January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013

Rules of Order

(It’s gonna be real inside-the-Beltway today; I apologize.)

Depending on your profession, you may find yourself participating in certain activities more than the average person. Kindergarten teachers paste construction paper pieces together.* Astronauts eat freeze dried foods. Moms clean up poop. Firemen slide down poles. You get the idea. While these are all things everyone does from time to time, certain people do them every day, and that’s just how it is.

All if which is to say, I find myself watching a hella lot of C-SPAN. Glamorous! And a prime example of how real life DC is not at all like The West Wing DC. Sure, Sorkin’s show would have monitors showing ZNN coverage or whatever, and they made for nice background while CJ and Josh sparred in her office. Heck, the West Wing characters even testified a time or two, right? But sit through a congressional hearing (or four) and you quickly realize that it’s a bunch of white guys figuratively patting each other on the back while verbally smacking down whoever the poor witness is that day.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I am a Republican, after all.)

Take the recent Benghazi hearings, both of which I watched (almost) in full. True to form, each member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took time out to thank Senator Lugar for his service, wish him well, mention a personal anecdote, etc. Which would be totally cool if we were at his retirement party. C’mon, guys.

It’s not just the US Congress. Prime Minister’s Question Time is just as bad, except the personal anecdotes are 300% more adorable because they’re about people like “My constituent Nigel St. Livingston” and “The good people of North Argyllshireshire.” Those stories I find endearing. Fifteen senators seeing how many times they can fit the word “aloha” into a speech directed at Senator Akaka? NO.

So if ever I have the chance to watch you on C-SPAN 3 (yes, Virginia, there are three C-SPAN channels), please keep it short and to the point. Don’t dis the chair when s/he cuts you off because you wasted all your time blathering about. Stick to your job as a congressional committee member: Excoriating the witness while your aides futz with their smartphones behind you.

* I honestly spent several minutes trying to think of a good stereotypical kindergarten activity. This is the best I could come up with. I’m old!

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