You have to hand it to the Americans. The know how to do those Senate Inquries. It’s a deeply flawed society in many ways. We don’t know whether it is heading for dictatorship, kleptocracy or kakistocracy or all three. Kakistocracy means ‘rule by the worst people’. It was coined in 1829 as the opposite to aristocracy - which means rule by the best people (although, unless they start marrying outside the family, aristocracy eventually means rule by the worst people also).
But while so many things look like they are going down the toilet there, every so often, the remnants of a republic, the creaky old wheels of a constitution ( the bits that don’t refer to being able to own a gun as soon as you are able to hold a spoon), grind into action.
I watched two chunks of what’s left of American democracy, when I really should have been doing something else: the James Comey and Jeff Sessions’ testimonials.
I have no doubt any view of American politics is filtered through the general simplistic prism that holds sway here. The one that characterises Republicans as the bad guys from Murder She Wrote and Democrats as the suspicious but kind-hearted district attorney who is eventually persuaded by Jessica Fletcher to look at the case again. Still though, some Republican senators these days seem to be playing the Bad Guy in such an obvious way, they make the A-Team look like The Wire.
And speaking of Television, I think it must be the accent that makes American political inquiry more compelling than your average Oireachtas Report On Inquiries Into The Inquiry Of The Tribunal About How Ye Made Such a Hames of A Brand New Department With New Computers And All. Because we’re so used to watching court-room dramas set in America, the whole cadence of the speech an American in a suit asking a question of another American in a suit, shouting OBJECTION YOUR HONOUR, is very deeply ingrained with us. It feels dramatic even when they are wasting time. Even when some senator is using up valuable minutes telling James Comey he prays for Comey and his family. Because they’re fierce serious about prayer in America, but rest assured the prayerful senator will happily sign a bill to drop phosphorous on Yemenis to keep the Saudis happy or vote to take away Liga from all babies if they can’t sing the National Anthem.
In fairness to our democracy we have had a few inquiries with a bit of bite. Occasionally there’s someone squirming under the spotlight when asked how they managed to lose all their phones and phone records or how a bank account that was meant to be for hi-vis was used to buy a thousand expensive pens that had “You’re a Legend” printed on them. Still, other inquiries seem toothless with TDs enjoying their moment in the sun asking questions that are longer than Moby Dick.
The main takeaway though for me from watching Comey and Sessions is that it’s always handy to write things down as they happen. Comey seemed more plausible purely because he wrote down what happened at the time and his recollections were clear. Sessions looked iffy because he could barely remember most of the last year - as if it was 1969 and he’d spent it touring with Hendrix. I have been lax about keeping my diary in recent weeks but no more. I am writing everything.
I doubt I’ll be hauled before the Oireachtas but if there’s any question about who is due a lie-in this morning and who has to get up with the OReganlet, I will be able to consult my notes from our discussion last night and prove conclusively that it is … ok it’s me.