Members of Congress steal spotlight from panelists

Actor Peter Riegert, best known for his role as a frat brother in “Animal House,” was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a screening of his latest film, “The Response.”

But he didn’t get a chance to speak, because members of Congress, who attended as guests, took a mic from the panel and waxed on until time ran out.

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The short film focuses on the Guantanamo tribunal process and the frustration with it.

That frustration was expressed by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who borrowed a microphone from the panel, which included Riegert’s fellow actress Kate Mulgrew and Guantanamo lawyer Tom Wilner, among others.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) then took the microphone and thanked the crowd for letting him “vent,” before launching into a 15-minute speech covering topics ranging from President Barack Obama to the wars in Afghanistan to Sarah Palin.

Then it was Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Ga.) turn. Johnson accused the filmmakers of “subliminal” racism for their casting of a black actor to play an ineffectual lawyer. “Why is it always the black man?” Johnson asked.

Finally, there was a question from the audience. But instead of letting the panelists answer it, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) hopped up to the mic. Her topic? Whether the U.S is creating terrorists through our detention centers.

By the close of the panel, the lawmakers had spoken at much greater length than had the panelists.