Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Political Ethics in an Era Gone Bayh

Evan Bayh is retiring from the U.S. Senate. Good riddance, some say. That's probably premature. It's our guess you'll be seeing his name increasingly linked to that of future presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls.

Possibly as early as 2012. Two scenarios are likely. One, Bayh may be positioning himself to run against Obama, assuming the president even tries for a second term. The second is he's angling to replace Vice-President Joe Biden, who hungers after the cabinet post held by Hillary Clinton.

Sad to say, but running for president or vice-president has become a full-time job that requires years, not months. As Half-Term Governor Sarah Palin could tell you, political pollsters and advisers these days counsel ambitious politicians that it's better to be running for office than holding one.

Especially if Bayh wants to make up to the more liberal wing of his party, he needs to unshackle himself from the more conservative elements of the Indiana electorate and start edging to the left. Without that, even Obama couldn't convince a convention to substitute Bayh as his vice-president.

All of this provides us with a thin excuse to share a true-life anecdote with, perhaps, minimal relevancy. Or maybe not so irrelevant.

Many, many years ago when we were very young and frisky we happened to be visiting relatives in northern Indiana, including an uncle. We'll call him "Jim." In those years, Uncle Jim was a very big power in both the national and state Republican Party. It was no small source of embarrassment to him that his own congressional district happened to be held by a liberal Democrat, Birch Bayh, the father of Evan Bayh.

Uncle Jim had just returned from one of his frequent trips to Washington. There, so he said, he and party operatchiks were plotting how to beat Congressman Bayh in the coming election.

"I heard two rumors while I was in D.C.," he boomed in that distinctive baritone voice of his. "One of 'em is that Birch Bayh is sleeping with every congressman's wife in Washington. The other is that he's sleeping with every congressman."

Uncle Jim's deep chuckle shook the windows.

"I like 'em both," he added. "But I gotta pick which rumor to spread. It just wouldn't be ethical to spread inconsistent falsehoods at the same time."

My, how times have changed.

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