Back with a Vengeance

March 24, 2009

Sorry for the lapse, everyone. I’ve wanted to write about this energy hearing that I went to for weeks now, and the story has gotten steadily more irrelevant in the meantime. So of course I’m going to post it anyway.

Before spring break, I went to a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the administration’s energy independence proposals. I got to see Energy Secretary Steven Chu testify, which was definitely cool. He came across as smart, knowledgeable, and most refreshing of all, reasonable. The best part, however, was definitely an appearance by a very belligerent Senator John McCain, who badgered Secretary Chu on the need for nuclear energy and the continued construction of a nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain. Every other Senator on the committee had spent the hearing thanking the witnesses for their testimony and celebrating their credentials and respecting their opinions. Then Senator McCain had his turn to question the witness and bam, it was like a courtroom drama film.  “Isn’t it true that…” “You said that…” “You didn’t answer my question!”

Moments like these make me feel like government is still worth watching. If you loved “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” like I did, then the real-life workings of Congress are likely to disappoint sometimes. Watching a Member give a speech to an empty chamber just so it goes on the record, or watching a Committee hearing with no Members present except the Committee Chair…these images make it seem like all the work gets done in emails and private meetings, and the traditional settings of government seem obsolete.

So I’m glad that there is at least one Senator being impolite and belligerent at an official hearing, and at least one witness who’s forced to depart from his prepared statement to respond. That’s what makes Congress worth watching.

Speaking of worth watching, if you haven’t seen “Mr. Smith,” do so at once. Consider that your link for the week.