If not the biggest surprise in fact, certainly the Evan Bayh retirement announcement will likely go down as the biggest surprise in timing. Bayh announced his retirement with just four days remaining until the the filing deadline for the primary. As an aside, if you’d like to know how things go if no one files, see Steve’s post here.
In his statement, Senator Bayh pointed to the level of partisanship in Congress as the reason he would not seek another term:
After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned. For some time, I have had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is too much partisanship and not enough progress — too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous challenge, the peoples’ business is not being done.
It would seem logical that Bayh is blaming Republicans for partisanship. That’s what all the left pundits, well, those who haven’t eviscerated him for giving them only 4 days, will say. But, consider some seemingly random bits of information.
A bit later in Bay’s statement, he specifically called out examples of partisanship:
Just last week, a major piece of legislation to create jobs — the public’s top priority — fell apart amid complaints from both the left and right.
By accounts from all political persuasions, it was Harry Reid who pulled this bill.
Also from his statement:
Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation: our exploding deficits and debt. The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted “no” for short-term political reasons.
Some may say that the second statement is pointed at Republicans. Those “somes” however, would be missing the fact that there were just as many Democrats as Republicans who voted against this commission, 23 of each to be exact. As with so many other issues during Obama’s first year, the Democrats had more than enough votes to pass the legislation but couldn’t get the job done. Perhaps more interesting, President Obama himself who now talks constantly about the need to cut the deficit, didn’t endorse this commission until the day before the vote.
As much as the two items in Bayh’s statement make me wonder what he is thinking, there are other items, acts of his during the past few days, that raise far more questions for me.
First, according to a couple of sources, Bayh told his staff of his decision last Friday. All accounts have Bayh informing President Obama of his decision early Monday morning. According to numerous reports, Bayh did not tell the Majority Leader, Harry Reid, until late Monday morning after the news had been leaked to the press.
Why would Bayh not tell President Obama about his decision until Monday morning? If he thought Obama had the right policies and just hadn’t been able to explain the situation to the American people, would Bayh have at least gotten his counsel before he made his decision.
Perhaps even more puzzling is why Bayh would wait until after news had leaked to inform Harry Reid. I would think that Reid would have a bunch of questions for Bayh in an attempt to figure out what Bayh’s announcment might mean on strategy for legislation that Reid may choose to pursue this year.
The second issue is the timing of Bayh’s announcement. Bayh announced with so few days left prior to the primary that one of two things are happening. Either, he or the State’s Democrat leaders have a hand picked person waiting with the prerequisite number of signatures to get on the ballot or, this process will bypass the the primaries and leave the decision of who will run to the Democrat leadership of the state. In either event, it would appear that Bayh has orchestrated this to keep the far left organizations from having much influence on the choice of the candidate.
On the surface, it may appear that Bayh is pointing to Republican partisanship as the reason he is leaving the Senate, However, after looking at his statements, and examining his acts, I’m not so sure. While there are likely some Republicans that Bayh may point to, it seems more likely that Bayh’s comments are pointed to the extreme left of his own party.
It is the extreme left of his party that shut Republicans out of the stimulus bill. It was the extreme left of his party that shut the Republicans out of health care reform. The policies of the extreme left, led by Obama, Reid and Pelosi, have left us buried in debt with only the benevolence of the Chinese keeping us from bankruptcy. Finally, it is the extremely partisan politics and policies of President Obama, representing the far left, that has turned vast numbers of Americans against the Democrats and may have earned Bayh a defeat even had he decided to stay.
If I were to quote Evan Bayh’s thoughts, they would be those of the immortal Pogo:
We have met the enemy and the enemy is us
Update 8:29 – If you think my theory was cracked, take a look at this little out take from CNN’s report on Bayh’s retirement:
“He hates the Senate, hates the left bloggers,” a friend and longtime adviser to Bayh said. “They are getting their wish, pure Democrats in the minority.”
OK, admittedly, getting support for my theories from CNN may not exactly elevate my argument but you get your friends where you get your friends!