This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," February 20, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Barack Obama save the Senate tour. The president stumps for embattled incumbents as Evan Bayh's retirement puts the Democratic hold on the Senate further in jeopardy.
And a preview of next week's health care summit as key Democrats call for the return of the public option. How should Republicans respond?
Plus, inside Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Are Hillary Clinton's claims of a military takeover true?
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report," I'm Paul Gigot.
Coming off Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh's surprise retirement announcement, President Obama embarks on what some are calling his save the Senate tour. Heading west to campaign for two embattled Democrats, Michael Bennett of Colorado, and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. The president is putting his popularity and fund-raising chops on the line as he tries to help his party hold on to the majority in the Senate.
Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Jason Riley; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
Kim, let me ask you first about this remark that Evan Bayh made during his retirement announcement that he's leaving Washington because the bipartisanship and gridlock was too bad, he couldn't take it anymore. Do you buy that?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: No, I think Evan Bayh is leaving the Senate because there were serious questions about his re-election.
GIGOT: Really? He had a $13 billion — he had a $13 million war chest.
STRASSEL: Right, but he was also facing a very potentially strong Republican challenger in a state that — and this is key — with a lot of voters who are very unhappy and growing increasingly unhappy with the agenda coming out of Washington from this majority in the White House. And Mr. Bayh, despite his sort of protest about the problems of partisanship, has voted for a lot of that and agenda. And that was going to come back and potentially hurt him in a re-election effort.
JASON RILEY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Bayh is the 5th Democrat to decide that he's not going to run for re-election. And then you've got the slate of incumbent Democrats running for re-election that are struggling, Blanch Lincoln in Arkansas. You mentioned Bennett in the opening, and Harry Reid. You've also got Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, Democrats are in real trouble right now. The trend is running against them right now. And they need to figure out a way to turn this around. And I think Bayh's indication is that the party's struggling right now.
GIGOT: What about the argument, Dan, before we get to Senate campaign, that somehow all it means is that the U.S. government is broken, the Senate is dysfunctional and the filibuster has ruined everything. And even our constitutional system is breaking down. Do you buy any of that?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: No, not really, not at all. I don't think the system is breaking down in the least. There is an argument that if the Senate or Congress isn't doing anything, the country is better for it. I think we're getting to the point where that is a pretty good argument.
But, look at what's been going on in the Congress. We've talked about these issues for a year, the cap-and-trade bill, the Obama health care bill. The Republican and Democratic parties are just simply far apart on those issues. And the Democrats, certainly with health care, have given no indication that they wanted to push towards the middle. That's not dysfunction. That's simply two parties unable to agree on everything.
GIGOT: Kim, it does take 60 votes now in the Senate to get anything done. A lot of Democrats argue, look, the filibuster is a relatively modern phenomenon and only developed in earnest the beginning of the last century. It wasn't intended to tie up the Senate on everything. So in that sense, the filibuster has made the Senate dysfunctional. Do Democrats have an argument on that?
STRASSEL: No. They had 60 votes the past year. The real point here — and a huge majority in the House. The point is that the reason this agenda has not passed is because Democrats don't approve, a lot of Democrats don't approve or are very wary of the agenda coming out of this White House and by the leadership in Congress. So the fact that they didn't get anything done this year — I mean, the Republicans were almost a nonentity in this discussion. They were never going to be better positioned to pass their agenda and it didn't have anything to do with dysfunction and partisanship.
RILEY: The irony is a lot of progressives out there are saying "good riddance" to Evan Bayh. But the reality is that the party needs more Senators like him.