Saxby Says: “You Kids Get Away From That Camera”

Well, ol’ Saxby Chambliss has searched high and low for the sources of the polarization afflicting Congress, and he wants us to know he’s found it: Those damn CSPAN cameras! And MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell agrees, per TPM:

“I don’t think there’s any question that it’s worse,” Chambliss said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday. “I think one thing that’s made it that way is C-SPAN, very honestly. You’ve got folks on TV now, instead of doing political commercials, they rant and rave during dinner time on the East Coast, and then at 9 o’clock, you see the West Coast guys up there.”

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, who worked as a Senate staffer in the late 1980s and 90s, agreed with Chambliss, saying that people forget how controversial C-SPAN was during its inception. “When we brought the cameras in, people expected this, ‘Oh this is going to ruin everything, people are going to start grandstanding.’”

TPM’s David Tainter asked Brian Lamb for his reaction to the claim:

C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, who is stepping down as the company’s CEO, responded to Chambliss’ remarks. “It’s like blaming the auto worker on the assembly line for a car that goes 100 miles an hour on the highway and has an accident and kills somebody,” he told TPM in a statement.

More to the point, does Saxby remember who, exactly, pioneered the strategic use of CSPAN to make fiery speeches to an empty chamber? Yes, his fellow Georgia Republican, Newt Gingrich, whose antics once led an angry Tip O’Neill to order the cameras be turned around to show that nobody was there.

I hope we can expect Chambliss to denounce Newt for giving yesterday’s and today’s kids the idea.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.