Politics British-style

By John Toth
I got up really early one morning and decided to turn on the TV until it was time to start getting ready for the day.
After channel hopping for a few seconds, I started watching the British House of Commons on C-SPAN. I have seen it before, and always thought we should do something similar here in the U.S.
There were a few members of the house, and the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, verbally punching it out, getting hit from all sides, with legitimate questions, softies, and cheap shots, all at the same time.
It’s rapid fire. We don’t have anything like this here, and maybe we should.
The closest we come are separate news conferences, which are designed to be one-sided. It takes a lot longer to do that than to put everyone under one roof, and let them go at it.
Do you remember when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), yelled “you lie” when Obama was giving a speech to Congress in September? Even Fox News called it “an extraordinary breach of congressional decorum.”
That’s nothing compared to what I saw on C-SPAN. I don’t know which side was ruder. Brown didn’t hesitate landing a punch below the belt about a questioner’s recently exposed tax problems. Conservative members called him all kinds of names, and he punched back. It was all simultaneous.
When you have nothing to do around 4 a.m., turn on C-SPAN and try to catch one of these House of Commons debates. It’s more exciting than Lucha Libre Internacional, and it’s not even fake.
There are no chairs being thrown, but the verbal exchange is fascinating.
After the holidays, if the health care reform bill is still being talked to death, we need to set up one of these joint meetings of the House and Senate, and have Obama do another speech.
Instead of giving Wilson dirty looks when he does his cat-calling, give him a microphone. As a matter of fact, put microphones all over the place. Hang them from the ceiling, just like in the House of Commons, and let’s go at it – in an orderly fashion, of course. Wilson, or whoever else wants to, gets to do his cat-call, or say anything he wants, and then Obama has his time to shoot back. Then someone from the Democratic side of the aisle would ask a friendly question, and Obama would have a chance to recover a little. Then we go back to the Republican side.
Anything goes verbally – no decorum. It’s like a spirited family discussion around the dinner table, except on a grander scale.
I’d bet my last dime on it that with one or two meetings like this, we’d have everyone on the same page, and we can hammer out agreements on health care and all other issues, pretty quickly.
It’s worth a try. Look what we have now. Lengthy, boring news conferences. Both sides sniping at each other from a distance. The British way is more efficient. You can just yell at each other face to face in a controlled environment that allows for a meeting of the minds.
I’m all for it.
What do you say? If William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) and Rush Limbaugh can sit down and talk for an hour, why can’t our representatives? And if we don’t like what we hear, we can always call in Scottie.
“Full power Scottie. Beam these suckers up.”
“But where, captain?”
“Up, Scottie. It’s in the script. “Hurry. Up somewhere.”