It’s a bit disturbing to watch the confirmation hearings for the Trump Cabinet nominees.
Put bluntly, they can’t help but remind you of the immortal Senate hearing scenes in Godfather II,
when Frankie Pentangeli almost “pushed a button” on Michael Corleone.
Part of it comes from the fact that the time allotted to questions is laughably small,
especially considering the magnitude of the issues at hand.
Part of it is that almost all the questioners — even the ones with whom you most sympathize —
seem more interested in giving speeches TO the nominees rather than asking questions OF the nominees.
You can really see how the basic advice given in prepping the candidates in a million Hollywood movies seems pretty much on the money:
“Let the Senators give their speeches … say as little as you possibly can … don’t let them get you upset — or, at least, don’t let them SEE you get upset … just smile and let them pontificate … etc etc etc … ”
This choreography is particularly upsetting when it comes to HHS nominee Tom Price —
orthopedic surgeon, RPB congressman from the wealthy Atlanta suburbs, inside stock trader, avowed enemy of people without money —
especially if they have some health problem that puts them at the economic mercy of the medical establishment.
Unsurprisingly, Price is no favorite of the Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
And there are some heavy hitters on that committee, among them Bernie Sanders and Al Franken.
Sadly, even those two stalwarts of the dispossessed — who both made several strong points in their statements —
nevertheless spent most of their limited time making their own speeches — which were fine, as far as they went —
but neither of whom seemed able to develop a sustained colloquy about the very important issues each one of them raised.
The only person I saw who was able to do that was Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts.
Now, I know a lot of people are somewhat negative on Warren, saying that she doesn’t “toe the line” on certain “checklist issues”.
But from what I saw of these hearings, she was the only one who was able to actually draw out a clear position from Price on the two major issues she raised:
his outrageous inside trading in medical and bio-tech stocks —
and his “raw meat” efforts to cut health care spending on people in difficult economic circumstances.
To be sure, Franken raised the first issue, and Sanders did the second.
But each one of them ended up letting Price off the hook with too much speech-making and not enough directed questioning.
Watch Warren, however, and you begin to get an idea of what public discourse in this country COULD be like if there were more politicians interested in actually hearing answers than the sound of their own voices.
When Price says, “I’m offended by the insinuation”, you know she got to the bone.
And with a corrupt and compassion-less “sawbones” like Price, that’s a job well-done …