Has partisanship broken Washington?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 25, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

FRANK LUNTZ, HOST: Congress holds a nine percent job approval rating. Muammar Gadhafi had a 14 percent job approval rating, and that's among people who killed him.

Americans just aren't angry with Washington, they're furious. And joining us now is Evan Bayh, former governor of Indiana who also served in Washington for 12 years as a Democratic senator, please welcome, Senator Bayh.


I want to you grab your dials and I'm going to ask you to make a pitch to them for why Washington isn't broken unless you think that it is. Everyone at 50.

EVAN BAYH, D-FORMER INDIANA SENATOR: Well, Frank, unfortunately, I do think that Washington is broken. I saw some of the responses to the previous debates and there are some differences of opinion in the room. But my guess is that if we sat down and tried to work out solutions to some of the problems that are facing America among this group, we could probably get that done.

But Congress right now is just so partisan, so ideological, they are unable to make the kind of commonsense compromise that it takes to get the economy, to get the debt down, to get the cost of health care down. It is broken in a time when we can't afford that anymore.

So regrettably, Frank, I think it's going to take all of us, rising up and taking the system back to make the kind of progress that America needs.

LUNTZ: So, Congress is broken?

BAYH: Unfortunately it is broken.

LUNTZ: Is the Obama administration broken?

BAYH: Well, the Obama administration isn't perfect, none are. But I think the president's doing his best.

LUNTZ: But Congress isn't?

BAYH: No, they are doing their best, too. But they are trapped in a system -- they're 535 members of Congress, Frank, they've all going to try and cobble together a principled compromise. The president can just speak for himself.

The real problem we have is that too many members of Congress and frankly, it represents some of us, they think of themselves first as liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, rather than Americans first. And you can look at this group of leaders here, the statesmen, the woman that we have in the history of our country, each and every one of them stood for things that they believed passionately in. But at the end of the day, they were willing to take some progress, rather than none. We've got too many people in Washington right now who take an all-or-nothing approach. You take that kind of approach very often, you're going to end up with nothing.

LUNTZ: Do you agree with him?

(GROUP) Yes!

LUNTZ: Do you agree with him?


LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We seemed to be locked in kind of a two-party dictatorship. What are your thoughts on that?

BAYH: Well, it's true. We have two parties. And too often they are polarized and they're unable to find common ground, and that's a shame. I think what we need to do is to hold both parties accountable and say to both Democrats and Republicans, look, we understand you are a part of a party. That's fine. We understand you have strong principles and probably some ideological underpinnings. We respect that too. But at the end of the day, you've got to put the country ahead of your party and ahead of your ideology. If you don't, we'll vote for someone else.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But we have been doing that for four years now. All Americans have been saying that. It's the division in Congress, and nothing gets done. As a matter of fact, they get even more divided. And we are at a point now where there is absolutely nothing taking place.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Getting along seems to be that the more conservative people, they are playing chicken with the more progressive and conservatives have to blink. They have to give in. And that's called compromising, getting on, enough already.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You can't just blame the conservatives. Prior to 2010, we had liberals in the office as well. And then at the mid-terms, we switched it and we're still having the gridlock that we had previously. Historically, ever since the nation's been born, we've had two different parties, the same system for over 200 years, what has changed recently is to make politics so divided that they can't seem to find a compromise? It just seems that way, so --

BAYH: Well, this gentleman, Steve is correct. We have had divisions in the past. But the difference in the past is, I mean, look, our country wouldn't exist if the United States of America itself was a compromise between big states and small states, Northern States and Southern States, et cetera. They eventually had to come together and say, you know, what? Being one country and one people is more important to us than some our differences. We don't have that as much today in Washington. Now, you ask why. In the House of Representatives, we have had what's called the gerrymander. So, out of 435 members of the House, no more than 80 probably of the districts are actually very competitive. The real races there are in the primaries.

So, if you are a Democrat and your real race is in the primary, you don't have an opponent, what do you do? You move left. In the Republican Party, you move to the right. So, there are not nearly as many people in the middle where it takes to really try and fashioned some principled compromises. In the Senate, just let me finish here -- in the Senate, unfortunately it's two things, the role of big money and the interest groups that can contribute millions of millions of dollars, number one.

LUNTZ: You agree with that.

BAYH: And number two, the caucus system, where to my surprise when I arrived in the United States Senate, I was informed you are a part of the team. We expect you to be loyal to the team, to stay with the team. Don't be independent. Don't vote for yourself, if do you that, we will do things to punish you for that. And so, that system needs to change too.

LUNTZ: Did Harry Reid punish you?

BAYH: Well, I was known as being a problem child and there were practical consequences for that. Sometimes you don't get on the committee to work on the issues that you like. Sometimes your bills don't get brought up for a vote. I mean, there are consequences to go in your own way. And so, there is a constant tension. You always got to do what you think is right. That's what you are paid to do. But you can't become irrelevant and ineffective. So, you have to try and strike that balance.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: In my opinion, the problem is the leadership. It's poor, it's lacking. Obama has this -- every speech he gives, it's us versus them mentality. Democrats versus the Republicans mentality. It's a gang type of warfare that he is fostering. He's made it worse, honest to God.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: May I ask you a question, sir?

BAYH: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Democrats and the Republicans basically everybody in Congress believes in democracy, correct.

BAYH: As far as I know, they do. Yes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: OK. Just out of curiosity, why is it when the nation's basically speaking up very loudly over these major affairs and overwhelmingly so, by large proportions that you guys are basically ignoring and shoving stuff down our throat?

BAYH: Well, remember, I have been retired for a year and-a-half.


So, I am not there anymore, Greg.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I figured you might have an answer to this question.

BAYH: I got kind of fed up with it, too.

LUNTZ: Greg, the Senator stopped shoving about a year-and-a-half ago.

BAYH: You know, I can tell you, Greg. Look, when I was governor of my state for eight years, I remember the Democratic Party, my state Senate was Republican all eight years. The House went back and forth. I realized pretty quickly if we were to get anything done, we have to figure out a way to work together. Do we agree on everything? No. Sometimes we just couldn't agree. And sometimes we had knock-down, drag-out fights. But at the end of the day, we realized we had been hired by the same people to try and solve their problems in practical terms. That's not just taking place right now in Washington very much.

LUNTZ: Now, I am going to say something as a personal prerogative. I know this man now for 15 years. People call him governor, people call him senator, I call him a statesman.

BAYH: Thank you.

LUNTZ: This is someone who is different. And I hope that you see that in what he says.


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