Sunday, February 21, 2010

February 21, 2010

      Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh, who's leaving the U.S. Senate, has an excellent column in the New York Times today explaining why.  A lot of his reasons--partisanship, reckless use of the filibuster and so on--have been mentioned before in this space, but it's nice to hear them from someone who's actually been in the club.       But perhaps simple lack of civility is at the heart of it.  Bayh's father Birch, also an Indiana Democrat, was in the Senate from 1963 to 1981.  "One incident," Evan Bayh writes, "vividly demonstrates how times have changed.  In 1968, when my father was running for reelection, Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, approached him on the Senate floor, put his arm around my dad's shoulder, and asked what he could do to help. That," Bayh writes, "is unimaginable today."      That's true and very sad.  I covered the Senate some back then, and they really did like each other.  Ted Kennedy, as liberal a liberal as there was, had conservative Republican friends.  "Members of Congress from both parties, along with their families, would routinely visit our home for dinner or the holidays. This...hardly ever happens today, and we are the poorer for it."  Got that right, Senator.      Bayh has some suggestions for making the Senate a better place too.  A monthly lunch of all senators, both parties, where they could discuss an issue. Doing something about campaign costs, too.  In his dad's time, he writes, the rule was legislate for four years, campaign for two.  Now you have to campaign all the time.      Bayh's solution is to leave and I wish him well.  But the Senate needs to get serious about self-improvement.  Do something, folks. Please.  
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