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!
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