In an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric for this week's episode of her @katiecouric webshow, outgoing Indiana Senator and prominent Democrat Evan Bayh discussed congressional dysfunction and what he perceives as the Obama administration's overly ambitious agenda, suggesting that White House advisers had "overreached their mandate a little bit." (Watch at left)
Bayh, who appeared on the webshow with Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, said that while the White House was "making the best of" a "very tough hand," a strong sense of idealism among Obama's advisers had perhaps outweighed a more politically savvy approach to governing.
"I think he was dealt a very tough hand, Katie," Bayh said of President Obama. "He's making the best of it-- particularly on the economy. The one concern I would have is that I think... many of his advisers are very idealistic people. And there were some things that they wanted to do that have been 50 or 60 years in the waiting. That's a good thing. But maybe ... rather than playing the hand of the cards they were dealt, they wanted to play the hand of cards they wished they'd been dealt."
Bayh also contributed to the widespread pessimism about the Democrats' prospects in the November elections. When asked if the midterms were likely to be "a bloodbath for the Democrats," Bayh said, "yes, unfortunately. And I have no joy in my heart in telling you. I think it's gonna be a very tough election night for the Democrats in both the House, the Senate, Governorships, and so forth."
Both senators discussed the increasingly contentious nature of contemporary congressional debate and the affects of partisan gridlock on getting things done in the Senate.
"You've got a lot of really good people trapped in a dysfunctional system," Bayh said. "I think there's blame to go around on all sides. And, you know, pointing fingers I don't think does a whole lot of good... But any time [a party is] reduced to only 40 members, you're gonna be fairly ideologically cohesive. There are not gonna be too many outliers. And so, that's gonna mean that you're gonna stick together a little bit more. Probably be fewer willing to compromise."
Bayh also pointed to special interests as a driving force behind senators' refusal to work together. "Behind the scenes very potently is campaign financing," he said. "The millions and millions of dollars needed to run these campaigns these days, a lot of that money is ideologically motivated. They've got a point of view. And they punish any deviancy from party orthodoxy."
Bayh, who announced earlier this year that he would not be running for re-election as Indiana's junior senator, partially attributed his decision to the frustration of this partisan gridlock.
"I'm just more independent and moderate than the institution is constructed today," he said. "It tends to reward people who are more partisan, more ideological, and not quite as pragmatic. So I thought I could make a bigger contribution in the private sector, doing something else."
Bond said that while he "share[s] the same concerns that Evan does about how things work in Washington," his own decision not to run was less ideologically oriented. "I served Missouri for 40 years," he said. "I was the youngest governor in Missouri history...I don't aspire to be the oldest senator."
Watch the full interview below to hear more from Bayh and Bond on the upcoming elections, the state of the Senate, and the reasons driving their decisions not to run for re-election: