I was flipping through the TV channels this morning when I stumbled upon a clip of the British Parliament’s House of Commons. Working off nothing but a sheet of notes, Prime Minister David Cameron rebutted an MP’s criticism of some arcane topic that I cared nothing about.
What drew me to stay on the channel, however, was how he did it. Through hoots and howls from both the Labour and Conservative Party members, he unleashed a very articulate, engaging counterpoint (he even looked up from his notes from time to time) before he returned to his seat.
For 0.00001% of America that gives a damn about a legislative culture different from ours, here’s a funny exchange between John Major and Tony Blair in the late ’90s, when the former was the British PM and the latter was the up-and-coming Labour Party leader.
Weak! Weak! Weak! I can’t imagine many U.S. politicians being able to stand up to that kind of environment. While a gifted orator, Barack Obama sometimes sounds like he’s relying on talking points or reading off his teleprompter. And Bush 43 … well, let’s just say the Chairman can’t see the most “misunderestimated” president in recent memory survive an off-the-cuff debate before suffering a “nu-cul-ar” meltdown.
Unfortunately, Congress is infested with mental midgets who couldn’t hold a candle to those sharp British guys and gals. The American grade school elections in which children hand out candy in exchange for votes has persisted to adulthood. It’s one thing if someone is able to win a seat by kissing a plurality of a district’s asses or by being the right race or ethnicity because that’s the American way, but it’s something else entirely when a Member of Congress is so brain-dead that he thinks an island might tip over if too many people move there.
Taiwan’s legislature remains my favorite, replete with shoe throwing, fist fights and angry politicians climbing all over the place. It’s about as subtle as getting smacked in the face with a folding chair, a la Wrestlemania.
As Hoot in “Black Hawk Down” would say, “It’s Monday, the start of a new week!” Enjoy.