- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

One congressman was so dismayed by political grandstanding and the outburst from protesters during last week’s House and Senate committee hearings on Iraqi prison abuse that he wants to stop televising hearings, except in the special circumstances.

“That was the biggest bunch of bombast I have ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot being here,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican. “It was so incredibly annoying, because the purpose of a hearing, supposedly, is to elicit information.”

Mr. Tancredo yesterday released a letter that he sent to House Administration Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, asking for a review of the rules that allow televised hearings. He proposed allowing televised hearings only in cases when the entire House votes to approve it.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld testified before both the House and Senate Armed Services committees about U.S. troops’ abusing prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib prison, in front of several members who already had called for his resignation.

Most Democrats and some Republicans fired pointed questions at Mr. Rumsfeld about when he knew about reports of abuse and photos of the acts and why he didn’t alert them earlier. Other Republicans, meanwhile, used Mr. Rumsfeld to help them construct a response to Democratic criticism.

In the middle of his remarks to the Senate committee, Mr. Rumsfeld was interrupted by a handful of protesters who loudly called for him to be fired. They eventually were escorted out by Capitol Police.

“They wouldn’t have been there had there not been cameras,” Mr. Tancredo said.

He said he’s as fond of cameras as any other member of Congress — and that’s why something needs to be done to “take temptation our of our path.”

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for Mr. Ney, said the problem isn’t the cameras, but the protesters.

“While the chairman shares Mr. Tancredo’s disgust with those who break the law and disrupt congressional hearings, he believes that arresting these individuals and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law is a more appropriate response rather than shutting down access to the Congress for millions of Americans,” Mr. Walsh said.

“He believes the American people have a right to see their representatives at work and that right should not be threatened because of the unlawful and disrespectful actions of a select few,” said the spokesman, though he said Mr. Ney will work with Mr. Tancredo to see whether additional security measures are needed at hearings.

Hearings always have been among the more popular subjects for coverage on Capitol Hill. In the 1950s, it was the hearings on organized crime and Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s proceedings about the communist influence on American government; and in the 1970s, it was the Watergate hearings.

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