February 21st, 2010
04:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Bayh: Gridlock caused by 'testosterone poisoning,' tribalism

Washington (CNN) – Disenchanted Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh on Sunday blamed "tribal" politics for the gridlock that is paralyzing Capitol Hill.

"Our politics in Congress has become tribal in some ways. We have the tribe of the Democrats and tribe of the Republicans," Bayh said, appearing on CNN's State of the Union with Democrat Jon Corzine, a former New Jersey governor and senator, and Republican Susan Molinari, a former House member from New York.
In discussing partisanship, Molinari said that "women have a tendency to band together a little bit more than the men."

Bayh interjected: "It's testosterone poisoning; it's not our fault."

"You said it. I didn't," Molinari joked in response.

Bayh, who stunned Democrats last week when he announced he will not seek re-election in November, spoke about why he believes Congress can't get much done.

"Well, the culture really has changed," Bayh told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
"We have a lot of wonderful people, well-meaning people, but they're trapped in a system that's dysfunctional," said Bayh, whose father also served in the Senate.

The Indiana Democrat faulted the culture of Congress and political fundraising. "Back in my father's day, there was a lot more interaction. You had friendships across the aisle regardless of partisanship, regardless of ideology," said Bayh.

Corzine was even more blunt in his analysis.

"Winning has become the objective more than problem solving or the common good," the New Jersey Democrat told Crowley. "And I think it infects both sides. I don't think it's one side or the other. And so everything is focused on the election outcomes and people have lost track that sometimes good people do things that may not be as politically attractive."

For her part, Molinari was less critical of Capitol Hill.

"I still think Washington is a pretty good place with some terrific people working here," she said.

Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN

Filed under: Congress • Evan Bayh • Extra • Jon Corzine • Popular Posts • State of the Union
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Robert

    Could the President's supposed timidity be misinterpreted by the Republican opposition as weakness? I think the President is taking the high road asking adults to act like adults in difficult times keeping in mind the greater good. The party of "No" will pay dearly for naysaying in 2010.

    February 21, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. Betty in Arizona

    Puts true meaning to the "good ole boys club doesn't it. Must have hurt to admit it.
    This Congress needs to unlock itself and finally realize they are employed by America.

    February 21, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Tim

    So, the system needs fixing, and you quit? How patriotic!

    February 21, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. Biased

    It is not "just Washington" but this whole new culture of instant media and the internet and 24hour news cable where we no longer are satisfied with just hearing the odd time what Congress has been doing but we now have those who live only for politics at any expense. For the past 8 years of the Bush admin. some in the media made sure they destroyed him as much as possible calling war criminal and every other name they could think of and still do. Now for this past 2+ years between campaigning and his first year, we have those same media people catapulting him into office and making sure Obama's coverage is nothing but positive and those who are critical are demeaned as racists or radicals. Unfortunately those elected just display what the present mood is in the country – divided, one side waiting to destroy the other and many of the media picking sides and too often giving us way too many blow by blow descriptions of their own opinions rather than the actual facts. Maybe the media can for once acknowledge that they had a big hand in creating this culture of one side against the other. My prime example is seeing the major media fall over trying to have on or quote Grayson when he appeared on CNN and called republicans knuckle dragging neandrethals and he was touted all over the channels and blogs as a big liberal hero. If this is the culture the media wants of each party going for the opposing jugular, then that is what we will get and those major players in Congress will fall in line in order to get air coverage.

    February 21, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. Eve

    Congress is dysfunctional (and conventions like the CPAC this week do not help change the atmosphere). My embarrassment of Congress began years ago when it changed French Fries to Freedom Fries and it has just grown since that day. It still makes me cringe when I think of it. All I keep thinking is 'grow up!' We need to abolish Congress and start with new elections for every seat. Only those with 2 or less terms may re-apply.

    February 21, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  6. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    Rep. Mack (R) was in Florida (must have taken a weekend away from California) to justify the republican opposition to the jobs bill, when FL's 14th district has an unemployment rate at record levels. He did take credit for the funds to widen I-75 and getting funding.

    February 21, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Melissa

    I agree with Senator Bayh that the partisanship has poisoned Washington and state politics. But Senator Crowley is the one who said it best "winning has become the objective more than problem solving or the common good." God forbid any of you grow a spine and lead. All of you shame the memory and legacy of Ted Kennedy by never looking beyond the term. God help this country, because if we continue at this rate we are doomed to fail. Washington is a horrible place full of grasping lobbyists and weak politicians. No one seems to care about what is best for the country. They seem to only care about what appeals to their radical base. It is time that all of the districts at all levels are re-drawn by an independent commission that truly reflects the populations and not the will of the party. For the House the district lines should follow county lines. For the senate they should follow population. No more sate districts. That's what created the tribalism and the short sightedness. Grow a spine and lead.

    February 21, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    "...in a system that's dysfunctional," said Bayh,.. Well, Sen. Bayh systems are made by and continued by people. Thus, they can also be changed by people. If you're not part of the solution, you may very well be part of the problem. Quitter.

