As a journalist I’ve been objecting to closed-door meetings all my professional life. But if there is any hope of the “super-congress” coming up with a miracle compromise on reducing the debt and putting the economy back on a strong footing it cannot be accomplished in open session.
The reason should be clear to even those unschooled in the ways of special interests. All six Republicans and six Democrats on the panel have well-defined loyalties to narrow interest groups that are always ready to do battle against any sign of rational bartering.
In most instances the people’s business should be conducted in the presence of the people. But in this case the people’s positions appear so fragmented as to defy rational input. The only way to reach a resolution here is for the participants not to be afraid to use an expletive now and then and not to have to worry about lobbyists of the extreme.
Like it or not, it simply is the nature of the political beast to have more courage when the door is closed than when it is open.
The super-congress has only three months to come up with some sort of solution to the nation’s budgetary and debt dilemma. They need to reform the tax code, Medicare and unrestricted spending while at the same time dealing with continued high unemployment. It is hard to imagine much success under the best of circumstances, let alone if the panel is forced to take all this up in one of those political circuses for which congressional hearings are so famous.
Does anyone believe for a minute that there is a Capitol Hill venue large enough to hold the lobbyists that would flock to open hearings where the steady sounds of tweets to their loyal supporters would provide the background noise? Can one imagine that any members with this thankless assignment would let political correctness be damned and speak their minds knowing full well the bombardment of objections would reach a disastrous crescendo from their home districts?
Of course they wouldn’t. So why hold these deliberations in public? The opposing positions are well set-out and the real necessities are obvious.
The only hope of this group bringing forth a workable plan for our salvation is for every member to take an oath swearing to the great spirit of bipartisanship and to spend 18 hours a day working on it without outside influence. Fat chance of that in the first place and none whatsoever if the doors are open.
Some projects are so delicate that they simply have to be negotiated outside the public’s prying eyes. The U.S. Constitution was hammered out in the sweltering heat of a Philadelphia summer — sometimes even with the windows closed to guard against leaks. Besides, any results from this super-congress would have to be brought before what is known in parliamentary parlance as “the committee of the whole,” and debated on the House and Senate floors.
Good luck anyway.
Dan K. Thomasson is a former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.