The Craziest Examples Of Congressional Theatrics (VIDEO)
Elyse Siegel contributed to this story
Just over twenty years ago, the cable industry launched the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network -- better known as C-SPAN. Among the network's achievements was its live broadcasts of legislative proceedings, allowing viewers to take a look at the governing process, to see how legislative sausage gets made, check up on their legislators' performances and stay abreast of key debates and votes.
It was a remarkable achievement in terms of transparency. However, there was a dark side to it all. Now, every single Congresscritter had a camera in the room and an unseen audience, beyond the governing chamber, to play to. And naturally, over time, they all basically became a gaggle of preening, self-obsessed jackasses.
This all reached its apotheosis this past weekend when Arizona Representative John Shadegg dragged a live baby into the chamber in order to make a melodramatic point about health care reform. Shadegg's presentation had no substantive impact on the debate, but then, that was never his attention -- he did what he did in order to grab a little attention from the media, who love themselves a good, substance-free, provocative stunt.
But while having a baby at the podium was certainly extreme, the truth is that Congress has been moving in the direction of being a quasi-governmental performance art space for a long time now, where it's becoming more and more normal -- perhaps even obligatory -- for your elected representatives to build props, wear costumes and come armed with idiotic charts to make their point. Which is that they often don't have a point, at all. But the camera eye loves the antics.
With the invaluable assistance of Elyse Siegel, we bring you our favorite examples of Congressional theatrics. Vote for your favorites! And if you've got a favorite of your own, send along an email!
John Shadegg Wields A Baby
In this past weekend's health care debate, Arizona Republican John Shadegg bravely opened a new frontier by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/10/jon-stewart-mocks-use-of_n_351911.html">using a live baby as a visual aid</a> to complain about health care reform. The infant, Maddie, was introduced as Shadegg's grand-daughter, which Shadegg quickly corrected, saying, "I wish this <i>was</i> my granddaughter." I wish most Congresspersons demonstrated Maddie's level of cognitive development, but no!
Alan Grayson Warns We Will All Die Slowly
Florida Democrat Alan Grayson made headlines when he took to the well of the House of Representatives<a href="http://airamerica.com/politics/10-27-2009/grayson/"> to warn that the GOP health care plan</a> was for all of the nation's uninsured to DIE QUICKLY! But not so quick that you miss all of the manufactured suspense as Grayson flipped through his poster boards.
Tom Latham Regifts The Chinese
Iowa Republican Tom Latham hates him some cap and trade. So much that he <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/politics_nation/2009/06/latham_brings_props_to_house_f.html">decided to box up a hard hat</a> with the words "American Jobs" written on it and send it to China, as a gift. How thoughtful! And all we've gotten in return is a mess of poisonous toys.
Peter Roskam's Into Bondage
Illinois Republican Peter Roskam took a look at the health care bill and saw handcuffs. And "not figurative handcuffs," <a href="http://hotair.com/archives/2009/11/09/video-if-obamacare-is-so-good/">Roskam said</a>, "actual criminal penalties." So, you <i>do</i> mean figurative handcuffs? Anyway, it's a good thing David Vitter sits in the U.S. Senate, because he would have probably been a little inappropriately interested in this presentation.
Michele Bachmann Get's Lei'd
Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann made the acquaintance of some hula dancing Teabaggers from Hawaii, and they brought her a lei, which Bachmann herself could obtain at the airport in Hawaii, were it not for the fact that she believes planes cannot fly over water without the use of witchcraft. Anyway, <a href="http://minnesotaindependent.com/49288/bachmann-lei-health-care-steve-israel-holocaust">she told Congress</a>, "I’m reminded that the one who created this lei also created our freedom. Are we so insensible to the high cost our forebearers paid to purchase our freedom?" So, the Hawaiian Bureau of Tourism created our freedom? I guess this is not supposed to make much sense.
Chuck Grassley, Dragon Slayer
<a href="http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-august-4-2009/chuck-grassley-s-debt-and-deficit-dragon">CLASSIC CHUCK GRASSLEY</a> (R-Iowa) here, as the Iowan mixed all the metaphors he had at his disposal to inveigh against health care reform: Sir Lancelot! Dragons! Painful weapons! Golden egg-laying geese! The whole thing was like having a Pear Of Anguish inserted into your brain. Unless, of course, you were Maddie -- John Shadegg's not-granddaughter -- who probably likes the pretty pictures!
Chuck Grassley Saw A Bill Murray Movie
More from Charles Grassley: "We should not legislate in a hasty manner and place ourselves in an infinite loop," says Grassley, apparently <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/anneschroeder/0608/Chuck_Grassley_is_a_Bill_Murray_fan.html">drawing the wrong lesson from Bill Murray's GROUNDHOG DAY</a>, in which said "infinite loop" allowed Bill Murray's character the chance to experience personal growth, so that he was no longer the sort of preening dick who'd waste the time of serious people with comparisons to movies he saw one night on Comedy Central.
Orrin Hatch Hates Robin Hood
Utah Republican Orrin Hatch LOVES HIM some children's tales, too, it seems. Thankfully, he kept his stories straight, <a href="http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2009/04/orrin-hatch-quotes-from-disneys-robin-hood.html">citing Robin Hood</a> as a way of discussing Obama's infernal plan to redistribute wealth in America. It's not clear that Hatch quite understands who would be the Sheriff of Nottingham in this metaphor. But look, just be thankful Hatch didn't burst into an impromptu performance of Bryan Adams's "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You." Hatch, we remind you, fancies himself to be quite the singer.
Frank Lautenberg Is Sick Of These Star Wars
New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg <a href="http://rawstory.com/exclusives/byrne/lautenberg_judges_star_wars_519">compared then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's threat</a> to eliminate the Senate filibuster to Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine's efforts to destroy galactic freedom, murder the Jedi and crush "terrorism" with the Death Star. Flash forward to today, and suddenly the elimination of the Senate filibuster doesn't seem like such a bad idea, eh, Senate Democrats?
George Voinovich: Prop Master
When it comes to Congressional visual aids, the master of the form is Ohio Republican George Voinovich, who was the Jean-Michel Basquiat of poster-board-based metaphorical imagery. Check out all that elaborate work! The lovingly rendered "Emperor's New Clothes," the detailed Wheel of Fortune, the G4 Channel courting Pac Man nonsense...<a href="http://www.politico.com/click/stories/0911/charting_the_course.html">we're going to miss the senator when he retires</a>. But you know who won't miss him? The poor interns who had to build this crap.