Hang Up the Empty Suit: Evan Bayh Retiring

Evan Bayh, empty suit.

Good riddance.  Obviously, it makes it more difficult for the Democrats to hold the seat, but Bayh’s extraordinary unctuousness and vapidity will not be missed.

He claims that the partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill helped pushed him out, but just think about that for a moment.  Bayh wants to work with Republicans; they tell him to put his head in whatever orifice he chooses; and his response is not to, God forbid, work with his fellow Democrats, but rather to make it easier for the GOP to take the seat.  That certainly is an excellent way to foster bipartisanship in the future.  Nice job, Evan.

We know what’s really going on here: Bayh got passed over for the VP slot for the last three Democratic nominees.  It finally dawned on him that undermining his party’s values wasn’t going to make him a particularly attractive candidate.

So then he just had to do the dreary job of being a Senator.  Boh-ring!  It is just so jejeune to actually work hard trying to enact legislation to help people, or make the country safer, or help save the planet, or anything else.  If you can’t run for national office, then why bother?

He has been in the Senate for 12 years, and what has he accomplished?  What does he stand for?  I can think of two things offhand: he worries that the Democrats aren’t fiscally responsible, and he wants to eliminate the estate tax.  That kind of hypocritical incoherence pretty much sums him up.

Three years ago, Michelle Cottle wrote an excellent profile of Bayh in The New Republic, which made it abundantly clear that the man really believes in nothing:

At our lunch, I try to press Bayh about his passion problem. Without missing a bite, he downplays the question, insisting, “What people want to know is what you care deeply about.” So I ask him what exactly that is. After making a joke about how not even closefamily is interested in the arcana of position papers, he explains,”I love my country, Michelle. We are a great nation. We can be greater still. But the thought that we may be letting it slip awaybothers the heck out of me. And the notion that we can leave our children a better world, I find to be uplifting and exciting.” (On the word “exciting,” his voice drops so low as to be almost inaudible.) “And, if I’m in a position to do something about that, well then, by God, I should. Because I think that’s the mostimportant thing that all of us can do with our lives. What can we doto help our kids, our communities, our country, and those who will one day follow us? For me, it’s about our country and it’s about my children. What can we do to create a better world for both?”

It is, in many respects, an eloquent response: patriotic, paternal,and heartfelt. So much so, in fact, that one could almost fail to notice that Bayh has smoothly, pleasantly, and oh so carefullydeclined to answer the question.


Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

16 thoughts on “Hang Up the Empty Suit: Evan Bayh Retiring”

  1. Just to twist the knife – because after all, lousy Democrat though Bayh is, a Republican will manage to be worse – he apparently stepped aside a week AFTER the filing deadline to compete for his seat.

  2. Sorry, but that was not a smooth or pleasant refusal to answer the question: it was a flagrant refusal. It screams for a follow-up question as to what specific legislation Congress should enact to make this a greater nation for our children. But Bayh's refusal does not necessarily show that he is a moron. He may have been smart enough to know that he would not be asked a follow-up question that would require him to say something of substance and risk displeasing anyone.

  3. Correction: apparently there are still a couple of days before the deadline. Makes all the difference, I'm sure.

  4. Remind me just why you think getting rid of the filibuster is such a swell idea? Mikulski is now rumored to be on the way out. I would have thought that a safe seat for Dems, but after Brown won Mass I am less sanguine.

  5. I've worked for greedy people. If you shove gold into their mouths until they are choking, they will scribble on a piece of paper "I want more."

    I know that Bayh's father was a liberal democrat, that did not stop him from taking millions in bribes. He's still alive and still pulling political strings.

    Why can't these rich white men just take the fortunes that their corrupt fathers accumulated and piss it away.

    I think we are going to hear of a federal investigation of Bayh in a very short time.

  6. Imitation liberal,

    Or we'll find out that Mr Senator Bayh has been getting a little something something on the side.

  7. Here's what I posted on Daniel Larison's blog (Eunomia, at the American Conservative):

    Bayh’s major job was done – he’s helped to blow Obama’s first two years, ensuring that no major reforms would pass, which was worth hundreds of billions of $ to major corporations (healthcare, pharmaceutical, and Wall St). One confirmation of this will be to note the astounding lack of courage Mr. I’m-through-with-politics will display. I predict that he will *not* do bold liberal actions in his last several months, once he’s freed from the constraints of reelection.

