Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Question Time for Americans?

So, I see that several Americans from across the political spectrum have launched a site and petition to demand a British-style 'Question Time' for their politicians.

This, of course, was spurred on by Obama's appearance at a GOP meeting last week in which (with the cameras rolling throughout) he answered their questions/talking points and scolded them for not being bipartisan.

I have to say that I felt a bit sorry for my American cousins after seeing their glowing responses to that bit of theatre: so desperate for their president to actually fight for them after a year of capitulating to and rolling over and playing dead for the Republicans and the nefarious, apparently all-powerful Blue Dog Democrats (and Scary Joe Lieberman, of course).

I should add that Obama actually did fight for something last year:

Despite deals cut late Thursday to wrap up the fiscal 2009 war supplemental, some House Democrats say they do not yet have enough support to pass the final bill.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, a leader of the antiwar Democrats, said the White House is threatening to withdraw support from freshmen who oppose the bill, saying “you’ll never hear from us again.”
So, yes, there was that.

Anyway, now that Americans have gotten a taste of the back and forth that can occur between the parties in a public Q&A session, it seems they think that more of this can actually be a useful thing.

From the petition site:

We live in a world that increasingly demands more dialogue than monologue. President Obama’s January 29th question-and-answer session with Republican leaders gave the public a remarkable window into the state of our union and governing process. It was riveting and educational. The exchanges were substantive, civil and candid. And in a rare break from our modern politics, sharp differences between elected leaders were on full public display without rancor or ridicule.
It's cute that they think regular 'Question Time' (or 'Question Period' a la Canada) sessions would be devoid of "rancor or ridicule'. I wonder how many of those signatories have ever actually watched our partisan grandstanding popcornfests. If what they're looking for is something 'substantive, civil and candid', they're barking up the wrong tree - no matter what kind of political dogs they might be.

I enjoy our parliament's Answer the Damn Question period because the entertainment value is priceless for a political junkie. But let's not pretend that it's anything other than one gigantic food fight, sans the actual food, or that it encompasses anything more substantial than the opportunity for political foes to take verbal jabs at each other for an hour a day all the while hoping that one of their pathetic gotcha performances makes it on the evening news.

Those who are pushing for this in the US would do well to simply look at the history of our parliament's experiences with this kabuki and the disdain many Canadians have for the lack of decorum and disrespect for the house that we have witnessed for decades.

Question Time/Question Period is not the answer.

Be careful what you wish for.

1 comment:

  1. Are you sure that the "history of our parliament's experiences" with question period is bad over all the time it has existed? Not to mention all the time it has existed in all the Westminster-model parliaments? Anyway, it's our House of Commons and in the end we are responsible for its behaviour. If we don't like the stupidities of q.p. let's begin to serve notice that we won't vote for people who use it stupidly.