Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bye-Bye Bayh


On President's Day, Senator Evan Bayh had a press conference to announce that he would not seek a third term in the United States Senate. After a successful two-term governorship in the 1990s and an indistinguished two terms in Congress, he finally decided to move on. I'm not surprised, actually. He probably expected to be President or Vice President by now. Things didn't work out for him, though.

After George Magazine had a feature article on him in the mid-1990s, portraying him as the candidate to watch, he really hasn't amounted to much. Part of the problem is that he lacks sufficient charisma, though I know a few ladies who find him quite attractive and would base their vote on that criteria alone. The bigger problem for him is that he is a centrist Democrat who is part of the Democratic Leadership Council, which is the corporate wing of the party. This meant voting for Bush's disasterous policies (the war in Iraq, the tax cuts, and the passage of the un-Constitutional USA PATRIOT Act).

When I interned for Vice President Gore, I was a big advocate for Gore selecting Senator Bayh as a running mate. I believed then and still believe to this day that had Gore done that, he would have become president (possibly by winning Bayh's home state of Indiana or even blue collar West Virginia). I was a big fan of Bayh back in the day...all based on that George Magazine article. I thought his personal values (a conservative family man) would have been an asset for Gore looking to distance himself from Clinton, but Gore just had to go with Lieberman for history's sake.

As an intern, I saw Senator Bayh up close on the night of the State of the Union in 2000. He was waiting with many other Senators the special dinner that was held in the room next to the Vice President's Office of Legislative Affairs in the U.S. Capitol building. I stood by the door, waiting for Vice President Gore's arrival. That's when I saw Senator Bayh approach and I was thinking of something to say to him when he turned to Senator Dianne Feinstein and asked where he needed to stand or what he needed to do next. I thought that was strange. He seemed a bit clueless, like he didn't quite belong in the Senate. From what I've read in Gore biographies, Gore didn't feel comfortable in the Senate either. It tends to be a "clubby atmosphere" tailor made for politicos like Ted Kennedy, Jesse Helms, Robert Byrd, and Strom Thurmond. Its probably difficult for a Governor to adjust to being a Senator, because he once managed a state government and now is only one of a hundred individuals.

Anyhow, I saw Evan Bayh as a future Democratic president. In fact, in the BYU Washington Seminar souvenir memory book that I had put together, I had predicted that Bayh would be president after Gore's eight years in office. That means he would have been our president this past year. See how times have changed...all because of one man? There's no way Bayh had a shot at the presidency after the disasterous reign of Bush...because Bayh had supported some of Bush's initiatives. He lost my support and enthusiasm when he voted for the USA PATRIOT Act.

But more than that, Bayh lost my support after his legislative aide gave me the runaround on a job opportunity in 2000. Back in June 2000, I had decided to return to Atlanta right after Nathan's wedding in Williamsport PA, because I failed to land a job and my money was running low. I remember thinking that I would only stay in D.C. if I got a job offer from Vice President Gore or Senator Bayh. To me, those were highly unlikely outcomes at that point, so I pretty much counted on leaving D.C. after the June 24th wedding weekend.

When I returned to D.C. after the wedding, I was stunned when I had a message on my answering machine from a legislative aide in Senator Bayh's office with two positions available: receptionist and correspondence clerk (I wanted the correspondence clerk job). So, I called and had an interview over the phone. The lady said she would get back to me a couple weeks later. A couple weeks later, I called to get a decision, but got the runaround. It went like this for several days. Then I decided to pay a visit in person and I wouldn't leave the office until I was told by the person who interviewed me what her decision was (I pretty much guessed that I wasn't hired, but I wanted confirmation so I could move on). When she finally agreed to meet with me, she seemed surprised to see me. I didn't get the job, but a part of me thinks that I might have, had the interview been face to face instead of over the phone.

What I learned about that episode is how shitty people can be about getting back to you with bad news. I was completely okay with not getting hired if they told me upfront instead of giving me a runaround for a few days (avoiding my calls, not returning calls, not sending a rejection letter). After all, I had delayed my departure from D.C. because I was awaiting word on the job...and the people had been hired already when I went to the office to get an answer. This lady giving me the runaround cost me an entire month and when I finally left D.C. on July 24th, I only had $50 to my name...and that was $50 a church member gave to me for gas and food on the drive back to Atlanta. My three month job search in D.C. ended in failure, but it only took one week for me to find a job in Atlanta.

Now, this Legislative Aide might be looking for a new job when Senator Bayh's term ends in January. If karmic retribution is reality, maybe she'll experience some of the same runaround she gave to other people. Or maybe she learned from the experience and was more diligent about letting people know that they didn't get the job. But it was because of her that my interest in Bayh as a politician waned. I laughed when I had read in 2006 that he was folding up his presidential exploratory committee due to lack of support that he found for his campaign. Now, I take his announcement of not seeking another term as another reason to laugh. I'm sure he's a good guy and I believe that he would have been Hillary Clinton's Vice Presidential choice...but it is time to move on. I wish for him a great new career in another field.

As for those who are in favour of term limits on Congress, this is an example of why I believe they are unnecessary. True, some stay for decades...but if the people at home love their Senator or member of Congress, who are non-constituents to say otherwise? Many, however, do decide to not seek reelection after a few terms and there is nothing wrong about that. We often see this around the end of a president's term or when the balance of power shifts from one party to another. If people are sensing that the Republicans will retake control of Congress in this year's mid-terms, they probably don't want to be around for that. Its far better to not seek reelection than to resign mid-term because you just don't feel like completing the term you've been elected for. Who knows? Maybe Bayh will find his passion in a new field. In an alternate universe, I'd love to experience being a political aide in a Gore-Bayh Administration. Too bad neither of those men hired me after my internship.

In honour of Senator Evan Bayh, NSTINK has a song for him: "Bye Bye Bye":


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