Archive for January, 2010

bayh says move to the middle

January 25, 2010
Strange how a single loss can mean so much in terms of the history and direction of this country.   There’s a message in there that’s got to be worth listening to.  Is there any louder wake-up call than the loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat to a Republican?  Not spending time to figure out where our footing is firmest on grounds that are ever shifting if not sinking is a recipe for disaster. . . . . But, let’s not panic. Don’t need to call Winston Wolf just yet, okay.  This is January 1994, not January 1995.  If it was January 1995, then maybe you call the problem solver.  Maybe not.  Above all, Obama needs to be the cool cucumber that he seems to be, because that’s who the nation needs: a thoughtful, deliberate, and activist president (within reason, of course).

Bayh’s Prognosis: Democrats Must Move to the Middle, By Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal (January 25, 2010)

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, the very embodiment of calm understatement, seems an unlikely character to play the role of scold. But in recent weeks—particularly after last week’s Massachusetts mauling—he has been scolding his Democratic Party, and sternly.

His message: Democrats and their president need to move decisively to the political center and root themselves there by showing they are serious about controlling spending and the deficit, which angry mainstream voters see as the real sign that Washington is out of touch.

Thus, while many Democrats complain the Obama administration’s problems arise because it hasn’t been aggressive enough in pursuing a liberal agenda, Mr. Bayh arises to make the opposite case.

President Barack Obama, Mr. Bayh said in an interview, needs to “step it up” in his State of the Union address Wednesday and get tougher with Congress. Here’s his message to the White House: “My strong advice is for you to draw a line in the sand on spending in the State of the Union, and to have the president pledge to veto spending bills that exceed the limits he puts out.”

Many in his party, Mr. Bayh said, are “tone deaf” about the real message voters are sending, which is that Democrats have “overreached rather than looking for consensus with moderates and independents.” He added: “It is amazing that some people here in Congress still don’t get it.…For those people it may take a political catastrophe of biblical proportions before they get it. I don’t think we’ll get to that. But we might.”

These are stern words from a man known more for rounding the edges of a debate than sharpening them. But they come from someone who knows a thing or two about Democrats wandering into political minefields.

Mr. Bayh saw it happen in his own family. His father, Birch Bayh, was a respected veteran senator from Indiana in his own right when the conservative Reagan Revolution snuck up in 1980 and washed him and a Democratic Senate majority out to sea.

The son subsequently followed his father into politics and became governor of Indiana at the age of 32. From that seat, he watched as Democrats in Washington were again hit by a wave from the right in 1994 and lost control of both houses of Congress.

“Every 14 or 16 years we seem to have to relearn this lesson,” Mr. Bayh said. “I do have a sense of deja vu, and the movie doesn’t have a happy ending.” But, he added, “there is an alternative ending we have an opportunity to write.”
He has a personal stake in the ending, for he is up for re-election this year. He has been considered among the safest of Democrats, having won his seat last time with 62% of the vote. He has polled well ahead of any known Republican foes and has a daunting $12.7 million campaign war chest.

Still, the climate has turned so rapidly that some national Republicans are urging conservative Rep. Mike Pence, the House’s third-ranking member and a vocal leader of the opposition to Democrats’ health-care overhaul efforts, to challenge Mr. Bayh. It’s unclear whether he will; Indiana’s filing deadline is still a few weeks away. Mr. Bayh said his poll numbers suggest he has a strong lead against any Republican foe.

In any case, Mr. Bayh has been sounding political alarm bells for weeks now over rising anger in the heartland. Part of voters’ anger, he said, is directed “at all large institutions that they think have an unfair advantage. Part of it is a feeling that the rules of the game have been rigged to favor the big guys over ordinary people.”

But Mr. Bayh bored in on this: “Part of it is anger at fiscal irresponsibility in Washington. People are having to make hard choices.…They don’t see Washington joining in that.”

Thus, Mr. Bayh was one of only three Democrats to vote against a massive, catch-all, end-of-year spending bill his party’s leaders steered through Congress in December. He then asked Mr. Obama to veto it. In the aftermath of the vote, he put out a statement saying bluntly: “Washington is totally out of touch with mainstream America.” Remember, that was well before Democrats lost that Massachusetts Senate seat.

Now, Mr. Bayh wants Congress to pass a jobs bill without “the usual grab bag” of spending items, but with tax cuts for small businesses that create jobs.

He isn’t sure bashing banks will bring real economic improvement to average Americans, and he staunchly opposes denying Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a second term. He said he prefers “positive populism” in the form of, for example, more aggressive moves to create jobs and lower college costs. Above all, he wants that presidential line in the sand on spending and deficits.

“The only way Democrats can govern in this country is by making common cause with moderates and independents,” he said. “It may be too late to regain them on health care. It’s not too late to regain them on spending.” To a president being pulled by some toward the left, and by others toward easy populism, Evan Bayh makes the case for driving a stake firmly in the political center instead.


btw . . .

January 18, 2010

BTW: here’s a  pic of the President holding up a hoodie from the school that I attended back in the day.  Local youths and my fellow alum are loving it.  Small world . . . .