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Speaker Boehner to C-SPAN: You're kidding, right? No, you can't run your own House cameras

February 7, 2011 |  5:44 am

Speaker John Boehner vs CSPAN

Finally, some bipartisan agreement in the House of Representatives.

The new speaker of the House, John Boehner, who is a Republican, has agreed with the former speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is a Democrat. Their point of agreement: Neither one wants independent television cameras prowling their lenses all over the House sessions.

It's a transparent issue of transparency. Federal pols love to talk about it. Remember all those Barack Obama-Joe Biden promises about historic governmental transparency and how the healthcare legislative negotiations would be on C-SPAN?


In familiar fashion, Boehner has been talking a good talk about transparency since the historic Nov. 2 midterm election, when the GOP wrested majority control from....

...the Democrats big-time. So convincing was he that, as The Ticket wrote here back then, C-SPAN's Brian Lamb asked Boehner to allow independent cameras into the House, instead of or in addition to the strictly controlled congressionally operated cameras.

It took a while for the Ohioan to think about it.

But Boehner came down on the side of Not.

Boehner's rejection letter was delivered on Friday. That's an obvious slip-up by the veteran Republican representative.Democrat Nancy Pelosi turns the speaker's gavel over to Republican John Boehner 1-5-11

He must have forgotten that just before the weekend is when veteran Washington pols in a bipartisan fashion arrange for the release of news they don't like. That's because, they believe, fewer people learn about it then and over the weekend the bad news becomes stale and dies an obscure death.

Well, not.

As an act of generosity to help out the forgetful Boehner, we've saved the item until this morning so the speaker's letter can reach the maximum number of voters, even those with Super Bowl headaches.

Boehner, apparently still believing that Congress maintains some dignity in the eyes of Americans, employed the familiar "precedent defense."

"Consistent with the precedent set by former speakers," Boehner claimed, "I believe the American people -- and the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives -- are best served by the current system of televised proceedings provided by the House Recording Studio."

Lamb issued a statement:

We're disappointed to learn that despite 32 years of experience with televising its sessions and in an age of ubiquitous cameras in political life, the House of Representatives has chosen not to allow C-SPAN's cameras into its chamber to cover its sessions. We continue to feel that the public is best served by seeing a more complete picture of the legislative process than what's delivered by congressionally controlled cameras.

Lamb politely said he would continue to work with House leaders in hopes of gaining the enhanced public access to government operations. But that is, of course, a silly hope.

There's something universal in the genetic makeup of politicians of all stripes that makes them predictably resistant to ceding control to anyone, especially civilians outside their political fraternity.

Just ask those protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pelosi turns the gavel over to Boehner, Jan. 5, 2011. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images