Congress

Can We Stop With All the Congressional Grandstanding?

Hearings aren’t about educating lawmakers or getting answers. They're all about getting good soundbites.

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Congressional hearings were created to educate lawmakers so they have knowledge before they pass bills or impeach a president.

Not today. Today, hardly any education happens.

During the President Trump impeachment "testimony," legislators tried to score points. At least five times, Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.) shut down criticism by shouting, "Gentleman is not recognized!"

I get that politicians are eager for "face time" in front of a larger audience, but I assumed they would at least try to learn things. Nope.

Maybe they don't want to ask real questions because they fear looking as dumb as then-Sen. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah) did at a hearing on Facebook. He asked Mark Zuckerberg, "How do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?"

"We run ads," smirked Zuckerberg. "I see," said Hatch.

What's obvious to most people somehow eludes the oblivious "experts" in Congress.
At another Facebook hearing, Congress grilled Zuckerberg about his plan to launch an electronic currency called Libra. Zuckerberg said, "I actually don't know if Libra is going to work, but I believe it's important to try new things."

He was right. But instead of asking about technological or economic implications of the idea, Rep. Al Green (D–Texas) asked Zuckerberg, of the companies partnering with him, "how many are headed by women?"

"Congressman, I do not know the answer," replied Zuckerberg.

"How many of them are minorities?" asked Green. "Are there any members of the LGBTQ+ community?"

Green doesn't want to learn anything. He wants to sneer and score points.

Politicians' sloppy ignorance is extraordinary. Rep. Steve King (R–Iowa) grilled Google CEO Sundar Pichai about iPhones, citing a story about his granddaughter using one, leading Pichai to explain, "Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company."

Today's posturing is not what the founders had in mind when they invented hearings in 1789. George Mason said members of Congress "possess inquisitorial powers" to "inspect the Conduct of public offices."

Yes! Investigate government.

But today, they are more likely to threaten CEOs and bully opponents.

"Are you stupid?" then-Rep. Darrell Issa (R–Calif.) said to one witness. They want to showboat, not learn. Often, they ask questions even when they know the answers.

"Ms. DeVos, have you ever taken out a student loan?" asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D–Mass.) of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. "Have any of your children had to borrow money?"

Warren knows that DeVos is a billionaire, but she wanted to score points with her fans.

One of the louder showboaters today is self-proclaimed socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.). She asked Wells Fargo boss Tim Sloan, "Why was the bank involved in the caging of children?"

"We weren't," replied Sloan.

Some of today's hearings are useful in that we get to see how absurd and ignorant our representatives can be.

During a hearing on military personnel being stationed on the island of Guam, Rep. Hank Johnson (D–Georgia) said, "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it would tip over and capsize." Really. He said that.

Then there was the time Rep. Maxine Waters, (D–Calif.) chair of the House Financial Services Committee, summoned bank CEOs to Washington and demanded, "What are you guys doing to help us with this student loan debt?!"

"We stopped making student loans in 2007," Bank of America's Brian Moynihan told her.

"We actually ended student lending in 2009," added Citigroup's Michael Corbat.

"When the government took over student lending in 2010 … we stopped doing all student lending," explained Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase.

The Chair of the Financial Services Committee didn't even know that her own party kicked bankers out of the student loan business, insisting that government take over?!

Apparently not. She is so eager to blame business for government's mistakes that she didn't research her own topic.

The more I watch politicians, the more I hate them. Let's give them less power.

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  1. Maxine Waters is 81 years old. After that pharmacist leaked that he filled out Alzheimer’s medication for a bunch of congressmen, I would be surprised if Waters is being treated for dementia of some kind, and it’s mostly her aides that do the real, actual work.

    1. Old age maybe taking its toll but she has publically demonstrated that she is a dolt for decades.

  2. No, everyone hates Congress, but loves their Congressperson. Unless and until people vote these fools out, nothing will change. And it will take voting multiple House Reps out in multiple elections to get the point across, and that is not going to happen. Remember all the term limits candidates that decide term limits were bad after being elected?

