February 3, 2010

Do we Americans really want our President doing "Question Time"?

I wonder how that would go. Should the President be spending his time like that? Would it undermine the independence of the second branch of government? This isn't Britain, you know. I think we should be careful about getting too jazzed up about Obama's performance at the Republican retreat last week.
"The thing that made Friday interesting was the spontaneity," Axelrod said. "If you slip into a kind of convention, then conventionality will overtake the freshness of that."
Yes, the Prez would get unfresh. That is: tired. And we need him to be doing things that are not done in front of cameras. American politics is already too much of a show. That's why we ended up with Obama as President in the first place! 

Anyway, there's this petition, "Demand Question Time." David Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, says:
"None of us are naive and believe that implementing Question Time will cure what ails our country and our political process. We do realize that if QT does become a Washington routine, politicians and their aides will do what they can to game it to their advantage. But even though there are problems with the presidential debates — which have been taken over by the political parties and a corporate-sponsored commission — those events still have value. If you want more Question Time — even if only for its entertainment value — you can saddle up with dozens (and maybe it will turn into hundreds, thousands, and millions) of your fellow Americans in calling on our elected representatives to show us their best stuff on a regular basis."
That's an endorsement? It has some value. Bleh.


Salamandyr said...

OK, David Corn is backing it? I'm suspicious.

But aside from that, I like the idea of the President meeting and answering questions of the opposition. It seems like a good idea. But I'm not sure we need yet another formular-ized occasion. It would soon turn into the same pomp and circumstance of the SOTU, which is nothing but a yearly prop to the status of the President.

Lem said...

I don't think Obamas Teleprompter has enough Rahm to handle question time.

Henry said...

Question Time as a regular thing would be idiotic. But I would take Question Time as part of the State of the Union. The President gets 20 minutes to talk, 40 minutes Q&A. Let's keep the prepared remarks short. If the President can't prioritize, he shouldn't be president.

Now the Speaker of the House, the second most powerful person in the Federal Government, should definitely do Question Time. Getting Nancy Pelosi to defend the House Leadership would be a better use of the concept than having the President drone through his talking points.

ricpic said...

I thought Obama called every Republican who dared question his doom-plan a liar. No? That's what's called question time? Ah, brave new world.

CAA said...

I don't think asking Pres. Obama and future presidents to take 2-3 hours a month responding to the loyal and respectful opposition would detract too much from normal presidential duties. If it does then America has much bigger problems.

Sloanasaurus said...
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bagoh20 said...

If we had a decent media, they would ask the questions. That's supposed to be our system. A lot of highly paid people are simply not doing their jobs.

Sloanasaurus said...

It's hard to imagine Obama wanting to do it.

If he did we could just ask him the same question over and over:

"How can you propose a budget with endless deficits?" "How can your plan for the United States be bankruptcy?" At the very least your budget should propose a ten-year return to balancing the budget. The current budget proposal proposes bankruptcy...it doesn't make sense. Can Obama be serious?

Lem said...

I've seen the English version of QT in which there is sometimes heckling and sneering.

Frank Rich considers that kind of spectacle unpatriotic.

Roger J. said...

It might work in Britain with its unitary government and loyal opposition. Unfotunately the president is NOT the leader of the his party in congress except in name only. He cannot answer for Senator Reid or Speaker Pelosi-

Looks like we might want to review comarative government 301 and think about what we are asking.

Roger J. said...
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Anonymous said...

The longer Barack Obama is given to expel his hot air, the less time he has for planning the next takeover.

I say ... put him in the dock and let the inquisition begin.

LordSomber said...

They can play the 'Jeopardy' music while the telepromter is cueing up.

Salamandyr said...

Henry, your idea of having the Speaker do Question Time is a very good one. That is all part of the legislative branch, and does not presume that the President is some kind of Party Leader.

A monthly opportunity for the minority to publicly ask "what the hell do you think you're doing?" could be a very good thing.

The Crack Emcee said...

THIS president? Yes. All of them? Not really. But this guy is special, remember? Let's treat him that way - if only for the laughs. Let Oprah join him, too, since she was involved at the beginning.

It's time for all these jokers to face The Macho Response.

Joe said...

How about Tomato Throwing Time? Every six months all politicians will stand in a box while the public throws rotten tomatoes at them.

I like Henry's idea, especially since the State of the Union address is so idiotic anyway.

"I plan on giving every eight-year-old a KITTEN!" Everyone stands and applauds.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Ala William Buckley:

I'd rather the president be drilled by questions from ten random commenters from this blog than be asked softball questions posed by our so-called top pundits and talking heads from the MSM.

Unknown said...

Having worked in the civil service of a Westminster-style government (Ontario), I can say from experience that question period has both its pros and cons. Eventually everything becomes rote, with ministers reading prepared remarks (prepared by people like me) and evading tough questions. However, on balance I think the idea of governments having to respond directly to opposition criticism between elections is a good one. In the US the responsibility of challenging leaders theoretically falls on the press, but since journalists want to maintain the appearance of objectivity they tend to focus on the horserace aspect of politics rather than the relative merits of particular policies. Better that this be done by politicians who are clear about their own priorities.

