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Senators annoying senators

The Senate is broken, and Evan Bayh says it’s as much about the personal as the political. According to Bayh, Democrats and Republicans don’t dine together or visit each other’s homes. Basically, they don’t know each other at all.

As anyone familiar with office culture knows, without communication, trust breaks down and idiosyncrasies become magnified. When people don’t get honest feedback from colleagues, sub-optimal behavior continues unabated.

Fortunately, though, there is a perfect 21st century solution: the new website

Here’s how it works: You sign up. You ask your friends and co-workers to visit the site and give you anonymous feedback. They answer the question: “What do I need to work on?”

Then you log back on and learn about your shortcomings so you can rectify the situation. Examples highlighted on the homepage are things like “You never make eye contact” and “Your leg is always idling. Drives me nuts.”

I really think this could be revolutionary for the Senate. How many problems would go away if members simply knew that their behavior was annoying their colleagues?

“Sen. Bunning, it hurts my feelings when you curse at my friends.” Or, “Sen. Franken, it makes me sad when you cut off our speeches.”

Beyond enhancing office comity, it could prevent embarrassing crises. Imagine if Larry Craig had simply received some anonymous personal feedback: “What’s with the wide stance in the stall? It makes me uncomfortable when I’m doing my business.”

Unfortunately for Bayh, we can’t return to the heady days of yore when every member was sired by Senate royalty and went to St. Albans and knew each other’s servants and asked for cloture at the appropriate times. Those days are gone. But by embracing the Internets, senators could communicate openly and honestly and help get the nation’s business moving again.

By Kevin Huffman  | March 1, 2010; 5:08 PM ET
Categories:  Huffman  | Tags:  Kevin Huffman  
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Oh god this is a good idea & a step in the right direction. The Virginia government does things like go overboard about Valentine's Day, as well as various other sorts of weird 'traditions' (like cooking fish outdoors) to help overcome some of this.

When our leaders lose sight of the "One Nation" part of their pledge (much less citizens) a lack of comity & polity is sure to follow.

Posted by: Nymous | March 1, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

What Bayh talks about here is something that's become a part of our culture nowadays.

It really has no more impact in government any more than it does in most everyone's daily life at least in large metro areas like Washington.

With both parents working in order to make ends meet, who has time to visit with neighbors, or invite them over for dinner. The rule of the day for most families is prepared meals that most would be embarrassed to serve guests.

Who has time to cook?

Your kids come home, they're in to homework for an hour or two, then it's dinner, or maybe the kids get home, and it's Scouts or Little League, then dinner.

If you want to spend any time with your family it's squeezed into after dinner activities.

Who has time to invite the neighbors over?

The new American culture is turning into antisocial behavior through no fault of any of us.

So Senator Bayh! Welcome to our world!

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | March 1, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

This is what we need to do take an Aircraft carrier remove most of the aircraft and flight crews. Convert one of the now empty hangers into the new Senate Chamber. Load all the Senators on board and set sail for 3 months. Mon-Fri 8 to 5 they must be in the Chamber, they can have weekends to contact the "Folks" back home via the Internet, and put all this on CSPAN 24/7. After 3 months depending on their work output the ship would either return to port or sail to the deepest spot they can find and scuttle the ship and we start over with a new batch.

Posted by: notthatdum | March 2, 2010 3:07 AM | Report abuse

Right, only use of the Internet can solve behavioral problems in the US Sentate. . . please.

Posted by: kenhyde | March 2, 2010 3:26 AM | Report abuse

Oh for Heaven's sake, the internet is the last thing we need for the Congress. The Internet is most of the problem. You can hide behind your keyboard and be as nasty as all get out; like you would never behave to somebody face to face!

No, I think "Beer Summits" and Happy Hours are the way to go. Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan were drinking buddies; read "Man of the House." These people need to get drunk with each other. How many work conflicts are resolved over a few beers at the local watering hole? You either end up laughing about it or you go outside, beat the hell out of each other, and then laugh about it!

Posted by: risejugger | March 2, 2010 4:31 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Huffman,

The next time you come into contact with reality write something worth reading. I admit not having read everything you have had displayed on the Post's web page. This piece, like all the others of yours I have read, leads me to question whether you live on the same planet as the rest of us.

In some of your other articles you have distorted the truth. This time you were just plain stupid!

Posted by: tom841 | March 2, 2010 4:37 AM | Report abuse

It feels like our government has gone through a divorce. Now Mom and Dad can't even stand to be in the same restaurant. Time for the Boomers to get over themselves and let the kids clean up the mess.

Posted by: jeffreyolinger | March 2, 2010 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, as a Democrat, just what I want. Anonymous criticism from Republicans.

This is laughable - stand behind your identity and criticize people. That's the foundation of trust.

I want Congress to pass a law that lets Congresspeople do all their business online. Make a little application so they can talk and listen to debate and vote from their laptops.

Then they can come back to their districts, sit in diners and coffee shops, and do their job while they chat with constituents all day.


Posted by: michaelniland | March 2, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Sure and maybe we can all get together for a beer - see how well that worked out- or chant together for " change" - wow .,.that really didnt work out... so this article is a piece of fluff and nonsense. You really think any Senator is going to take constructive criticism ? What a joke...

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | March 2, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Let's just go back to the heady days of 1856 when members just beat each other senseless with their canes. The breakdown of reasoned discourse is not some new 21st Century phenomenon. Televised brawls would do wonders for CSPAN's ratings.

