Congress' Problem: Too Much On-The-Record Yapping

Bring back the smoke-filled rooms, former leaders say.

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Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, left, says "too much sunlight burns." Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, right, agrees.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, left, says "too much sunlight burns." Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, right, agrees.

Lawmakers: Lay off the media appearances.

That's the suggestion of two former congressional leaders for how to fix today's uber-partisan environment on Capitol Hill.

"Every time you're making a statement, you're drawing a line in the sand," noted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., pointing out the "17 cameras around the inside of the rotunda of the Cannon building" that lawmakers are always sidling up to so they can make a comment.

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Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., agreed.

"I would just say, and this is heresy, and I know there's a camera here, but I'll say it anyway and the camera makes my point: But too much sunlight burns," Daschle chimed in Thursday morning at a Future Civic Leaders breakfast event. (Which was indeed being video-recorded.)

"I think there's almost too much transparency today, in that cameras are so ubiquitous, no one can say anything off the record any longer," Daschle continued. The former Democratic leader, who now does work for the Bipartisan Policy Center, explained that the candid conversations during his time in Congress helped get things done.

"I'm very supportive of transparency and I think C-SPAN does a fantastic job, but I do think we've got to understand there are times that there has to be an opportunity to be very honest, very candid, very direct and we need to create environments where that can happen, especially in negotiations," Daschle said.

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Hastert coyly suggested that his speakership could be used as an example.

"When I became speaker, I followed a guy that was pretty much a showhorse," Hastert said. "I wasn't a showhorse, I was a workhorse, I wasn't on TV all the time, I was in a back room basically trying to find middle ground and bring people from extremes together to get things done."

Hastert, of course, took over the job from current CNN "Crossfire" host Newt Gingrich.

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