carter wouldn't have to be the worst president in history anymore. lol

Obama's Washington? Oh yeah, he created this mess. I guess people are so shortsighted they balme who is currently in office. God help us.

When Evan Bayh runs for president, he'll get my vote. He was on FoxNews Sunday with Chris Wallace a couple of Sunday's ago and he was the Man of Reason. While the other Democrat and a Republican sounded like talking points for their respective parties, Senator Bayh answered all of his questions honestly and fully, without spinning once.

What a class act!

Sen. Bye was wise to read the polls clearly. He could not get re-elected in his own state!! This is because he went along with Obama's Explosive Health Care demands! Now he walks the plank. How many more????

Democrats if you want a chance in Nov. 2010 start making decisions for the people you represent and get out of your ivory towers!

So how is this article anything more than partisan bickering? It is not difficult to notice which side butters the bread of these bloggers. Why does a perfectly good newspaper like the L.A. Times insist on running these dumb blogs?

(For people like you to read. And thanks for coming and taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.)

Bayh quit because his wife's wealth is generated by the health care industry. He knew that to do the right thing for the American people he would have to vote against her, and his own pocket. One need look no further than the obvious, sometimes.

What this really says is that Washington and the country is being held for ransom by the political parties, with Republicans being the worst case. We are losing the good politicians so that bad ones can gain ground, happened in the 1980's, 2000's, and they are trying for 2012, Republicans want the country to fail, so they can win back power to make sure it does, just like the last go around.

This is all well and good; but simply putting partisan Republicans in place of reasonable Democrats (which is precisely what's going to happen) isn't going to change a damn thing.

We're only going to get further gridlock after 2010.

I don't know how it gets fixed, but as bad as Harry Reid is, do you really think Mitch McConnel will be better?

We're flat out screwed. Regardless of which party is in control.

Bayh needs to run for president in 2012 as an independent. PLEASE!

The rancoring in todays politics is a well working strategy utilized by lobbyist. It's not accidental. Divide and conquer. While D&Rs are scrapling for election funds, the voices of their constituents is merely ambient. And it's crescendoed into todays Washington. And who wins? Lobbyist of every ilk.

The real reason Bayh and other democrats are leaving the House and Senate has nothing to do with Obama. It is due to the weak Harry Reid, who can't and won't get anything done and the party of No, the republicans. I give major props to Bayh for realizing this and leaving.

It seems this article ridicules anyone, including this President, who says they will "change" DC and then it blames this President for NOT changing DC.

The fault cannot be laid at the feet of any President alone to "change how Washington works". The only time it seems to "work", and I use the term dubiously, is when Republicans are in office with the Oval Office and the Majority, for the same reason it is not working when they are not. Republicans are in it for Power and Democrats are weak.

It is certainly clear to all, because they have publicly announced their mission and have been very overt in their actions, that Republicans now, as with the last Democrat President, are about thwarting accomplishment and the business of government. They cannot even be civil in tone and behavior. I believe their record of this year clearly demonstrates why Washington is not working....that was their agenda a year ago even while America was at the edge of a cliff.

It is equally clear that Democrats allowed them to behave in this manner, enabled it, and squandered their ability to get anything done with what they had, placing the process of dysfunctional government over the will of the people who sent them there.

When Republicans in office, out of office, retired from office, malign, criticize, double cross, and attack a President's personal character with every ugly bit of name calling in the book, from Day One, something is wrong.

The retiring Senator from Indiana has done nothing to improve the situation. Telling is some of today's news reports that he missed the role of ultimate leader that a former Governor often enjoys. He is not alone there. Everyone in this country wants the final word with this President and treated him as though he cannot tie his own shoes, for one reason or another. Everyone and his uncle wants to get into politics, even media personas, plumbers, and empty headed, big mouthed hockey moms.

Resentment, power, egos, envy, and overt hate for any number of reasons, is what has driven the business of America for the past year. How that has played out has diminished us throughout the world, in spite of the fact that we have had, with this President, a tremendous opportunity to influence the world in a time of great need and to heal ourselves during very trying times at home.

When the opposition party cannot even bring themselves to attend a State Dinner for a foreign Head of State, something is wrong. When opposition to this President's proposed policies and solutions are met with lies, distortion, hypocrisy, and double crossing, without even trying to hide it, something is wrong. When both parties put their own individual egos over the glaring needs of the American people, this is what we end up with.

The only problem with this President is that he has been entirely too nice, too accomodating, and he has far too much integrity for his own good. Rather than "fix" the problem and "change" the tone, these characteristics are enabling because it just breeds more resentment and jealousy. Save this posture for foreign relations and treat your own at home with the iron fist they deserve and, seemingly, respect. A President and an Administration can get away with anything, from torture to wiretapping us to spending money we don't have and invading other countries on the basis of lies, if they set the right "tone".