    1. That’s the problem – it’s easy enough to sneer at people like Maxine Waters but she’s got some stiff competition for Stupidest Member of Congress and somebody’s obviously voting for her. Maybe somebody should go to her district and start digging into the question of who exactly is voting for her and why. I would suggest you’re going to have a hard time finding somebody who can articulate a good reason, but they can’t all be Democratic Party operatives of one sort or another or “paid” voters who were offered a free ride to the polls aboard a party bus where free pizza and beer and cigarettes were offered as an inducement to turn out the vote.

      And it’s not like it would be easy to find a better candidate, anybody with any sense wouldn’t be living in Maxine Waters’ district (hell, Maxine Waters doesn’t even live in her own district)and anybody with any sort of ability is too busy making money minding their own business to be interested in getting involved in politics.

    2. Contract With America. They were going to pass a bill with them, but then they abandoned that. Then many took personal pledges not to stay after so many years, and then many of them ditched that idea. I used to be very against term limits, the idea itself seems un-Democratic, but I’m starting to come around.

    3. We need a “flush ’em all” vote. Since so many Americans seem dedicated to (1) direct democracy and (2) dominant national government, then they should support a periodic national referendum on Congress.

      1. Nah, just switch to House to party-list proportional representation.

  3. What is up with the certificate date error on Reason’s website. Seriously? Your IT team needs some help.

    1. With Reason.com’s benefactor Charles Koch struggling in this #DrumpfRecession, he just doesn’t have the spare cash to hire more web designers.

      1. Listen, whats a couple billion between friends? Tell your friend Charlie to cough up some dough.

    2. In fairness, the Chrome browser said the certificate was valid through 1/8/2020, therefore expired. I guess computers only understand ones and zeroes, not dates.

      1. There. Are. 100. Lights!

        1. There are 10 people that understand binary. Those who do, and those who don’t.

  4. “Today’s posturing is not what the founders had in mind when they invented hearings in 1789.”

    In 1789 television didn’t exist and the hearings were “public” only to those with the means to attend in person. There would have been little point in grandstanding and posturing.

    Today with the hearings televised live on multiple 24/7 cable news networks, the grandstanding and posturing is the entire point of holding hearings.

  5. It is not a requirement that politicians know things, or know how to think dispassionately. They are rewarded in many cases for emoting and for scapegoating. This is the universal flaw in democratic forms of government that rhetoric has only a tenuous connection to rationality.

  6. Short answer: no.

    Longer answer; there has been grandstanding in Congress for longer than there has been a United States. Before that, there was grandstanding in Parliament. For politicians, grandstanding is like excretion; if they should somehow stop they would quickly dies of accumulated toxins.

    1. Parliament grandstanding is often more entertaining than US Congress grandstanding.

  7. Isn’t this article a repeat from yesterday?

    Anyway, to repeat my comment, how about if Congress actually did more business behind closed doors?

    1. Doing business behind closed doors does nothing for their re-election campaigns.

  8. better hearings than votes.

  9. I’m all for Congressswine publicly displaying their stupidity, however there should be a laugh track when they do.

  10. Not all of the “grandstanding” is harmful or obfuscates things. I have wanted for years to see Congress conduct the weekly “Prime Minister’s Questions” they do in London.

    Of course, since PMQs are mostly about the performance of Cabinet departments, the person being asked would have to be the President. The Constitution doesn’t require he cooperate, but I think it would help his image, especially for a president like Trump who is being actively and maliciously smeared on a daily basis.

    But the questioning of CEOs often goes too far and is done only to embarrass. I would take away Congress’ power to make people appear before them.

  11. Every-time I read one of the best articles on Reason – its written by Stossel.

  12. That picture really looks like someone told AOC to “Vogue”.

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