I'm impressed by Dick Lugar's classy exit from the U.S. Senate. It brings back memories of Evan Bayh's departure just two years ago.
When Bayh announced his retirement from the Senate, he made a plea for bipartisanship. "For some time, I have had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should," Bayh said. "There is too much partisanship and not enough progress -- too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving."
In his floor speech Wednesday, Lugar had strong words about partisan bickering. "It is possible to be re-elected and gain prominence in the Senate while giving very little thought to governance," he said. The Founders would be ashamed of what is happening now in Washington.
Lugar, Indiana's longest-serving senator, has cast more roll call votes than all but nine others in the Senate's history.
His defeat in the Republican primary by Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock followed the pattern of congressional giants being knocked out of office by Tea Party supporters in the primary, only to lose to Democrats in the general election.
Bayh left office willingly. He announced just before the filing deadline that he wouldn't seek re-election in 2010, leaving Indiana Democrats scrambling to find a replacement and ultimately losing the seat to a Republican, Dan Coats, who moved back to Indiana to run for that office.
"At this time, I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way: creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning, or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor," Bayh said in announcing his retirement on Feb. 15, 2010.
In Bayh's post-Senate life, he's representing special interest groups, just like Coats did before Coats returned to Indiana. Bayh is a Fox News contributor, a senior adviser at Apollo Investment Management and a partner at the McGuireWoods law firm. How does that match up with what he said he wanted to do? You decide.
Lugar is starting a Washington-based internship program with the University of Indianapolis. He will also deliver a few lectures each year as a distinguished professor at the university. Bayh wanted to lead a university; Lugar wants to teach.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell put an amusing spin on it during Tuesday's tribute to Lugar on the Senate floor: "And now Dick has decided to press his luck. He's moving into the only line of work where the rivalries are even more vicious than politics. He's becoming a college professor."
What are Bayh's future plans? Good question, but he's leaving his options open. According to the Federal Election Commission, Bayh's campaign fund still had more than $10.1 million in it as of Sept. 30.
Bayh has never lost an election. Maybe he's just waiting until the political climate is right for a moderate Democrat to be elected again.