But if recent history is any guide, her appearance will probably be less fireworks and more “meh.” One reason: Clinton is a veteran witness, adept at dampening drama. But more important, there have been few truly blockbuster hearings of late. Little theatricality along the lines of “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” from the Army-McCarthy hearings, or Oliver North attorney Brendan Sullivan insisting he wasn’t “a potted plant” during the Iran-contra investigation.
The most memorable hearing of the past few years might be famous for what didn’t happen: The conspicuous lack of female representation on a House panel on contraception last year created an image that proved hard for Republicans to shake. And another notable moment in recent congressional hearings took place offstage, when the auto executives seeking massive bailouts for their floundering companies in 2008 arrived for their testimony in corporate jets.
Sure, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) does his level best to keep hearings lively. He chaired that all-male contraception panel and knows how to oversee testy sessions on issues such as the General Services Administration spending scandal.
Still, no less an authority on stagecraft than former senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) declared the death of the revelatory hearing over a decade ago (and as an actor, the guy knows a good scene). “Nowadays, the ability of Congress to really find out anything substantive in congressional hearings has been extremely limited,” he said way back in a 1999 interview.
And so while House Republicans may be coming to the hearing with knives — and prepared questions — sharpened, we might suggest the rest of us tune in armed with a fresh crossword puzzle.
One too many
President Obama apparently forgot a cardinal rule at Monday’s news conference: It’s always the last one that gets you in trouble.
It’s always that last ski run, the one before sunset, that blows out your knee.
Or that last bet at the poker table, when you’re on a streak, flush with chips, that leaves you broke.
And we all know how that last e-mail in a testy exchange, the really nasty one, goes out after the sender mistakenly hits “reply all.”
And so Obama on Monday, after blistering Republicans over the debt ceiling, responded to a question by New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes about whether part of his problem with Republicans was that “you don’t socialize enough.”
This led to a somewhat rambling answer in which Obama said things like “I’m a pretty friendly guy” and “I like a good party.” And the girls are older and don’t want to hang with him so much these days, “so I’ll be probably calling around, looking for somebody to play cards with me or something, because I’m getting kind of lonely in this big house.”