Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

American Question Time Is A Bad Idea

Pass, thanksIn the wake of President Obama's appearance at the House Republican conference last week, a "politically diverse group of bloggers, commentators, techies and politicos" have organized "an online campaign, Demand Question Time, urging President Barack Obama and GOP congressional leaders to hold regular, televised conversations like the extraordinary exchange in Baltimore on Friday."

What are they demanding?

[W]e call on President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner to hold these sessions regularly – and allow them to be broadcast and webcast live and without commercial interruption, sponsorship or intermediaries. We also urge the President and the Republican Senate caucus to follow suit. And we ask the President and the House and Senate caucuses of his own party to consider mounting similar direct question-and-answer sessions. We will ask future Presidents and Congresses to do the same.

It's a good idea unless you've seen how Question Times actually work in parliamentary democracies, where members of the governing parties ask self-serving softballs (e.g., "Do you agree with me that the American worker is the hardest worker in the world?") designed to run out the clock, while the opposition party tosses up as many cheap shots as it can in hopes that something will stick. And even were the process to be modified so that it was simply the President and Republicans, what does it benefit the President to reward the opposition with a continuing platform from which they can repeatedly voice their disagreements without offering credible, concrete alternatives? I mean, doesn't he already do that enough with the Senate's Democratic caucus? Nobody wants to watch that.

15 Comments / Post A Comment

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

I've been calling for more fireside chats since 1945.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Rotating drum and seltzer bottle.

Renate (#360)

Last week was fun but you can see what it would turn into in short order. Today I saw a bunch of Dems up for re-election trying to catch enough shine to move their poll numbers up asking the questions. This Q&A thing would become a new entertainment source for the 24hr news machine within two months tops.

Maybe he (or future she) could do what Obama already did. Once every other month or so. Not a Parliamentary-style Question Time – just a "this is why you're wrong" Time.

Magister (#1,444)

I'm sure the Republican caucus will jump at the chance for a regularly-scheduled beat-down, as will a future President, who may not speak so well on their feet.

HiredGoons (#603)

I'm in support of ANYthing that more closely resembles the endlessly entertaining British Parliament, and is broadcast.

Sweetie (#519)

I'm w you, but add the demand that Iain Duncan Smith acquire citizenship in the U.S. and become a Congressman from, like, New Mexico so he can take part.

Yes! But only if we can elect the British!

I think it would help to let some of the hot air out of the bs charges Reps make (death panels, e.g.).

Also, Dems are better at parrying then Reps. Remember Clinton, in his first State of the Union address, when the Reps laughed at his reference to the Congressional Budget Office (they were implying that it was a partisan office whose budget projections were not be trusted), and Clinton, without missing a beat, said, "Laugh if you must my Republican friends, but their budget estimates have been right on target for the last five years…? Remember that?

sigerson (#179)

One of Will Ferrel's greatest bits on SNL was the British Question Time in which he repeatedly stood up to say: "WILL THE RIGHT HONORABLE GENTLEMAN NOT AGREE THAT OASIS IS THE BEST BAND EVER????"

If you can get Betty Boothroyd to moderate, I'm for it.

Moff (#28)


DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I can see why this works. Obama's strengths are his wit and wonkiness; he's unstoppable in a debate. He's reluctant to directly interfere in congressional business, but the informality of the setting allows him to sidestep that concern and confront the obstructionists.

The know-nothings came equipped with the same sound bytes they've been successfully spouting for months, and had no contingency when O called them on their bullshit. No congressional democrat or reporter has had the professionalism, intelligence, or balls to do that for bloody ages; it took them by surprise.

And this has a huge advantage over the way the president has been previously refuting the same bullshit: it's media-friendly. Because it's face to face rather than through intermediaries, it's got the sensational conflict and drama that you need to get attention on the idiot box.

That said, the obstructionists only agreed to it because the brainlessness of political reporting had lulled them into a feeling of invincibility. There's no way they'll agree to anything of the kind again.

Joseph Logan (#3,293)

Oh, hell, let 'em do it. Yeah, the PM's questions are little more than political theatre, but we have so little good theatre in the US. Nice to see them in the same room more than once a year.

Patrick Tutwiler (#3,297)

Oh posh. If only because it will make the current batch of Republicans look dumb for the next few months, this is a good idea. Plus it is a format that rewards wit and snappy comebacks, which is a positive development for gay rights. duh.

Post a Comment