The macro-problem: politicians don’t have to answer questions. They only have to pretend to answer them. You know the phenomenon as well as I. A journalist asks, “Why did you vote against immigration reform when you said you wanted to see it happen?” Politician: “I believe the American people . . .”–and blah, blah, blah.
Another problem, of course, is that Congresspersons and Senators routinely come out and give a “briefing,” at which they spray talking-points on journalists and cameras, and then take no questions.
The micro-problem: Politicians almost seem never to have to answer, in an accountable way, questions about deep contradictions their Party-membership and their Party’s claims reveal.
Democrats should have to answer questions about the fracking-o-rama, which is regularly causing earthquakes and poisoning water-systems. The Party of environmentalism? Oh, really?
Republicans should have to answer questions about race-baiting. Reagan’s “Welfare Queen,” one of the great political marketing scams; Bush the Elder’s Willie Horton ad; Jim Demint on Obama: “We will break him”; birthers; going further with the no-compromise strategy than ever before–to satisfy the rabid racists back home and even in some cases to the detriment of the Party.
Democrats should have to answer questions about Black Americans’ continuing plight with regard to unemployment, incarceration, and ineffective education.
Republicans should have to answer questions about how trigger-happy they are. McCain chides Kerry and Obama for being “weak” in the Ukraine and Syria, so we must conclude that he wants “boots on the ground,” even after Secretary Gates (while still Secretary), a Republican, said that any President who put boots on the ground in the Middle East should have his head examined. If only he had stressed as much before Bush’s two wars.
The Democrats should have to answer questions about more or less dead cities, or at least parts thereof, like Newark, Detroit, and New Orleans. Why not a domestic Marshall Plan for such cities? Why is it okay for a nation to let cities die?
The Republicans, in a most thorough fashion, should have to answer questions about science. Do they in fact adhere to the scientific method, broadly? If so, why oppose its results re: global warming? And so on.
Both parties must be made (as if!) to answer the Empire question. The “defense” budget of the U.S. is greater than the defense budgets of all other nations, combined–including China and Russia. And yet this super-power of ours, this economic juggernaut, has to pretend to choose between healthcare for all (which every industrialized state has provided for years) and the monstrous defense budget. And by any mainstream definition, the U.S. is an empire.
I know: it’s hopeless. The chat-shows are ludicrous when it comes to questions and answers. Everyone on the show wears the same makeup. Everyone lives in “this town,” D.C. Everyone is hip-deep in bullshit. Everyone must squeeze out a few canned lines before commercial-break.
Only if a few mavericks–in the mold, say, of Ron Paul, Barnie Frank, Alan Simpson, and Bernie Sanders–began appearing on a show in which questions really did have to get answered, straight-up; and only if such appearances became noteworthy and popular; only then, I think, would we have a chance. The marketing-pitch would have to be, “Are you brave enough to answer questions on [name of show here]?” “Are you brave enough to stipulate some agreed-upon facts before the questioning begins?”
But even if a politician said “Yes, I am fearless!”, the handlers would say, “Not so much!”