Have you ever watched C-SPAN? I mean, really watched it? My past attempts have always been foiled by tuning in when the senate was in recess, and thus, I grew bitter at the channel’s existence. I believed it was yet another channel to go through to get to the Food Network or Bravo. However, my brother urged me this past weekend to give C-SPAN another chance. He said it was much better when senators are actually delivering their speeches. I gave in–I mean, I have to watch something to balance out my watching of “Hey Paula!” Yikes. (And yes, I’m ashamed.) Yesterday, when I read the Democrats had planned an all-night debate on the Iraq war, I thought, here’s my chance!
I got home around 11pm last night and tried to remember what channel C-SPAN was. After realizing the debate was on C-SPAN2 rather than the original C-SPAN, I settled in for a half hour of gripping television. Well, it wasn’t so gripping because the Senate was taking a vote on whether to require 60 votes or a simple majority vote to pass the Levin-Reed amendment (which calls for a withdrawal of troops in Iraq within 120 days). I watched for twenty-five minutes and heard about forty of the votes. I derived entertainment from the senators hanging out around the front desk, giggling like school girls. I then heard some debate on when to have the next vote–not before 5AM. And some senators (hem, hem, Senator Barbara Boxer!) even asked to push that closer to dawn so they could get more sleep. Wait a second! Wasn’t this supposed to be an all-nighter? I guess I’m not too familiar with all-nighters, but I’m pretty sure you have to be UP ALL NIGHT to qualify. At that point I realized I should go to bed since I had to go into lab around 4:30AM.
When I returned from lab around 5AM, I tuned into the radio for the latest news on the 2007 Senate Summer All-Nighter (just like camp!). Well, not too much had happened. Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain had spoken, and a roll call was about to occur to maintain the energy of the all-nighter (at which only 60 of the senators appeared). Sounded like a productive night, and definitely worth all the pizza that had been delivered.
I turned it on this morning as I ate breakfast just in time to hear some actual speeches (yippee!). Not exactly thrilling, but definitely better than a roll-call. I heard New Jersey’s own Frank Lautenberg (lookin’ good Frankie!) and Idaho’s Larry Craig. Senator Larry Craig even brought out a map to use. At this point, I must comment on C-SPAN2’s cinematography. Although I respect C-SPAN2’s obvious wish to stick to a low budget, the camera-work could be more inspired. As in, when Senator Craig brings out a map and starts pointing to it, please pan out so we can actually see him pointing to his own low budget-looks like he got it from an eighth grade textbook-oops, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are the same color-map of the Middle East. Additionally, changing camera angles more than once every fifteen minutes and panning out to the crowd in the chamber every once in a while might help boost ratings. Oh wait, I must interject–when the cameras do pan out to the Senate floor, frequently there are only ten people listening. The rest of them are still giggling like school girls with their staffers or are off feeding themselves pizza. How can we expect Americans to tune into C-SPAN2 when the Senators themselves don’t seem to pay attention half the time? And isn’t the point of the debate to have actual exchanges? In my opinion, that should happen more.
Unfortunately, the 2007 Senate Summer All-Nighter does not look like it influenced anyone to change positions on the bill. Was it a waste? A silly political prank? I’d like to call it a little lame, but I think that’s obvious. The real question is–will you tune into C-SPAN2? Despite C-SPAN2’s shortcomings, I think I actually will be tuning in more often.