What the US really needs is a leader of the opposition with a standing similar to the president's. This would not require any kind of conflict between the branches of government. The out party could simply move up their presidential nomination process by 3.5 years. Debates could then take place at regular intervals throughout the president's term. The opposition leader could also appoint a kind of "shaddow cabinet" to critise policy in particular ares (foreign policy, economic policy, etc...) This would force parties in opposition to get serious and demonstrate their readiness to govern. As an added benefit, voters would be much more familiar with presidential candidates long before elections. No more unknowns being elected to the highest office in the land on vague promises of hope and change.

garage mahal said...
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garage mahal said...

I heard recently that the Senate Majority leaders have not sat down face to face on a Sunday morning talk show in 8 yrs. Amazing. I love the idea of these rat bastards having to defend their positions unscripted outside the friendly confines of cable TV.

Oh, you can read all about it at the Garage Response!

DaveW said...

I don't think we need 'question time' the way the Brits do it. Our government is structured differently works fine.

What we need is for our president to actively engage and work with the opposition party and compromise to enact his agenda. The same way Bush did with Kennedy on his education bill, the way Clinton listened too his opponents' arguments and triangulated to peel off votes, the way Reagan cajoled Tip O'Neil to get his agenda passed.

You know, president stuff. The work part.

Roger J. said...

Garage: is that you? You arent drinking that libertarian cool aid are you? what kind of radical are you turning into?
Having the senate and house majority leaders debate would be fun!
Given the increasingly exalted position POTUS has become over the last 40 years, don't think his or her involvement would work.

garage mahal said...

I can't stand these people going on the talk shows and filibuster endlessly, our media is simply incapable of making them explain their positions. Really, any freshman moron can outwit a Washington reporter. I say have it out, leaders on both sides. Give them something to think about on their way to the next fundraiser. That's what it is these days, raise money for 3/4 of their term.

Unknown said...

I would back Question Time in lieu of one of his dopey speeches/town halls, not in addition to. We've heard the same thing hundreds of times.

Unknown said...

Question time sounds so, I Don't know, like Kindergarten?

Henry said...

The Garage Response? LOL.

Garage, I would focus on the Speaker of the House because the Speaker of the House actually has power. The Senate Majority and Minority Leaders are powerless dupes. Now LBJ was a powerful Senate Majority Leader, but LBJ had lots of oil money to spread around to other Senator's election campaigns. Reid can't even get his party to stop dissing Las Vegas.

bagoh20 said...

Garage has is having an epiphany!

WV: "dundat" I swear to god.

Unknown said...

Can you imagine Harry Reid going face to face on TV? The man is a babbling idiot. The only thing worse would be bumbling Joe Biden.

I say we give them their own comedy show once a week.

wv:sphyd=syphilitic squid

Unknown said...

Sal, you beat me to it.

Give POTUS an hour or so in front of the loyal opposition? Why not? As for time frame, the Limeys have a different system; the PM is one of them, not necessarily a former governor or general, or what ever, so one a week may not be such a good thing. Every six months or so, however, Ave imperator, te morituri salutamus.

Agree with Roger. This is the second time I've agreed with garage this year and it's starting to really worry me.

Shanna said...

How about Tomato Throwing Time? Every six months all politicians will stand in a box while the public throws rotten tomatoes at them.

A dunking booth would be kind of fun.

On a different note, did anybody see the president’s statement on the budget today. He blamed Bush for everything basically (for 10 years! Um, Bush wasn’t there the whole time and the republicans weren’t in charge the whole time either!).

The Crack Emcee said...

The Garage Response?

Scary thought, but I'll take it as a liberal endorsement!

Anonymous said...

When are we going to learn that what a President says is such a delicate custom-fitting of the TRUTH that it doesn't matter anymore? It's same with almost all congresspeople and even local politicians. There's no cost to lying – NONE! In most cases, it doesn't even seem like they've asked themselves whether they believe what they are saying, much less thought about it. Truth is just not important in the Great American Show.

I remember in 2004 when Bush was running for reelection. He had been Prez for four years, but it seemed that everything out of his mouth was about what he was going to do and what he was going to stand for. When you have nothing else, you can always fall back on words.

Cedarford said...

Coleman's idea is a good one. Right now, one of the problems (on top of the biggest one of Ruling Elites unaccountable to the voter doing business in secret behind closed doors in the new Imperial City) is ichoate opposition,

You have the Party of the Elected President in charge, the Speaker in Charge, and whatever 5-4 alignment currently stands with the lawyers dressed in black robes.

The only organized opposition is with the Senate leader and with how well the Governors are organized and checking the machinations of the Elites in the Imperial City.

