Former Senator Bayh Says Political Parties More Alienated Than Ever

 U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) speaks during day three of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at the Pepsi Center August 27, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Evan Bayh, former Senator of Indiana and Fox News contributor, reacts to the latest in partisan politics in Congress and in Washington, where he served before stepping down over partisan battles last year.

On the birther movement

President Obama released his birth certificate today in hopes of quelling doubts about his birthplace and qualifications to be president.

This is just a luxury we can't afford. He was obviously born in Hawaii, the long form is the same thing that every Hawaiian gets, they use it to get drivers licenses and everything else, so I hope this will put it to rest. But even if there was a problem there frankly I don't care if he was born on Mars if he can create jobs and get the price of gas down and get the economy going.

A likely scenario for the debt ceiling fight

Have no fear, another political screaming match lies ahead--about expanding the debt ceiling. Bayh says on the one hand it would be disastrous if the nation defaulted on its debt, yet at the same time we can't allow the deficit to continue expanding.

What I think will happen is with that looming deadline, both sides will stake out positions that are in substantial disagreement, there will be a long political tussle about it, we'll tiptoe right up to the precipice, look over the precipice and decide we don't want to jump over.

Bayh predicts that we'll see a similar play-by-play as happened in Congress with TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program).

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if you didn't see a repetition of that sort of thing, where a program is put out there, passed by the Senate to get the long term debt and deficit under control, it fails in the House in the first vote, the markets react very adversely, then the House comes back and does what it has to do.

The two parties are more polarized than ever

Bay says the left and the right are more alienated than he has ever seen.

They temporarily come together around crises like 9/11, occasionally another event or two but then quickly go back to fighting. And the tolerance on the part of the base of either party for any deviation from party orthodoxy is practically nil. So if you try and reach out and find some common ground you're pretty quickly characterized as a traitor to the cause.

When Bayh was in Congress he tried to play peace-maker, but then he stepped down and took his message to TV.

Why he's on Fox

Simply because it is the most widely watched cable news channel on television, by a long shot.

You can add up the viewership of MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, Headline News, add them all together and they barely equal the viewership of Fox News. So it made sense to me to have what I hope is a sensible, credible voice, defending the democratic point of view to those millions and millions of viewers who otherwise are just going to be hearing the Republican point of view.

Bayh said the moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats who watch Fox are the very people the Democratic party needs to win elections. Listening to him, it's clear the Senate's bipartisan "gang of six" has a tough nut to crack.