Mark Steyn’s thoughts in the aftermath:
In the US Senate, at least on Tuesday, senators wander in and out constantly. Their five-minute “question” sessions are generally four-minute prepared statements of generalized blather followed by a perfunctory softball to “their” witness, after which they leave the room without waiting to hear the answer – and then come back in when it’s their time to speak again at which point the staffer feeds them the four-minute blather they’re supposed to be sloughing off this time round. The video doesn’t capture the fakery of the event because under Senate rules the camera is generally just on whoever’s speaking. Whether this meets the “decorum” of the Senate, it certainly doesn’t meet the decorum of life; it’s a breach of the normal courtesies – and, frankly, Americans are the chumps of the planet for putting up with it. Since the 17th Amendment, senators have been citizen-legislators like any other, and so their contempt for the citizenry who have graciously consented, at their own time and expense, to appear before them demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the relationship.
Take this guy Brian Schatz, the Senator from Hawaii. He did his shtick, lobbed a softball at his witness, Rear Admiral Titley, and stood up to leave. I said I’d like to respond, and he demurred on the grounds that he was outta there, he had to get back to washing his hair or whatever. I said I’d still like to respond to what he said, and so I did – to an empty chair. A pseudo-parliament is a fine place in which to debate pseudo-science, but “decorum” has nothing to do with it.
There is another kind of basic rudeness, which I have never experienced in a real parliament. If you’re moderating a panel discussion on C-SPAN with five panelists, it’s generally considered polite to distribute the questions broadly. In this case, the Democrats asked no questions of anyone other than their guy – Rear Admiral Titley. For example, there was some extensive discussion of the satellite record: They have the scientist who created and developed the satellite temperature record sitting at one end of the table: John Christy. This is a remarkable scientific accomplishment. Yet they directed all their questions on the subject to the bloke down the other end – Rear Admiral Titley, who knows no more about the satellite record than I do. This is like inviting Sir Isaac Newton to a hearing on gravity and then only asking questions of Mr Timeserver sitting next to him. It may represent the “decorum” of the Senate but in any other area of life it would be regarded as insufferably ill-mannered.
…Unfortunately, the “decorum of the Senate” means that there are never any debates and only performance art, procedurally rigged to the advantage of the posturing preening senator. It’s easy for Fabius Maximus to fight vainly the old ennui at this particular bit of performance art, but in fact it was most unusual. I’ve been told that there’s never been an occasion where two witnesses turned the tables on a senator and bombarded him with questions. If that’s the case, Americans shouldn’t wait another 200 years to do it again. No citizen should consent to be insulted to her face by a mere elected representative.
Certainly, Senator Markey, like so many cowardly bullies, didn’t take it well. He was supposed to come back for his scheduled second round of questions. But, after that exchange, he declined to return.
I have pretty low expectations, particularly from that moron Ed Markey, but I was still surprised and appalled at the ignorant douchery on display by the Democrats.
Here are some reflections from Judith Curry.