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C-SPAN still awaits an answer from Boehner

Will TV be free to show what really goes on in the people's House?

January 23, 2011|By Andrew Malcolm, Los Angeles Times

Those Ticket readers who memorize all of our items will recall that in November, we wrote about new House Speaker John A. Boehner's efforts to dramatize how differently his Republicans would run the people's House from the way it was operated by the previous crowd ousted in the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

The visionary founder of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, took the occasion of those election upsets to plead with the Ohioan that finally, after all these years, C-SPAN's independent TV cameras be allowed in for daily coverage of the proceedings.

Few people realize that except for special days, like the opening of a new Congress, all of the video feeds to the outside world come from government cameras operating under strict government rules.

Apparently the bipartisan fear has been that independent cameras would focus on whatever was happening or interesting, even if it was empty seats, two people whispering or a member picking his nose or scratching herself. So the official House TV rules strictly stipulate that the cameras focus only on the person talking — no wide shots putting the operations of democracy in a visual context.

American voters and taxpayers, we suggested, could probably handle the burden of seeing the whole House for themselves without, in effect, political censorship of the video feed. What's to be afraid of anyway?

Here's the good news: Boehner hasn't said no to C-SPAN.

Here's the bad news: Boehner hasn't said yes to C-SPAN.

The folks over at the TV treasure house of C-SPAN are still waiting to hear from the new speaker. The earnest fellow has already cut his own chamber's budget and eliminated a considerable amount of ceremonial foolishness like congratulatory resolutions.

Now that Boehner's controlling majority has voted to repeal what it calls Obamacare, it would be an excellent opportunity for the new GOP leader to say, "You know what? Let's let the people who sent us here see what we're doing. It's not really as bad as they suspect."

Over at C-SPAN, the Republican line is now open.

In the cross hairs

Just taking time to set our sights on targeting a quick update on the flaming fusillades of violent political rhetoric recently launched over the use of flaming fusillades of violent political rhetoric assaulting American politics with verbal bayonets fixed:

After all of his compelling conspiracies and adamant blackboard chalkings, Glenn Beck, the charming, likable master media talker with the 1950s haircut, has revealed that he has only 15 threats operating against him at any one time.

In a regular on-air chat with fellow Fox News talker Bill O'Reilly, Beck claimed that he doesn't really track criticism about himself, especially not from left-wing clowns who are paid to drum up opposition to conservative media folks, if you can believe there's such a group of people milking a really rich guy for some of his millions.

Beck said he didn't know how threats to him ranked against threats to O'Reilly. (Pregnant pause.) But O'Reilly mysteriously let pass the opportunity to fill viewers in on his personal threat matrix.

However, Beck claimed to have 15 operating threats going on against him at any one time. That would put his threat level somewhere in the green zone.

O'Reilly's reluctance to claim a certain number of self-proclaimed threats must mean he's ashamed because he has fewer than Beck. Who knows how many Rush Limbaugh must have down there in his armored studio? And, by the way, what constitutes a threat?

A total of 15 operating threats hardly seems sufficient, though, for someone with an argumentative American audience of so many million minutemen and minutewomen. That's the starting bar for now, however.

So, besides escalating barrages of political rhetoric, are we perhaps as a society now facing a media threat race in which political talkers will regularly announce the latest totals of their unverifiable threats?

Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics (, is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. These are selections from the last week.

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