FUTURE AMERICAN HISTORY specialists, after rummaging through contemporary newspapers, magazines and respected commentaries, are likely to describe this century's opening decade as "dysfunctional." Across the country that dismal word is increasingly being applied to the performance of Federal, state and local legislatures. Some random headlines:
The Washington Post: "Both Parties to Blame for Capital Dysfunction"
The New York Times: "Dysfunction Edges Out Work In a Deeply Distracted Albany"
U.S. News and World Report: "California's Dysfunctional Democracy Leaves Bleak Budget"
The Louisville Courier-Journal: "America's Dysfunctional Government Is Cause for Alarm"
The New York Times Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman: "A Dangerous Dysfunction"
The Whittier Daily News: "Bayh Says Good Riddance to Dysfunctional Senate"
That last headline brings us closer to home, so to speak. Here is what our longtime "Washington Notebook" columnist, Daniel Schorr, arguably the dean of the capital's watchers, has to say about the Indiana Senator's decision:
"Evan Bayh was the fifth Senate Democrat to bow out, and his stated reason for doing so encapsulated the dilemma of a Congress that has become close to nonfunctioning. At a meeting of President Obama and Senate Democrats early in February, Senator Bayh expressed his frustration and challenged the President to show voters that Democrats can get past politics and solve problems such as the budget deficit. Obama responded by attacking the Republicans for failing to deal with the deficit and blaming them for the financial crisis - which only underlined the impression of a dysfunctional government bogged down in rancorous partisanship. …