    By dropping out now, when the GOP is bound to have gains in the mid-term election, he maximized the likelihood of the GOP picking up another Senate seat, and we’ve seen what the GOP can do with a single Senate seat. H*ll, we’ve seen what the GOP can do with a few allegedly Democratic and independent seats.

    There’s really no need for him to stick around, and the game would probably not even be fun, since the GOP will ramp up their 100% obstructionism, probably exceeding the limits of what Corporate America wants, in their fanaticism and desire to f*ck Obama.

    So Bayh’s basically leaving at the top of his lying, backstabbing, two-faced game.

    In addition, see the Wikipedia article on his wife. She's basically a conduit for bribes. Somebody comments on another blog that Tauzin, head of PhRMA, is stepping down, and quipped that we now know the name of his successor at PhRMA.

  8. Sure, Bayh is a mediocrity, hopelessly compromised on health care reform by his wife's lucrative corporate directorships, and bereft of any meaningful accomplishments as a Senator. However, he did vote for the Stimulus bill and ultimately for the Senate version of HCR (albeit in a watered down form, thanks in part to him), and he voted with the Democrats to organize the Senate so that the Democrats control committees, etc. Giving his seat up to a Republican will be significantly worse for the Democrats (and the country) than if he had been re-elected; the Democrats can't afford this loss.

  9. Look at what you're all doing here. Bayh was the best thing the Dems could've hoped for in a state like Indiana. The Dems have been boasting about how they are the "big-tent party," and how the GOP is a bunch of wingnuts with no tolerance for moderates. But if this blog ran the DNC, it would be the same thing! The Dems (and the GOP) need moderates, and Bayh, someone who (1) voted for the stimulus, and (2) voted for healthcare, and (3) still managed to be up in the polls last week by double digits in a conservative state, is the perfect Democratic candidate for such a state. Jeez. You can't get far-left Senators in every freakin state. Look how the GOP won Massachusetts. It wasn't with a Jim Demint or an Orrin Hatch – it was a socially moderate, low-taxes Republican. They learned their lesson. It appears this blog fails to see the benefit in having that sort of party. A party full of Obamas, Reids, and Pelosis won't go very far.

  10. MJP and DRF —

    You are right, and certainly using a phrase like "good riddance" implies that I'm glad Bayh is retiring. I'm not, for the reasons that you state, so that was a mistake on my part.

    But we still should acknowledge that the guy is an empty suit. Voting for the stimulus and health care reform wasn't just about being a good Democrat — it was (and is) about being a SMART one, because without accomplishments and without the benefits that the stimulus brings it would be even worse for the Democratic majority. The fact of the matter is that Bayh is abandoning ship when we need the guy because he is more interested in preening and running for President than actually helping people and making his country stronger.

    Call me cynical, but making a big deal out of estate tax repeal doesn't seem to me to be very high on Hoosier concerns. It is, however, very high on the concerns of the Beltway elite, who would start a whispering campaign for Bayh's Presidential run and helping him raise money. I respect a genuine deficit hawk position, although I don't agree with it. But Bayh isn't, and never was, a deficit hawk: he is a deficit peacock, making noise about it when it comes to cutting aid to low-income kids, and then pushing absurdities like estate tax repeal. Surely one can appeal to a more conservative constituency without ideologically undermining your party and without engaging in idiocies like this. Hoosiers may be conservative, but they aren't Movement Conservatives.

    But as I said, your points are well taken.

  11. What I find amazing, is how the wealthy get the less fortunate folks to vote against their best interests.

    Thousands of people out protesting to defend the rights of the trillion dollar healthcare corporate empires??? How does that happen?

  12. What I find amazing, is how the idiots keep voting for clowns of either Party that have no interest in either the people of the United States, or the United States itself.

    In less than one generation, the United States has gone from being the World's largest lending nation to being the world's biggest borrower; here we are today standing with a beggar's bowl mooching China's spare change.

    The geniuses in Washington are puzzled over the high unemployment rate. What level of intelligence does it take to realize that when all of the manufacturing jobs have been shipped out of the Country, unemployment will run rife?

    To top it all off like a cherry on a sundae, we have a buffoon in the White House who is left speechless when his teleprompter breaks down.

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