Republican Interrogations on Camera: Better Than Sex

Remember when centerfolds used to be the source of fiery dreams? And juries decided cases in trials that took place in courtrooms?

Remember when Congress passed laws?

If you do, you know times have changed.

Salacious photos are so ubiquitous now that Playboy Magazine has canned bunnies, and jury trials? Gone.

The American people are now called upon to be the jury on all things political because Congress is a slave to the "Freedom" Caucus and can't pass a law to save its life.

It's this weird cocktail of social phenomena that explains why we are bombarded constantly with broadcasts of frustrated lawmakers (Republican men, in particular) breathlessly trying to perform awe-inspiring cross-examinations of political foes on national television -- and failing.

Real trials discover truth. Political carnivals dressed up as "hearings," like the inquisitions of Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton on Benghazi, are about fantasies of power and the outcome of elections.

Questioning on camera is now the measure of success, and Maine U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, dreams of one day skewering somebody on C-SPAN, but for now he's on YouTube. Watch him interrogate Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, in an empty hearing room! It's powerful stuff.

The intrepid congressman first extracted an admission that Richard Cordray's job is to protect consumers (BAM!), then Poliquin went in for the jugular, hammering the director with questions about outrageous spending by the bureau of 216 million taxpayer dollars! $216 million! And renovating a building he doesn't even own! Adding insult to injury, this new office space is slated to have child care on site ... with a playground!

You would agree with me that this is outrageous, wouldn't you? Well, wouldn't you?

Well, what if the congressman has the facts completely wrong? What if the renovation will actually cost half that amount, according to Cordray, and the government does own the building? What if the bureau that protects consumers from Wall Street greed is getting both value for taxpayers and a family-friendly office for public employees?

Lawmakers playing Hollywood lawyers ignore a fundamental rule that governs real trials -- namely, that questions are not evidence -- but House Republicans are so enraptured hearing themselves interrogate Democrats, they can't stop asking them.

But Poliquin was a tiger the way he went in for the kill - peppering Cordray with questions about the shocking (shocking!) lack of oversight and accountability at the bureau.

"Since there's no appropriation from Congress (for the bureau), there's no oversight from Congress on what you spend your money on. Is that correct, sir?"

Wait. What about the answer? There is oversight - by the committee Poliquin is on, which summoned Cordray to appear for questioning in the first place, plus annual General Accounting Office audits, independent audits, policing by the Inspector General's Office and regular briefings before the House Appropriations Committee.

No matter! Poliquin is eager to get to his closing - the kicker - in the form of a question along the lines of "Can't we all agree it's shameful and terrible that so many Maine banks are being strangled by federal regulations promulgated by the Obama administration? Lobstermen can't get loans to buy boats! It's outrageous! Don't you agree?"

To which the director replied politely with a question of his own: What banks is the congressman talking about? Because the Dodd-Frank law that Poliquin hates exempts most community banks.

The video ends there, before an answer is forthcoming. So the takeaway from this litany of questions with no answers is that if you want to believe there is too much government regulation of banks, go ahead.

If the public is now the judge and the media the gatekeeper of what information is made available to us, we need more than hard questions. We need and deserve answers.

Last week, the Select Committee on Benghazi questioned Hillary Clinton, but the question of the panel's legitimacy remains.

Republicans were ferocious and self-righteous asking pointed questions about why the secretary of state was not busy emailing people during a terrorist attack, for example, and why Ambassador Chris Stevens didn't have the secretary's home address and fax number.

But if the question for the jury is whether the secretary of state ordered the military to "stand down" and not protect Ambassador Stevens and other Americans in Benghazi, why, after spending $4.5 million and three years, has no one from the Department of Defense or the CIA been called to testify?

Isn't what the the recipient of such an order has to say about it relevant? And if, in fact, Sidney Blumenthal is such a critical player, why not release his deposition transcript in full for us jurors to consider? Of the 70,000 pages of documents obtained by the Select Committee, why were only select pages of Hillary Clinton's emails released?

And seriously, who has a fax number anymore?

Isn't it true that Congress should leave lawyering to Hollywood and get back to making laws?