Partisanship in the Senate has grown worse over the years, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) knows who to blame: C-SPAN.“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.'”
It’s hard to believe C-SPAN — perhaps the most benign cable network out there — is doing anything but making the Senate’s already partisan rancor more visible. 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.
Chambliss’ office told TPM that the senator was not calling for less transparency in the Senate. “Sen. Chambliss believes that C-SPAN provides a very valuable tool to educate Americans about how their government works,” spokesperson Bronwyn Lance Chester said in an email. “The point he was making this morning has nothing to do with reducing transparency, but that, through special-order speeches, etc., some lawmakers use C-SPAN to communicate politically to their constituents in a way they used to only be able to do in campaigns.”
Watch the video from Morning Joe: