Saturday, March 27, 2010

What Happens When Congress Fails to Do Its Job?

In 2008 Barack Obama almost asked Evan Bayh to be his running mate. It was "a coin toss," recalls David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. Bayh lost that toss, but the fact that he was a finalist—much as he'd been for John Kerry four years earlier—was proof that he was doing something right in his day job as junior senator from Indiana. His future seemed bright.

Last month he announced his retirement.

There was no scandal. Bayh wasn't plagued by poor fundraising or low poll numbers. Nor is fatigue a likely explanation: at 54, Bayh is fairly young, at least when you're grading on the curve that is the United States Senate.

What drove Bayh from office, rather, was that he'd grown to hate his job. Congress, he wrote in a New York Times op-ed, is "stuck in an endless cycle of recrimination and revenge. The minority seeks to frustrate the majority, and when the majority is displaced it returns the favor. Power is constantly sought through the use of means which render its effective use, once acquired, impossible."

The situation had grown so grim, Bayh said, that continued service was no longer of obvious use. Americans were left with a bizarre spectacle: a member of the most elite legislative body in the most powerful country in the world was resigning because the dysfunctions of his institution made him feel ineffectual. "I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way," Bayh explained, "creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning, or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor."

This is what it's come to, then: our senators envy the influence and sway held by university presidents.
Read the rest here.


Stephen said...

When the liberal agenda is stymied by the constitution, cries of "gov't doesn't work" ring out from the mainstream media and babies like Bayh. Notice how you didn't hear this cry when Democrats where in the minority. Then you read and heard about the nobility of being in the "patriotic opposition".

Thank God for James Madison, who is the real architect of government not working. Government is the enemy of liberty, plain and simple, a necessary evil to anarchy, and never an undiluted good.

Pity the Democrats didn't fight a little harder to defend civil liberties when they were in the minority. Now that they are in power, they'll be happy to run roughshod over their political opponents no less than others.

To paraphrase Sun Tsu, be careful about obtaining power which you would not want in the hands of your foe.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I think you are suffering from selective memory. I recall quite clearly the Republicans howling with rage when Democrats obstructed and filibustered GOP initiatives especially court appointments during Bush's tenure as president. I also recall threats to end the filibuster if Democrats did not stop their obstructionism.

A couple of points worth noting.

Obama and the Democrats are not running rough shod over anyone. They ran on a platform that clearly stated their intention to establish a program of national universal health insurance. This was not some secret. Obama mentioned it in almost every campaign speech he delivered. They won the election with a super-majority in both houses of Congress. Given these facts it seems a bit disingenuous to cry that they are not playing fair. They are doing what they promised they would do. And it is silly to complain that they outmanouvered the GOP in a chess match pitting the GOP's legendary skills at obstructionism against the Democrat's ability to actually govern with their large majority.

There was nothing unfair here.
Elections have consequences. We need to remember that.


John (Ad Orientem) said...

I do however concur with your assessment about civil liberties. Neither party has done well there.

Stephen said...

True, the GOP howled with rage, but not the media. You didn't see covers of Time magazine moaning about "Government not working." My main points are simply 1.) it is only when the liberal agenda is obstructed that you hear cries about government not working, and 2) Government working in the modern sense is a great risk to our liberties no matter who is in power, and so we should actually hope and be grateful for the gridlock and clunkiness which Madison et al intended.

Oh, and did you hear about the IRS getting a huge, huge increase in its budget for improved collections in the healthcare bill? This includes more "field agents" with search and asset seizure powers. Guess how important your civil liberties will be with that crowd.