DLC’s Bruce Reed: Bayh Retirement ‘Indictment of Both Sides’

By Matt Loffman

Feb 16, 2010 1:56pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Sen. Evan Bayh's bombshell decision to opt out of another run for the Senate could hardly have landed with a louder bang in Washington, with Bayh citing the dysfunction of Congress in his decision to leave a race most observers believe he would have won. It also calls into question the role of congressional moderates in a politically polarized environment. Bayh, D-Ind., decried the disappearance of the once-powerful center in the Senate in his decision to leave after two terms. On ABC’s "Top Line" today, Bruce Reed, CEO of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, which Bayh chaired for four years last decade, told us that both Democrats and Republicans share some blame for the state of play. "I think all retirements are more personal than political, but what is so affecting about this one is that it does speak to something that people across the spectrum feel," Reed told us. "Many feel, in Washington, that Congress is broken, that the old partisan ruts get in the way of getting anything done. And so I think, in that sense, it’s an indictment of both sides." Bayh said publicly what many members of Congress believe privately, Reed said. "I think he said what many politicians are afraid to say, which is that the place isn’t working, and both sides have some responsibility in that," he said. "I think he was particularly disturbed that on some of the issues that he cares most about, like deficit reduction, a number of Republicans said that they would take part in a bipartisan effort to curb the long-term debt, and then cynically changed their mind when the rubber hit the road." We also posed the "Top Line" question of the day to Reed: If you're frustrated with Congress — as Bayh says he is — is it better to stay and try to change it from the inside, or to go and try to effect change in another matter? The question got some interesting responses — including one from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas (@JohnCornyn): "prtsn grdlck whn Ds had 60 votes? Nope Instead mod Ds see reckoning in 2010 4 votiing yes on unpopular policies." Asked why Bayh would leave Congress, given his sentiments, Reed said: "He'll come back and do something else I suspect. If your heart’s not in it, if you feel that your talents are better used elsewhere, then there’s no point. And the country certainly doesn’t want politicians in Congress who don’t want to be there." Do centrists still have a role? "Eventually in our system the American people get what they want, and they are screaming for more Evan Bayhs, not less,” Reed said. “So the country will insist on this; it’s just a question of whether Washington recognizes it in time." And how bad is the political climate? "It’s a very toxic anti-incumbent atmosphere out there. You’d have to go back to Macbeth’s day to find one quite so rough," he said. Watch the full interview with Bruce Reed HERE. We also checked in with GOP strategist Kevin Madden, on the president’s quest for bipartisanship — plus Mitt Romney’s run-in with a fellow passenger on a flight yesterday. Watch the “Top Line” segment with Kevin Madden HERE.

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