Politicians, face up to the camera

IN Congress, special orders are anything but special. They refer to a speech given by a representative on a topic of his or her own choosing - one that is usually so legislatively meaningless that colleagues literally abandon the chamber.

While C-SPAN and the special order have combined to give members of Congress a lot of free air time, C-SPAN's presentation kept the oratory of these would-be Websters in perspective. The camera would show the representative forcefully speaking on what was presumably a great issue of the day, and then pan to a chamber of vacant seats.

This provided a complete picture: a member of Congress whose audience is confined to a recording clerk and perhaps a group of perplexed grade school children on tour in the gallery. But enough representatives realized how closely this approximated the theater of the absurd to force the deletion of wide-angle shots from House cameras, formerly fed to C-SPAN.

The current arrangement for vignetting those delivering special orders runs through May 23, when it will be reconsidered. Alas, it's probably too much to expect truth in programming from Congress, when it strikes so close to home.

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