advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On Oversight, Or, Reality TV Was Never Better

For the past several seasons, the Fox Television Network has been the dominant supplier of “reality television” in this country, even to the point of establishing the “Fox Reality Channel” (which, for those unsure, is a separate operation from the Fox News Division) to support the further expansion of the genre.

This season, however, there’s a new sheriff in town. Outrage-they got it. Big drama-they’ve got the biggest. Giant confrontational egos on public display? Donald Trump would be competing as an apprentice in this league.

These guys got so much reality TV they need not just one, but three channels to carry it all.

Who am I talking about? Only the best reality on TV...C-Span!

For the first time since the Republican Congressional majority stopped, well...anything that might represent oversight, the C-Span channels and live viewing streams have been virtually glowing with the “disinfecting light of sunshine” and Administration representatives have been trying to dodge the beams like ants under a magnifying glass.

As I write this l have House Judiciary’s hearing with the FBI’s General Counsel and Department of Justice’s Inspector General playing. They’re discussing how the Patriot Act applies to “National Security Letters”, and I’m hearing questions much like this: “Why did the Inspector General only find 1 terrorism prosecution that (developed) from the 143,000 letters that were issued?.” I am witnessing the suddenly no longer unique situation of the DOJ Inspector General telling Congress the FBI General Counsel has failed the country. And let me tell you, the General Counsel and Inspector General are both looking as unhappy as scorpions on a dinner plate on “Fear Factor”. Even Republicans Darrell Issa and Dan Lungren are shredding the witnesses. John Conyers has a major supporting role as well. This is some top-drawer reality television, folks.

Panel shows like this one are C-Span’s stock in trade, and here are some other Congressional classics that have been on recently:

The Altered Science Show: Quizmaster Henry Waxman hosts a lively discussion with James Hansen from NASA (the US Government’s leading climate change scientist), and a White House “managing editor”, James Connauhgton. Connaughton, fresh from fresh from lobbying on behalf of...other climate change interests, shall we say, and currently Chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (that’s right, C-Span has comedy, too!) who has been brought in to explain why scientist’s views on climate change need to be kept representative of the Administration’s (and, apparently, the American Petroleum Institute’s) point of view.

About 3 hours into the hearing you get the impression Connaguhton would prefer Kenny Blankenship and Vic Romano give him Irritable Bowl Syndrome. It’s truly a joy to watch. Hansen, on the other hand, sort of looks like a national hero.

To view this performance, go to this page and look for the link to the “House Hearing on Climate Change Research”.

Waxman (who is fast becoming the Chuck Barris of the medium) hosts still another primo offering: the Valerie Plame Wilson hearings. This is the stuff Hollywood dreams of. The heroine, an actual spy, lookin’ all glamorous, gets to confront the question of how she came to be outed as a secret agent by, not some foreign enemy, but her own government. Except for the fact that she doesn’t admit to torturing anyone, this could be an episode of “24”-we got nuclear weapons, secret plots, and a real American heroine betrayed by rogue elements in the highest levels of the Administration.

You’ll find this “must see” presentation on the same page as the episode above.

Click on the “House Hearing on Disclosure of CIA Agent Valerie Plame Wilson's Identity” link.

Two more “do not miss” programs: “Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center” and the reality classic “Senate Hearing on Hiring & Firing of U.S. Attorneys”.

In addition to “ensemble” presentations, C-Span offers fantastic “one-man shows”, including a daily presentation that should be called “Schaddenfreude”, but is instead known as the “White House Press Briefing with Tony Snow”.

If you have not previously viewed this spectacle, basically the way it works is the White House Press Corps, who recently discovered a new word called “cojones”, ask questions of Snow regarding the thoughts and actions of the Administration. He then twists and turns in the wind attempting to explain the various misdeeds of his bosses.

If such a thing as the “Chinese Contortionist Hall of Fame” exists, there is no doubt Tony Snow will have a prominent place of honor, and I encourage you to watch this at least twice a week.

You’ll find it on this page-look for the several “White House Press Briefing with Tony Snow” links.

Just like Fantasia, this venue creates its own reality stars, which travel from show to show, providing us entertainment at their expense. This week that star is (not yet former) Attorney General Gonzales, who has had, and has on tap, several outstanding appearances. Gonzales is exceptional at this sort of theater-when answering questions, his deadpan delivery combined with the absolutely absurd things he says is reminiscent of a young Bob Newhart, minus the phone.

Watch this week for his Clinton-esque “bob and weave” defense before both the House and Senate...for example, this gem, referencing the 4th Amendment...

“I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended...“

...and his press conferences (Link: “Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales Press Conference”) have become instant classics. This one features him denying and accepting responsibility simultaneously for the US Attorney situation. Better catch this act soon; however-rumors are he’s about to be kicked off the island, as it were.

The rest of this season looks great as well, and I anticipate the not-yet-scheduled, but highly anticipated “Katrina Show” will be one of the best presentations we’ve seen in years. Of course, the only thing that could make it better would be Michael Chertoff sitting as Attorney General, and that’s a real possibility.

If this season’s exciting lineup isn’t enough to get you watching C-Span, consider this: it’s paid for by the cable company you probably hate anyway-and it brings them no commercial revenue. That’s right-all this and no commercials!

In conclusion I’ll say just this: if you plan on watching American Idol this week because you like watching amateurs sing, try one of these C-Span presentations and see if it isn’t fun to watch professionals try to sing a believable tune as well.

No comments: