I once read that you need three things to be a successful Senator. First, you need gray hair, which gives the illusion of maturity. Second, you need glasses, which gives the illusion of wisdom. And third, you need hemorrhoids for that constant concerned look. Next time you see a gray-haired Senator adjusting his glasses, a scowl crossing his face as he asks seemingly irrelevant questions, remember that he may not actually be as concerned as much as he is uncomfortable.
It has always been an unsettled issue in our nation as to how much authority Congress can exert over the Executive branch. Cabinet members and other senior administration officials have routinely claimed immunity from Congressional tampering, particularly hearings that may be political in nature. Eventually, if there has been a crime, it will come out. If it does, the President can always pardon members of his own administration if necessary.
We citizens cry foul when a Congress we disapprove of holds endless committee hearings into the affairs of an Administration we like; it matters not which party we belong to, it is always the other party that is causing all the trouble. “If we only did not have that other party, we could solve all our problems,” we like to say to ourselves, but it is more likely that we would find out that we are really as incompetent to govern as our political adversaries. Opposition helps keep us all in check, stopping ourselves from overdosing on our own hubris which is always lurking in crevices, turning them into crevasses in an instant just as soon as we think we’ve got it all under control.
The approval rating of Congress is hovering at about 13% according to a recent Gallup poll. That means 87% think congress is doing a bad job, and I’d represent that the 87% is pretty much a bipartisan 87%. Out of 535 voting members of Congress, are we to take it that only 69.55 members of our Congress are doing a good job. I wonder which 69.55 they are? Can you name them?
Well, the ones from my party from my state are certainly doing a good job. What about yours? I strongly suspect yours are among the bad ones and they need to be turned out of office just as soon as possible, unless, of course, they are the champions of issues I have taken to heart; naturally, they need to be re-elected.
I get tired of the endless hearings. While there may be a legitimate need for hearings on Benghazi, the IRS, and others, they are a bit tiresome. I hope they are serving a useful purpose, and at least they are making those in the Executive understand that someone is watching them closely, which cannot be all bad.
Would that Howard Hughes was still around to testify before Congress. I wish we had some folks with his chutzpah. Below is a link to a YouTube video of his testimony before a Senate Committee. He was, a bit, contemptuous.
The white-haired Senate committee chairman leaned forward in his chair, adjusted his glasses as he peered at the transcripts of the previous day’s testimony, proffered a most pained look as he internally deliberated the prepared question he was about to posit to President Sherman’s Secretary of the newly created Department of Dis-Departmentalization, Rowdy Rouse. There was silence in the hearing room as the Senator squirmed in his chair.
“Secretary Rouse,” began the Senator, “Are you aware that you are still under oath?”
“Yes, Mr. Chairman,” answered Rouse.
“And you have sworn that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God,” said the Chairman, still squirming, frowning, as if what he was about to say was as painful for him as it was likely to be for the Secretary.
“I am aware of my oath, Mr. Chairman,” Secretary Rouse said, sounding a bit agitated.
“Just answer the question, Mr. Secretary,” scowled the Chairman.
The glint of steely eyes fixed on the Chairman’s and Secretary Rouse growled, “That was not a question, Mr. Chairman.”
Laughter rippled through the hearing room. The Chairman banged his gavel three times. “There will be order in this hearing room,” he said into the microphone, though the volume of his voice rendered the microphone unnecessary. “This is a hearing of a Committee of The United States Senate. There will be order and respect shown in this hearing.” He looked at the crowd at large, but shook his gavel right at Secretary Rouse, adding, “Now, Secretary Rouse, you will answer the question.”
The Secretary just sat there not saying a word. About ten awkward seconds of absolute silence lapsed which seemed as uncomfortable to the observers as a five minute personal medical device direct sales commercial when the Chairman fairly shouted, “Well, I’m waiting for your answer.”
Clearly irritated, the Secretary fairly shouted back, “Well, I’m waiting to hear a question.”
“I’ve already put forth a question,” the chairman said.
“And I’ve already answered it. So, what next?”
The gavel banged down again. “I’m the one asking the questions here, Mr. Secretary. Don’t presume to be so insolent as to ask me questions in my own committee hearing!” warned the Chairman, squirming in his chair like someone had lit a strike-anywhere kitchen match in the seat of his breeches. This was not quite going like he thought it would. He wished he had ordered a closed hearing now rather than have all those cameras and reporters around and the gallery full of spectators. The sulfur of the match burned more intensely. He scowled. If it got much hotter he may have to call a recess, but that might seem like a loss of face. He pressed on, furiously fidgeting, frowning.
“Now, Mr. Secretary, this committee has given you every chance to answer truthfully to each and every question that has been put to you, given you ample time to produce the documents you might need to provide us with informed answers, and has bent over backwards (he winced at the thought of bending over) to accommodate you in every way we can. We have borne with the administration’s stall tactics, denials of document production for committee review, and generally bad faith displayed towards this committee by your department and the administration in general.
“Our sub-chair and other ranking members of the committee are looking for some straight answers, and we believe that you are the one that has them, but you have stonewalled and stymied this investigation in every way you can. The partisan nature of your ploy has been noted by the committee, and the Chair has ensured that this has been entered into the record. We do not take these issues lightly.
“Now, we have been more than charitable in our efforts, and our kindness has profited us nothing. We are now required to get a lot tougher if we are to be successful in our pursuits. Many more subpoenas will be issued, and many more demands for discovery will be forthcoming. Our patience is getting thin.”
He then paused for effect, forcing a gap-toothed grin for the cameras, and asked, “How would you answer that, Mr. Secretary? Yes? Or no? Remember your oath.”
“I cannot answer as to the thinness of the Chairman’s patience, and I resent your reminding for the third time that I am under oath. If the Chairman would like to make statements, then by all means he should continue to do so but stop posing them as questions he expects me to answer,” bellowed the Secretary.
“Mr. Secretary, you are dangerously flirting with contempt,” shouted the chairman to the gasps of the crowd, enjoying the intensity of this exchange. The hearing room seemed to be one continuous flash of lights from the cameras, and a hundred shotgun microphones turned simultaneously to face Secretary Rouse.
“It was a contemptible question, Mr. Chairman, coming from a contemptible committee conducting a contemptible hearing,” said Rouse, calmly rising from his seat, holding his hands out, wrists held together and turning towards the sergeant-at-arms waiting for him to order a Capitol Policeman to come and place him in handcuffs.
Bang! Bang! Bang! The gavel rapped and rapped until the handle broke. The Chairman then picked up the head of the gavel and continued to bang it until he mashed his finger. Between cursing the mashed finger, the match in his breeches, and the Secretary’s response, he was livid and howled, “Mr. Secretary, I find you in contempt of Congress,” and turning to the Sergeant-at-arms, demanded, “Take him into custody.” Banging the gavel again, “This hearing is in recess!” He nursed his finger and limped out of the room, with what seemed to the crowd to be an agitation that bordered on physical pain. The Chairman thought that Rouse was a royal pain in the arse. Rouse thought the same about the Chairman, but his thoughts were merely metaphorical.
Contempt of Congress? It seems likely that 87% of the people are at least somewhat in contempt of Congress. Maybe they should round up all 274,050,000 of us and put us in jail. If they found us all guilty fined us each $62,032.48 we could pay off our national debt.
Just remember what concerned Congressional looks may really consist of. You’ll likely think of this every time you see a box of kitchen matches, or a tube of hemorrhoid ointment.
By the way, this is politics in the Aristotlean manner of the philosophy of human affairs.
©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp