The Clinton Hearings: A Civics Lesson

The most important event in Washington last week was the Inauguration. The jockeying for prestigious seats was unseemly. Anyone who was anyone was there. So it was important to be there to prove that one is somebody.

The second most important event was possibly the confirmation hearings for secretary of state. What I noticed? The absence of senators.

At any given time, three or four senators were there. The chair, the vice-chair, the questioner. And the previous questioner, heading out the door.

Where was the previous questioner headed in such a hurry? Yes, we know they can staff out the listening. We know they can watch the hearings on CSPAN back at the office. And they can follow it live on the Internet. But they can also sit there — right there — and listen.

Meanwhile, there’s a high school civics teacher in Bangor, Maine telling students why it’s important to show up on time to class to watch part of the hearings on television.

“Can I get a drink?”

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

Text, text, text the buddies.

“Hey, what are those empty chairs?” Civics lesson learned right there.

So where are the senators? Fund- raising. Or networking to fund-raise. Conspiracy to commit fund-raising. Whatever we want to call it.

But senators have six years to get re-elected. And our wise forefathers designed it so that they wouldn’t be running (in the state legislatures) all the time. Right?

Yes, but any that want to run for president need to raise for other members of Congress. (And for governors.) Any that want to help a friend run for president and maybe get a cabinet position need to fund-raise for all those people. Any who ever want a committee chairmanship had better fund-raise for other senators in order to keep a majority in the Senate.

What else is there time for? Well, securing a good spot at the State-of-the-Union Address. That’s important, now that the Inauguration is over.

Does anyone really believe that pay-for-play doesn’t already foul the air in the Senate chambers that Harry Reid was so closely guarding against a possible intruder from Illinois?

The answer? Term limits. Newt tried. Or said he tried. But he didn’t deliver. Funny how a partisan GOP Congress got it done for presidents after FDR’s death. Will a Congress ever do it for themselves? Could the Republicans run on another platform of term limits, like they did in 1994, but this time actually deliver it?

Cross posted at www.bigbagofwind.com.