It is too bad that the soon to be retired Senator from Indiana did not share his thoughts and feelings with his Congressional, especially Senatorial, colleagues where he may have been able to make a difference. His opinion is no different from those who depend on him and his colleagues, yet he had the opportunity and the responsibility to make the difference. His solution does not impress me. He does not impress me. He is part of the problem.


You just don't get it. The one thing Senator Bayh left out of his speech was the complicity of the media in today's partisan circus. So you blame this on President Obama (Obama's Washington) and quote Sarah Palin as if she had something important to say. Go ahead and dish the dirt that has clogged our politics for three decades. You are a big part of the problem.

Those of us who voted for President Obama still believe he can make a difference. Now, it's going to be that much harder with the absence of another non-idealogue who genuinely wants to get something done to benefit the average American like Senator Evan Bayh.

Bayh is a quitter. When the going gets tough Evans goes BayhBayh. His wife was raking in millions from big pharma, big insurance, big wall street. Birch Evans Bayh III is/was and always will be an insider pretending to be an outsider. His exit leaves no vacuum. His accomplishments are zero. No major legislation. There may be darker reasons for his hasty exit. An exit done is such a way as to deprive Democratic primary voters from selecting a candidate and leaving it in the hands of party insiders. This gaming of his exit puts the lie to his concern about voters and democracy.

Voters are definitely the culprits here in relecting the most bitter, most divisive back into office and then anticipating change. Sarah Palin has real gall with the "hopey-changey" comment when she was not only running on the same "changey" platform ('Elect me! I can bring change because I'm not from there.' Stupid, stupid, stupid. VPs never bring change unless their ticket mate is no longer able to make decisions themselves. Not to mention, she had to have notes printed on her hand to be able to remember them.) Congress is so entrenched now, so beholden to special interest groups, that they can never vote their conscience- it's owned by someone else. Someone else who, now because of the Supreme Courts recent decision, can and will place ads all over the airwaves distributing disinformation to uneducated voters who vote with emotion rather than knowledge. Our elected officials understand this perfectly and so use that emotion to their own advantage- and not that of the country. As spoken so eloquently in the movie 'The American President', "I was so busy trying to save my job that I forgot to DO my job."

Welcome to American politics.

The first half of his speech is an example of what is wrong with politicians. It's all about him, how good he is, how hard he's worked, how he can't possibly be blamed for anything. The second half doesn't make up for this deficiency. Those in Congress have no real idea of how their laws effect anything. They are too involved in being policitians, getting elected, presenting themselves in a good light, and getting elected again. They have no idea how their acts change little or nothing and most often make things worse. It's good that he's quitting. His words are nice, but really he's just giving up. Nobody in Congress can do what is needed. They simply don't have the conviction or courage that is needed.

Term Limits --- Make It Happen

George LeMieux of Florida, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Kit Bond of Missouri, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, George Voinovich of Ohio are all republican senators that are retiring, I noticed they were conveniently left out of your article.

How refreshing! Perhaps John McCain had it (partially) right when, stung by the Keating Five scandal, he tried to correct campaign financing so that newly-elected members would arrive at congress not entirely bought and paid for. The failing was not in the approach of Mccain-Feingold, but in its too-limited scope. A broader "no contributions except by individuals" approach might pass the Supremes as a policy respecting universal rights of individuals and banning any group, corporation, union, even Sierra club or SPEBSQSA. We need something in this vein to at least get "them" started right. But Bayh's character and upbringing in a political family may yet be enough to provide us a statesman. Anyone who thinks he's retiring is nuts.

Yes, the article makes some good points about inaction, gridlock and hyper partisanship in DC. There have been some errors and broken promises by the President and his staff. However, you neglect to note that the Republicans have been major contributors to that stalemate. Nay saying without offering constructive alternatives until the last few months, assertions contrary to fact, and yelling ill-founded extremist slogans have been the mark of many "leaders" of the Grand Old Party. Look up the meaning of the word "socialist" and then look at the facts.

"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."

The only kind of change people really want is the kind in their pockets. As long as a senator or representative is helping bring bacon back to the home state, they'll get re-elected. Unfortunately, this year, general concensus is everyone's bacon is of the turkey kind and "change" will continue to be the buzz word, but for congress and not just presidential candidates.

I keep hearing everyone blaming this abstract "Washington" for being the problem, but we the people are just as much to blame. We elect them and they represent us.

The electorate is finally getting smart. We went through way too many years assuming that we could trust the people we elected to do what we wanted. Not any more, we have grown disgusted with the swell headed, arrogant, self serving politicians who have become increasingly deaf to what "we the people" want.

