Evan Bayh, the junior senator from Illinois who abruptly announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t be running for reelection, penned a wondrous self-justifying Op-ed in Sunday’s Times.
Now, of course, it must be no fun to be in the Senate right now, but why is this guy having even less fun than everyone else?
Predictably, “partisanship,” for which Bayh has a couple good solutions: reform the filibuster and campaign finance. But his first proposal?
It shouldn’t take a constitutional crisis or an attack on the nation to create honest dialogue in the Senate. Let’s start with a simple proposal: why not have a monthly lunch of all 100 senators? Every week, the parties already meet for a caucus lunch. Democrats gather in one room, Republicans in another, and no bipartisan interaction takes place. With a monthly lunch of all senators, we could pick a topic and have each side make a brief presentation followed by questions and answers…
Yes. Lunch. What?
Bayh wants everyone to have lunch together and be friends because, like some high school junior wondering what happened to the team spirit his class displayed so happily as incoming freshman, he remembers how friendly it used to be, when his father Birch Bayh was a Senator. “While romanticizing the Senate of yore would be a mistake, it was certainly better in my father’s time,” is a hilarious sentence, as so are the sentences that follow:
One incident from his career vividly demonstrates how times have changed. In 1968, when my father was running for re-election, 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. This is unimaginable today.
When I was a boy, members of Congress from both parties, along with their families, would routinely visit our home for dinner or the holidays. This type of social interaction hardly ever happens today and we are the poorer for it…
Any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators. More interaction in a non-adversarial atmosphere would help.
In conclusion, Evan Bayh is quitting the Senate because the old boy club isn’t the smoke-filled bastion of statesmanship and patriotism he fantasized it would be, when he was a widdle boy.