A Non-Partisan Observation on Congressional Hearings
While watching the Barr hearings this morning (he’s testifying before a congressional subcommittee), my main takeaway is the utter failure of the parliamentary process. It’s a system that frankly — stinks. It’s broken.
I’ll skip the blame game and the castigation of congresspeople by name, which sadly make themselves such inviting targets of our collective derision. We all see and hear what we want through our tinted lens and filter, though I’ve come to a general consensus that both sides of the aisle, Republicans, and Democrats, often display an appalling lack of self-awareness.
The real culprit here is THE PROCESS. It’s counterproductive to the stated purpose of the congress (and senate, which is equally guilty), which is to carefully examine, research, listen, learn, debate, and vote — hopefully impartially with open minds.
As we’ve seen in so many previous hearings, the “witness” (in this case, Barr) makes his opening statement. Then, over the next several hours, committee members play a mind-numbing tennis match of back and forth “gotcha-isms.” Democrats point fingers and blame the witness, often not allowing him sufficient time to answer. Republicans shout, fling baseless accusations at parties not present, and flood the zone with distractions and counter-conspiracies. Each congressperson gets FIVE minutes to cross-examine the witness. The ridiculousness of the exhibition is amplified by the hearings being nationally televised, not to mention carved up and sound bit by extremist media, which will whitewash the dopey elephant. In other words, the committee members know they have just five minutes to put on a *show.*
This procedure would be laughable if it were not so painful to watch and hear. The witness isn’t really grilled, at all. He has the advantage of running out the clock with long-winded stonewalling, general professions of faux commitment to truth and the legal system, and (certainly in Barr’s case) disprovable lies.
Some percentage of those who ask questions have NO BUSINESS conducting a cross-examination. An even larger percentage (in my opinion) turn off the viewing public with irrelevant goose-chases and pandering. Many of the five-minute Q/A segments serve no purpose at all, other than to destroy earnest compromise and non-partisan pursuits.
I’m uncertain as to what changes need to be made in hearings of this nature. Perhaps we can look to and learn from the quite well-functioning parliamentary systems in Europe and other countries, where multiple parties somehow work together (mostly) without the political circus. I know that’s such a foreign, un-American concept — to learn from other countries and systems. Excuse me for making such a ridiculous proposal in the grand land of jingoism. American “exceptionalism,” for all the wrong reasons.
What I do know is — NOTHING will come from these hearings aside from each of us bole-weeviling ourselves deeper into silos of alternative universe echo chambers. Rather than blame the individuals who serve, as much as they do deserve blame, it is THE PROCESS, the horrific, counterproductive, absurd, divisive system that is guilty.
The system is to blame. It’s sick. And perhaps — terminal.