    February 21, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. Mike in MN

    Bayh is partly right. I think the two tribes are better described as small government fiscal conservatives vs big government, big spend liberal/progressives.
    There is actually bipartisan agreement beteween fiscal conservative Blue Dogs and Republicans on cap and trade and health care reform while the liberal/progressive Democrats stand alone.
    This is why I believe our nation is better off when states retain a lot of power to selt govern. Let the federal government take care of national defense and security and infrastructure. But leave the individual states to be the top dogs on the rest. Our founding fathers believed the people would be more free if they could self govern at the local level. If liberal/progressive states like New York and California want a big government, tax and spend nanny state, let them. And if other states prefer low tax small government, let them. People would remain free to live in any state they prefered. As long as the federal government wants to be the top dog on issues people have strong feelings about, the turf war in Washington will never end. There are two cultures in America that will probably never find common ground on a large number of big issues. Stop the fighting in Washington and let the individual states decide.

    February 21, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  10. gentwelve

    It is a system of deceit and hate and the current congress and administration are not the answer. they all need to be terminiated.

    February 21, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  11. Fred in Iowa

    Here's a novel concept. Let's do away with the two party system that only contributes to dividing America into opposing camps! That way Americans would have to actually 'do the work' of finding out what a candidate stands for as opposed to blindly voting R or D.

    February 21, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. Joycehelene

    I think Senator Bayh just gave up too easily, perhaps he was afraid of a defeat, one person can make a difference if they try harder.

    February 21, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  13. Gerry NH

    He is right. Wow ever is in control in congress wins. It dosen't even matter if bad for the country.

    February 21, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. buckwheat

    Gridlock started on Jan 20 2009 when the systematic draining of the country's wealth started being redistributed as was promised during the election. Ever had a job from a man poorer than you are? It is called change, the Chicago way. A democracy is formed in a conservartive invironment ,used and abused by liberals until it degrades to Socialism. Democracy is the best system of government ever used, but as we export it, by force in some cases ,we get weaker. As other economies thrive we lose the power we had.

    February 21, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. Sarah, Northern Colorado

    So, Senator Bayh, in essence, when you say that it's not Congress' fault for being "poisoned" by testosterone, you're excusing them for thinking with their emotions and not with their heads? That's definitely not an excuse, nor is it not their faults. It is definitely their faults. If these men and women we elected cannot think with their heads, then they do not belong on Capitol Hill. They belong on The Maury Povich Show.

    February 21, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  16. HypocriCNN = B.S.

    The Problems In Washington Politics Today Are Those Of Egomaniacs In Both Political Parties.

    February 21, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. LouAz

    Typical response from Flat Earth Party exRep. Molinari – nothing is wrong with Congress. Not a clue as to what is going on. Why even ask her, just be happy !

    February 21, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    They are quitting left and right (no Pun intended). More better follow their lead because come fall the voters will retire them all, no matter what party they belong to.
    Vote Congress out, “you are fired” if they are in. Vote them out this fall no matter what party they belong to, and in the next election and every election going forward until they become the servants of the people once more.

    February 21, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  19. A Dem Is Lying If The Lips Are Moving

    If the dems/Obama would work with the Republicans instead of forcing high dollar programs not wanted or needed,and constant blaming someone else for their failures,something might get done.

    February 21, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Jerry - Florida

    How can my fellow Democrats want partisanship politics when they don't know the meaning of the word.

    Since President NObama was sworn in into office, the country has been more divided than ever. And it looks that it's going to get worse, when and and if President NObama and his ilk try and ambush the Republicans next Thursday.

    NObama is talking bipartisanship while maneuvering to to shove his agenda down the Republicans throats.

    I am still waiting for the day when NObama really tries to unite this wonderful country.

    Stay tuned!

    February 21, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  21. Stallion

    More excuses.....?? A Democrat majority congress that has done very little to stimulate anything except arouse the citizens' wrath. Ultimately it is the people who will resolve these problems.....to say that we are sick and disgusted with our president and our congress is a gross understatement.....

    February 21, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. Ancient Texan

    Sen. Bayh has a point, but there are huge differences in the stances of the tribes. And, at this point in time the majority of the people are in defiance of the wild spending Administration, making it hard for good Senators like Bayh to be the true, problem solving Statesman, that I think he probably is at heart.

    February 21, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. Derni

    Then lets elect more estrogen to the Senate –Congress at least did some work this year

    February 21, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  24. Liberal wing nut

    Liberal elitist just can not accept that people might not want their big gov't socialist ideas.

    February 21, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  25. Jenn, Philadelphia

    the system isn't broken. it is doing exactly what it was designed to do, move slowly. the problem was a democrat majority that thought it could pass a major social agenda quickly before any one would notice whether it was a good idea or not. our government works better when the party in the white house does not also control congress. the result is the tax reform made by Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill and the welfare reform made by Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. compromise comes when different parties control different aspects of government and have to work together.

    February 21, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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