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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Heckle: Give me more, please

by folkbum

There are a number of things I like about the UK: Earl Grey tea, Shakespeare, the Beatles, Harry Potter, Oscar Wilde's one-liners, Waking Ned Devine, the word fardel, the original BBC "The Office," and so on (notably, not the National Health Service, thankyouverymuch).

And, in addition to those, there's Parliament. Not so much that I like the system, especially versus Congress, which as we all know is already the single worst governing body in history, save for all others ever conceived. Rather, I like the fact that on a regular basis, the Prime Minister stands up at the front of the Parliament there and has to defend himself and his government's policies.

Yes, the questioners are often boorish and offensive, and yes the whole thing is so base up against the "My Esteemed Colleaguing" and "I Cede The Balance Of My Timing" and such that makes "Booknotes" seem so very "Girls Gone Wild" compared to the rest of CSPAN's programming. But you know what? It works for me on a number of levels.

For one, an idiot like Joe Wilson (not to be confused with Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was much more circumspect in calling the president, then WBush, a liar, and did it in print, and turned out to be correct--all things you can't say about the volatile South Carolinian who shares the name) would have a time and place for his jackassery, and could let it out in a more cathartic and appropriate manner than in the middle of a joint session's rarified air. For two, since the filter would be gone, we'd get to see a lot more of the jackassery, revealing heretofore closeted jackasses whose exposure would surely be good for the nation.

For three, it would work to sharpen the arguments used by the president (or an appropriate representative; to capitalize on the current controversy, perhaps a new "czar" of some flavor) to defend his policies. When the jackassery happens--a "You lie!" shouted from the far reaches of the minority's back bench--the president or his czar can call that out: "Prove it, meathead" or some such gauntlet. "Pick up that bill and show me the death panels, and try not to look like too big an idiot."

I teach high school, you know, and some days my classes are like that. Not that I get accused of lying, often, but these kids come with their own agendas and they will press and press until I can convince them to listen quietly long enough that they finally get that, no, really, John Donne is totally talking about sex in that poem. (Note: Add John Donne to the list above.) It took me a couple of years to get the hang of managing that. Imagine Barack Obama, gloves off, in 2011 after two years of practice, going manno-ah-manno against some Republican goon on, say, student loan reform (not sexy, but really needed, look it up). Obama's already a pretty sharp debater (just ask Secretary Clinton), and if he got to do it every day up against the leading lights (sliding scale, please) of the Republican Party, he would almost certainly be able to wither nonsense objections faster than those flowers that only bloom for a few hours and then die, and that's pretty fast.

For four (fore!), stealing Parliament's thang would also, I think, do wonders to expose the minority leadership, i.e., his Orangeship, John Boehner (R-not very far from where I grew up), if they can't lead straight. Boehner in recent days has both shown a rightblogger-level of ignorance about the health care bills up in his chamber and "dodged" an offer for him to explain the Republican alternative to those bills. Parliament's where party leaders are made or broken, and bumbling incompetence at Boehner's current level would have long ago caused rebellion in the ranks, and maybe the good people of suburban Hamilton County, OH, would have had the sense to pasture him by now.

And for five, finally, this would certainly make the general public take up an interest in government again, at least until the novelty wore off. I'm too lazy to google now (and, frankly, still disturbed by the fact that the google box and buttons are somehow bigger today--egad) to check, but I'm sure that the number of people who can name the leaders of Congress is probably somewhere south of Congress's actual approval ratings, and that says a lot. Not even the leaders, but, you know, people's own representatives, I bet they don't know. Except, now, I bet everyone in South Carolina knows who Joe Wilson is--infamy, to paraphrase Lucky Day, being more than fame.

Is the dogfighting of Parliament perhaps diametrically opposed to the august nature the wig-wielding Founders envisioned for the Congreff of the United Statef? Almost certainly. But I'll be damned if Madison and Morris and Jefferson and the rest of the band wouldn't look at the dismal state of the GOP's behavior today and be able to tell the difference, anyway.

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