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Congressional hearings are not about the witness


Fri, Jul 16th, 2010
Posted in Commentary

Even before Tony Hayward, the embattled CEO of BP, appeared in front of a House investigative subcommittee on June 17, everyone knew why he was there. It was not to apologize for the Gulf oil spill or to explain his company's behavior - though all of this was expected of him. He was there, in large measure, so that members of Congress could vent their outrage - and that of their constituents - over the spill.

They did this for hours, accusing BP of taking shortcuts that increased the chances of an oil-rig explosion and its chief of "stonewalling" efforts to understand what had happened. It was a bipartisan pile-on - with the notable exception of the Texas Republican who apologized for the White House's efforts to secure a $20 billion compensation fund from the company. By the end, USA Today was comparing Hayward to a piñata.

All of this was a fine example of the drama inherent in a high-profile congressional hearing, which, for better or worse, is where the American public often builds its impression of Congress. There are plenty of tedious hearings on Capitol Hill - though they are often just as important, if not more so, as the ones that attract a media scrum. But the hearings that rivet the public's attention, play to a packed room, and command that evening's news cycle showcase Congress at both its best and worst.

Members can appear deeply knowledgeable and appallingly ignorant, angry and sympathetic, impressive and lackluster. They can pander to mass opinion, showboat, ask silly questions, and ignore or misstate the facts. They can also ask tough, penetrating questions, hold public figures to account for their actions, and build Americans' understanding of thorny national problems. Sometimes you can see all of this in the space of a single hearing - and, from time to time, in a single member.

For the witnesses in the limelight, the stakes are high. Careers and reputations get made and broken in congressional hearing rooms, and causes advanced or destroyed. Yet in the end, hearings like these are part of the work of the Congress - staged and run to serve the purposes of members.

Indeed, if I were to offer one piece of advice above all to someone called to testify, it would be to remember this overriding fact: The hearing is more about advancing the interests of the members attending than about you. The cameras may all be trained on you and the reporters jotting down every word you say, but you are there to .....
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Who's to blame for the oil spill?

Fri, Jul 9th, 2010
Posted in Commentary

rsauer@fillmorecountyjournal.com

The gulf oil spill disaster has too many parents to do DNA testing to sort it all out. It is tragic, not just for the poor people in the Gulf States, for the whole country. Assigning blame has sucked all the a ..... 
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Each of us can help sooth The beast threatening our economic future

Fri, Jul 9th, 2010
Posted in Commentary

kreisner@fillmorecountyjournal.com

Ever rising health care costs and an aging population are driving so-called "entitlement" program expenses through the roof, growing much faster than even a robust economy. Over the past decade the cost of t ..... 
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It's tough to give Americans what they want

Fri, Jul 2nd, 2010
Posted in Commentary

The Gulf oil spill has laid bare a series of shortcomings in the government's ability both to prevent and to respond to such a crisis, and the result is spiraling public frustration. But it might not hurt for members of the public to save a little o ..... 
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Online article comments at fillmorecountyjournal.com

Fri, Jul 2nd, 2010
Posted in Commentary

All online comments are unedited and presented as published by the original author.

In response to a commentary titled: Catastrophe, published in the Journal on June 28, 2010

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Article comment by: Fr ..... 
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Catastrophe - 6/28/10

Fri, Jun 25th, 2010
Posted in Commentary

Imagine thousands of barrels of oil day after day gushing out of a Fillmore County field and spreading across our agricultural land, through our grasslands and forests and into our springfed streams. Property values plummet, businesses close, jobs a ..... 
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There is no substitute for robust oversight

Fri, Jun 25th, 2010
Posted in Commentary

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, it seems like every day brings new word of some calamitous failing at the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency charged with regulating offshore oil drilling. There's an inspector-general's report citing ..... 
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Foreign policy Are we safe or sorry?

Mon, Jun 21st, 2010
Posted in Commentary

It is important at this time to take a closer look at our foreign policy as to whether we, as a nation, are on a path to becoming a sanctuary against terrorism. The events of 9/11 are still looming in the background, and the attempted car bombing in ..... 
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Morse - Letter to the Editor

Mon, Jun 21st, 2010
Posted in Commentary

Letter about MN leaders

I appreciate how Minnesota legislators and the governor came together this spring with a solution for providing medical care for the poorest adults in our state through the GAMC program. I know the plan was not perfect ..... 
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