While Senator Bayh may be right about the Democrat Party sliding too far to the left, the other side of the aisle is not co-operating for exactly that reason and it is the only choice available to them. Gridlock, Senator Bayh, is far preferable to the electorate than having our Representatives and Senators voting on bills that many have not even seen, much less had enough time to read.

Perhaps it might be wise for the voters of this country not to elect any more lawyers who are responsible for these 2,000+ page bills. The original Social Security bill, written in the 1930s was 30+ pages and while it may have grown somewhat over the years as it was amended, it was coherent enough to be read by the general public. Go to the Library Of Congress and look it up. Contrast it with the only health care bill posted with it's gobbledygook and minutia and article after article of legalese, it's ridiculous.

We are also finished with politicians who are perpetually re-inventing themselves in order to appear more acceptable to the public. Many of them are going to learn a lesson that we have come to accept......Fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice.....oh well, you get the idea.

Another 'Rat jumps from the Liberal ship...

President Teleprompter is proving to be the best thing to happen to the GOP since Jimmy "One & Done" Carter.

BTW, someone PLEASE inform Hussein that "Corpsman" is pronounced "coreman" not "corpse-man"...for a guy who supposedly graduated from Columbia & Harvard Law, he not only can't give give a speech without a teleprompter...he can't even read a speech WITH a teleprompter. ...It's no wonder Hussein signed an Executive Order on his FIRST DAY IN OFFICE sealing ALL his personal records, including his college transcripts, birth & medical records...WHAT IS THIS GUY HIDING?

Of course, if I couldn't read, I wouldn't want anyone to know how I received college & law school diplomas either! All I wanna know is WHO took his exams for him...'cause this clown couldn't pass "lunch!" LOL

Hussein is phony as a "3-dollar-bill"!

Okay, Democrats, who's gonna be next to bail?

"Liberalism is just Communism sold by the drink."

He's wisely positioned himself for a 2016 comeback for the Democratic Presidential nomination, against Russ Feingold and "others". Good for him.

If voters want real change, why don't they demand term limits for Congress? If two terms can work for the President, why can't it work Congressmen and Senators?

It's not so much about the Congressmens' dissatisfaction about the ineffectiveness of Washington, that's been going on for years. It's more about them cashing out early on those fat retirement packages. The smart ones are taking the money and running....that is, before the money has no value.

He was just ticked off that Lie-bermann and Graham and others get "all the attention" and he gets bubckusk. Good bye

"...the voters are the hypocrites, denouncing partisanship and gridlock and punishing such tactics by repeated reelection."
That just about sums it up.

How wont the people of the country be fake, "with out integrity" when in fact in exact it is congress who is exemplifies the U.S. to the world with absolute no integrity. Now, but just Demonic-cracy hhmm i meant democracy. Its sad "but true America will go down in history as an *suppressive* empire that ruled the world for shortest duration in history, for about 237 yrs which is pathetic for an empire."

Bayh's words are just as empty as his suit. If anything, this administration as well as the Democratic-led Congress have shown little backbone in pushing for a real liberal agenda and have bent over backwards trying to appease the minority party--the Republicans, by gutting healthcare of public funding for abortion access & the public option among other real reform efforts. And for what? ZERO Republican votes. Time well spent Democrats, there's going to be reactionary backlash come election time and they'll still be scratching their heads wondering what happened. GET A CLUE--PEOPLE VOTED OVERWHELMINGLY IN YOUR FAVOR TO GIVE YOU THE POLITICAL CAPITAL AND MANDATE TO MAKE REAL CHANGE. Republicans had NO problem passing their agendas during their tenure including tax-cuts for the wealthy...and they STILL have the gall to cry socialism when the President gives tax-cuts to the middle-class! As far as I'm concerned, Democrats need to dispense with the theatrics, roll up their sleeves, and get the job DONE. Don't wait around for Republicans to jump on-board when they won't and have never intended to and then point the finger at them. Remember the expression: when you point your finger at someone the other four are pointing right back at you.


LOL, you still think the POTUS is still a foreign born commie? It's hard to take conservatives seriously when they're obviously blatant racists such as yourself who dehumanize people who disagree with them. That's how the Holocaust and other genocides happened. Listen to yourself---you're nothing more than a cartoon. It stops being funny when you realize there are thousands perhaps millions of others just like yourself...ahhhh, America. Such a love/hate relationship with itself...

Bayh is a corporate shill and nothing more, something you apparently were disinterested in your biased reporting.

People don't like DC BECAUSE of people like the whining Bayh, not in spite of him.

You not only don't get the left, you don't get the right.

Tried sports reporting lately?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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