The President only faces fragmented squawkers all pushing different agendas. The squawkers all have a methodology of not trying to organize a good opposition, but squawking louder than the others to aggrandize power aor money for themselves in the minority opposition.
Fragmented against Clinton before he straightened out, then running in 8 different directions against Bush and so diffusing their good points they got nothing from Dubya at his power peak 2002-2006, and currently shown in the disorganized rage against Obama.

What is needed is a leader that the Party out of power in the Oval Office or House agrees to get behind. What Republicans need right now is a person who will pull all the anti-Obama squawkers into a room and come out with a solid, sincere opposition that is prioritized. Willing to deal with Obama on some things, but standing tall and in unison in opposing others.
In the House, they need an opposition with the power to discipline those in the minority who buck the common good that is effective as the tools the Speaker has in his/her quiver.

(Remember too that both the House and Senate greatly suffer from Satrapies in the forms of Committees and from a system that reserves the seniority. Even right after the Civil War, this was flagged as a massive problem in the US political system. It again and again is about the example of some dude regularly elected in Detroit long enough to become Committee Head telling the whole country what to do on Commerce from a Detroit perspective vs. having the best person to run the Commerce committee leading it.)

LonewackoDotCom said...

In and of itself this isn't a bad idea, but overall it's yet another bi-partisan sham. Review the past similar efforts, compare what I've been pushing for three years to what they're pushing, and then write those involved and let them know that you know.

veni vidi vici said...

Garage at 10.45. Right on.

But as regards Althouse's comment "The prez would become unfresh..."

Wait, how would that be a change? This guy's overexposure is beyond even that of Bill "need to have the president on the evening news every night *doing* something" Clinton's. He's about as unfresh anymore as a hobo's drawers.

traditionalguy said...

Yes, we want President Palin to do question time so that the Professor can comment on her style and her eloquence. As to the usual President, not so much. Maybe we can get the teleprompter writer to come up and the members can question him/her.

Gabriel Hanna said...

I don't think we need a "Question Time". As others have said, this isn't Britain and the President doesn't serve at the pleasure of Congress.

What we need is a Congress that isn't full of entrenched careerist politicians (the vast majority of which, I am sorry Ann, are lawyers) and paralyzed by procedures. Like severe term limits (one).

In that case I'd be happy to see the Speaker of the House taking on a sort of Prime Ministerial role. It's not the President's job to lead Congress.

I think though, that the original Constitution intended the Vice-President to be the leader of the opposition--that's why the VP is the President of the Senate and was originally supposed to be the runner-up in the Presidential election.

Big Mike said...

Interesting. As Glenn Reynolds has noted, on the one hand, the President seems to be floating a trial balloon about engaging the Republicans constructively. On the other hand, he is up in New Hampshire ripping the Republicans as obstructionists.

Technically, these statements are not inconsistent, but from a practical perspective one does not "engage" a group by ripping it.

The basic question stands: what, exactly, should the Republican office-holders to if in their judgement the legislation proposed by Obama-Reid-Pelosi is bad for the country? Other than vote "no"?

victoria said...

Glenn Reynolds, blah. Now I am not a big Obama fan but I think the Q and A with the righties proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is not the teleprompter president. Those who continue to spread that myth are as uninformed as the story that Trig is Sarah Palin's grandson not son. Give the dude a break, Lem. Your anger and Florida's profanity filled anger is just not cool and not accurate.

Florida seems to think that the President works for him/her and not everyone in the US. And, due to his/her profanity laced input, I would think that they would like Rahm, speaks the same language.

I find it distressing that given the education level of most of the people on this blog that they cannot find any words other than profanity to express themselves. I am not adverse to a f@#$ or a s#$% from time to time but I have small children around to look to us as adults as role models. Cut the crap and talk like adults.

Vicki from Pasadena

traditionalguy said...

Vickie...Please stop saying Crap in front of the children. Thank you.

Methadras said...

Let's be honest about this. QT for President Barely is nothing more than an exercise to display himself as a the smartest guy in the room and try to shed this moniker of incompetence. Good luck, Mr. President.

rhhardin said...

I'd go for Colbert doing weekly interviews

water museum

The Crack Emcee said...


It's not our education level that causes us to swear - we're Americans - we're supposed to swear. (When first allowed into the White House, we ripped the place apart.) That's who we are. A mongrel nation with no pretentions. All you're doing by trying to raise your kids different is,...making them different. Where I come from, getting all haughty about the word choices of others will get their little asses kicked.

Focus on the ideas people are trying to convey if you want to determine if they're smart or not.


I've spent a lot of time in Pasadena, so I'm kinda surprised you don't know this stuff already.

victoria said...

well, crack, I assumed that people have ideas. Sometimes the words get in the way of the ideas. Profanity is a great deterrent to even listening to good ideas. The information may be valid and ideas good, but the language gets in the way.

Since you have been to Pasadena many times, I am surprised you did not know that we value ideas over profanity every day.

Vicki from Pasadena

Anonymous said...

I like Henry's idea on Q&A during SOTU and on the speaker being quizzed regularly. If politicians are good for anything it is their use of language as a skewer. I love CSPAN's question time.