Opinion: Columnists

UPDATED! Fed up with 'fiscal cliff' BS? Bring on those C-SPAN cameras

By |
Mark Tapscott,Columnists,Campaign 2012

Are you as sick, tired and totally fed up as I am with the spin war among the Washington professional politicians on the fiscal cliff?

The political spin from President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner is out of control, but there is one sure-fire way to stop it and force both sides to get serious about doing something constructive for the country - fire up the C-SPAN cameras for every negotiating session.

Here's why: As long as the talks continue behind closed doors, none of the professional Washington politicians in either party have any incentive to stop the PR maneuvering for political advantage. They know nobody can verify who is negotiating seriously and who is just talking. The game-changer is putting the talks on C-SPAN so it will be obvious for everybody what is really happening.

"But if you bring in C-SPAN, all the politicians will do is pose for the cameras," the critics will scream, as they always do whenever somebody suggests putting a stop to the closed-door nonsense upon which Washington politicians thrive.

And the critics are exactly right! The first session in front of the cameras probably will be posturing, maybe the second one, too. But the longer the posing goes on and the public sees it, the more likely it is to fuel the public outrage that will, sooner or later, force these clowns to stop playing political games and get on with finding genuine common ground.

So why won't the politicians do it? For one thing, their fund raising depends on their being able to continue painting the other guy as the evil, close-minded jerk who is all that stands between us and fixing America. Democrats raise money that way, and so do the Republicans. They couldn't keep doing that if the public could watch the negotiations.

There's another reason the politicians don't want to let in the cameras - it's hard to claim the country faces a perilous crisis that only the politicians can fix when the public can see that it's the professional Washington politicians who aren't doing what needs to be done.

The longer we let the professional politicians keep this charade going behind closed doors, the more reasonable seems conservative icon William F. Buckley's claim that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the Harvard faculty. Well, as things are going now, I would take those 2,000 Bean Towners over our professional politicians in a New York minute (so to speak!).

Here's another question worth thinking about - Why aren't the New York Times, ABC News, the Washington Post and the rest of the major media outlets clamoring for C-SPAN cameras? Could the answer be that their coverage of the fiscal cliff negotiations also thrives on those talks happening behind closed doors?

Think about it: As things now stand, scoops depend upon who has the most buddies on the inside, the best access to the power players. As long as the folks behind those closed doors can spoon-feed the big names, the rest of us have to depend upon them to have any idea of what is going on in the talks.

That's great for the professional politicians and the privileged journos, but it leaves the public out in the cold.

So, I repeat: If Obama, Boehner and their supporting cast in the media are serious about avoiding the fiscal cliff, they will ask C-SPAN to bring in the cameras.

I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE: Hike Hollywood's taxes, too

Other folks are coming up with great suggestions for how to make Washington get serious, including Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds, who is also a regular USA Today columnist and a long-time Examiner oped contributor.

Reynolds offers three very interesting ideas, including making Hollywood pay its fair share, like it used to be back in the 1950s:

"At the DNC, actress Eva Longoria offered to pay more taxes. Well, back during that Eisenhower era that the Dems are so nostalgic for, there was a 20% excise tax on movie theater revenues. It was established to help pay off the post-World War II debt. Now we're in debt again. Bring it back.

"For added fun, extend it to DVD sales, movie downloads and music on CDs and over the Internet. As a great man once said, at some point, you've made enough money. If we need more tax revenue, who better to pay it than Hollywood fatcats with their swimming pools and private jets?"

Go here for the rest of the Reynolds offerings.

UPDATE II: Sessions, Norquist want the cameras, too

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, has been blasting "secret" talks for several days, most notably here, here and here. Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and a perennial boogeyman for professional Washington politicians in both parties, makes the case for C-SPAN cameras here.

UPDATE III: And then there's John Fund

Over at NRO, John Fund offers some incisive thoughts about why Republicans should be demanding that the cameras be allowed to cover the negotiations, including the fact that "President Obama rode to the White House in part on promises of transparency and open government. Recall his promise to conduct all health-care negotiations in front of C-SPAN cameras. He broke that pledge. Republicans should now demand that the budget talks be televised."

Go here for the rest of the Fund column.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

View article comments Leave a comment