Correction to This Article
The Jan. 3 In the Loop column incorrectly said that Republicans rejected expanded C-Span television coverage in the House of Representatives in 1985. That occurred in 1995.

An 'Honest,' 'Open' House, Where Cameras Can't Zoom Out

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The House of Representatives is often called "the People's House." So wouldn't it be nifty if the "people" could see what was going on in their own house?

But those watching on TV really can't. Only tight camera shots of lawmakers speaking on the floor -- or of the presiding officer in the chair -- are allowed. The camera is not permitted to pan the chamber. Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) had promised that the Democrats would have "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history."

So Brian Lamb, the head of C-Span, which got the electronic eye into the House and Senate in the first place nearly three decades ago, thought this would be a great opportunity to improve coverage. (The GOP turned him down in 1985.)

He wrote Pelosi asking for more cameras, saying the current system "does a disservice to the institution and to the public." For example, the fixed camera means "you can never get a reaction shot" during a debate, he told us, so it "takes out of the experience any soul" or sense of the give-and-take.

Not so, Pelosi said in a Dec. 22 letter to Lamb. "I believe the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives are best preserved by maintaining the current system of televised proceedings," she wrote.

"Dignity"? "Decorum"? In a place that folks such as Jim Traficant, Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley used to call home? Okay, she's obviously joking, but still. . . . As The Who sang years ago: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Wind Is Not the Only Alternative Natural Gas

Seems like almost every trade association and nonprofit sends out a new calendar this time of year. Our favorite is one from the American Wind Energy Association. "We hope you will enjoy this visual 'tour' of some of the wind energy products now operating in our country," an enclosed letter says.

One especially exciting picture appears to tout both wind energy and methane. Best to stay upwind if possible.

Keep the Empty Seats Out of the Shot

There was a fine turnout yesterday at the National Cathedral for the funeral of former president Gerald R. Ford. Tickets were hard to come by, and latecomers were turned away. Even so, seems there were some empty seats.

Just before the service began, an usher approached a Loop colleague sitting in the cheap seats on the left, the seats where you really are better off watching the monitor if you want to see anything.

"Does anyone want to sit in the center section?" the usher asked. "We need 10 people" to fill in the crowd. So a group of people trooped to the rear of the center section, just in front of the Boy Scouts sitting in the last four rows, to watch from there.

From Interior to Big Oil

Remember former interior secretary Gale Norton? She soon will be general counsel for a Royal Dutch Shell division in Denver that's focusing on oil shale exploration in the Rockies. House Democrats plan to investigate Norton's former agency, especially for its cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry.

Enviros naturally criticized Norton's hiring, with one even saying the move would "undermine" Shell's efforts to project an "image as a good environmental steward." Predictably, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Shell's move was just another example of the "hand-in-glove relationship between Big Oil and the Bush administration's top Interior officials."

Well, maybe Greenpeace wasn't hiring.

If Only She Had Some References for the Job

At the United Nations, where there is no U.S. ambassador, idle chatterers are talking about Victoria Nuland, now ambassador to NATO, as a possible choice to succeed John R. Bolton. Nuland, who is a career Foreign Service officer and is married to Robert Kagan, a contributor to the Washington Post op-ed page, was top foreign policy adviser to Vice President Cheney and before that an aide to Clinton confidante Strobe Talbott when he was deputy secretary of state. Well, the bases can't get more covered than that.

GSA Earning a Few Admirers Out West

The GSA's fame has spread across the country. This just in from the Austin American-Statesman: "It will be little comfort to anyone who has ever undergone the torture of a building project to know that bigger doesn't mean better -- or easier. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel is learning a lot about government construction projects as he helps oversee the construction of the proposed federal courthouse. . . . He notes with a chuckle that he was advised that the U.S. General Services Administration -- the agency in charge of getting the project built -- has a motto: 'We're not happy until you're not happy.' "

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