Posted by: jpost1 | March 2, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

This is another media response to "why are things bad in Washington"? Instead of taking a systems approach to the problem, they blame individuals. Instead of looking at perverse incentives, they look at personal peccadilloes.

If our government has been devolving over the years, become less responsive to the voters and more responsive to partisans, special interests and lobbyists, I doubt it's because Senators aren't spending enough time at the Monocle together.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 2, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I find this entire escapade a good example of "Politicians annoying citizens"....
As far as I'm concerned, the more they bicker and fight and nothing happens , all the better for US.
They ALL need therapy; not that touchy, feely crap, but rather some good old "slap therapy", or better yet some "post-election retirement therapy". I know I'D feel better.

Posted by: Shrimper | March 2, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

You think so?

You think they don't know what bothers you?


Posted by: GaryEMasters | March 2, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Get your tongue out of my cheek, sir! Thats just rude! Seriously, however, you may be on to something. One obstacle that I see is that leadership on both sides (we'll say just to sound fair and balanced) seem to be on such extremes that they practically demand prejudice and enforce tribalism. What does one imagine would happen if Mme. Pelosi, for example, caught one of her junior minions dining with a peer from the enemy camp? A stern spanking perhaps? Metaphorically, anyway, I would hope (but can't be sure).

Posted by: cwejohnson | March 2, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Too funny.

WTF is wrong with these people? There's only 100 of them. Seriously - you can't schedule 99 lunches in your first 4 months on the job?

Mr. Bayh, the problems of an anti-social Senate are your fault.

Posted by: DonRitchie | March 2, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Senators they are simple CROOKS every one of them.

Posted by: JWTX | March 2, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Senators they are simple CROOKS every one of them.

Posted by: JWTX | March 2, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

While there is a lot of vitriol from both sides, the poisonous atmosphere of today came solely from the right. Republican Senators simply parrot what they see/hear from those whose interests are pure selfishness. (Wall St.$men, Insurance Cos., No-tax at all costers, NeoCons, Tea baggers) At least the partisan Dems. have some humanistic meaning behind their agenda.

Posted by: atroncale1 | March 2, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

notthatdum - I love it...

"New batch" - hilarious!!

Posted by: JoeBlo | March 2, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Dear dear atroncale1, so you say that "the poisonous atmosphere of today came solely from the right," as you go on to spout the foul epithet "Tea baggers." Very convincing. "Humanistic" indeed.

Posted by: cwejohnson | March 2, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"According to Bayh, Democrats and Republicans don’t dine together or visit each other’s homes. Basically, they don’t know each other at all."

Gosh, you don't think all this corporate money in politics has anything to do with it, do you?

'Let's see, if I become really contentious about this issue of providing Preparation H to the rest of the world, how much will the Hemorrhoid Association of America give me for my next campaign?"

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | March 2, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

To Senators Bayh, Bunning, the repukes, & blue dog democraps: You want to put your money where your mouth is: You and every other elected official MUST NOW give up your public-funded cadillact health care policies and retirement benefits IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!

To Each and every republican and you traitorous blue-dog DINO democratic elected official (senate, house, governors, republican party members AND their staff members AND ALL their family members) who are AGAINST or has voted against or is campaigning or speaking against the Health Care Reform Bills or any Publicly Funded Healthcare Options:

Will you give up your public funded healthcare insurance and retirement benefits now and forever starting TODAY?

And will you and your staff and family members only seek PRIVATE individual/family policies with the type of coverage available only in your state by private free market insurance companies that are approved for and at the same rates to available for members of and by your state, not through a trade association or business or any other type of coverage provided by a friend, crony or associate?

Will you promise not to accept discounted health care policies or discounts or special deals from any of your contributors or supporters or other private or public entity?

So WaPo: Why don't you and every media organization start asking them these questions of these hypocritical, self-important, self-enriching, America hating scumbag politicians?

Start a 'truth' database that focuses on each and every publicy elected official who opposes health care reform AND/OR publicly funded health care?

Make them put their money where their hypocritical loudmouths are. Isn't the fourth estate supposed to protect the public from these consummate practicers of mendacity?

Posted by: flacan | March 2, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

It is part of our separate but equal society. Now we have everyone educated in their own special schools and no one can talk to each other because they live in separate worlds and don't even speak the same language anymore.

Posted by: Wildthing1 | March 2, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh please !
"The Senate is broken" "The government is broken"

This meme has already been widely noted.

It reoccurs whenever a President is very bad or very weak - think Carter, early Clinton, late Bush, now early Obama.

When the President is strong and successful.. Government is seen to be functioning.

Note that Government is ALWAYS broken when big-spending liberal policies are being rejected by Americans.

Posted by: pvilso24 | March 2, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that the ONLY times SEnators, or for that matter all elected Officilas starting with the CIC, spoeak the truth is when they either resign or look to not get re-e;ected. This brings to mind Jim Bunning who is being Vilkified by the REid Loon Klan as well as Mc Connel's Lemmings for actually attmpting to HOLD the SEnate to Pay Go .. Redid was Gloating over having succeded in passing this bill which FAILED to be enforced, as Jim Bunning Said, the first time that it coulkd have been enforced... SO is this agood REason for TERM LIMITS???? No lies after the first TERM???????

Posted by: redhawk2 | March 6, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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