Tales from the Trail

Lights, action, cameras, U.S. congressional hearings!!!

TV cameras zoomed in on corporate executives squirming, a top federal regulator promising answers and U.S. lawmakers venting anger.

All of this and more unfolded during a series of nationally broadcast dramas on Tuesday as two congressional panels held hearings on the spreading BP oil spill, and a third probed last week’s mysterious collapse on Wall Street.

Such high-profile investigative proceedings have been a regular feature on Capitol Hill for years.

They’ve included examining: the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War; the 1912 sinking of the Titanic; the start of The Great Depression and organized crime in the early 1950s.

“The quicker a congressional committee can get on the front pages of newspapers the happier and more content they are,” said Stephen Hess, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

Afghan hearings takeaway: Charlie Wilson, swimming pools

They weren’t the most “important” words said today at congressional hearings on President Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan war strategy, but the following snippets were memorable.

AFGHANISTANAfghanistan and swimming pools:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “We’re not just going to throw these guys into the swimming pool … and walk away.”

Senator Joe Lieberman responded: “I appreciate what you said. We’re not just going to throw the Afghans into the pool and — and — and run away until we’re sure that they can swim on their own.”