Sunday, March 20, 2005

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's Congress

Like it? 
Sometimes, people ask me what I'd do if I were president of the United States for a day. My answer is always the same: I would end crime.

But since the president has limited power, I would have to submit my End Of Crime Forever proposal to sympathetic members of Congress. Senators would change it, naturally, add riders and whatnot. Other senators would droolingly consult their lists of pet projects, uncap their pens, and use my bill as scrap paper. Some wouldn't read it and vote against it because I believe in abortion rights. Later, the Senate would debate it for a while and figure out if there's some way that this could be amended to hurt/help the NRA. I'd send fruit baskets to senators on the fence -- except the fruit would be hollowed-out pineapple shells stuffed with money. Also, I'd give my revolutionary crime-ending bill to the House of Representatives, and like a careful taxidermist, it would slice the bill open and stuff it with crap. Both sides would come together and work out their differences in the spirit of compromise -- best two out of three pinfalls. Eventually, seven months after my one-day presidency came to an end and I'm back at my newspaper job in Fall River, the End Of Crime Forever Act would be approved. The act's only measurable effect? The appropriation of $8.2 million for interstate repairs in Nebraska.

Yes, this is the magnificent machine called the Legislative branch of government. There's a lot of paperwork and nobody ends up happy.

Consider this week's hearings on steroid use in baseball. I watched some of that little sitcom, and saw lawmakers confessing their surprise -- nay, Mr. Chairman, their outrage -- that professional athletes would succumb to such an abhorrent practice. Mark McGwire, who can bench-press Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro, calmly shaded from view an obscenely throbbing vein in his temple and replied, "Uh, yeah -- I won't name names."

Take my word for it. There will be a lot of paperwork and nobody will end up happy.

In case you missed any of the hearings, by the way, here's a short transcript:


Scene: The House of Representatives. At first glance, it looks like a House committee is staring across at a mirror -- but no! Those are actually professional athletes sitting at that table: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro. They're wearing business suits -- but underneath they've got their uniforms on, in case an emergency baseball game breaks out.

CANSECO. So yeah, I did 'roids. You can read all about it in my new book. [Holds it up to the camera.] I'll be selling and autographing copies after the hearing. Just $29.95 in hardcover.

REP 1. Steroids, Mr. Canseco? Is that what you mean by "roids"? Because I am not familiar with hip-hop terminology!

REP 2. The American people want a clean game! I should know--I'm an American people!

REP 3. Think of the children!

REP 4. Mr. Schilling, did you see anything funny going on in the locker room? In fact, please describe in close detail what the locker room looks like after a game. The sweat, the steam rising off the muscles. All those players, there can't possibly be enough towels for everyone--

SCHILLING. I never took steroids. Look at me. My gut spills over my belt.

REP 5. What would the Lord say about steroids, Mr. Schilling?

SCHILLING. Probably wouldn't dig it.

REP 6. Steroid use is cheating!

REP 7. It's a drug, and drugs are bad!

REP 8. Cheating is bad!

REP 3. The children are bad! Wait. [shuffles papers, reads one] "Think of the children."

DENNIS KUCINICH. Mr. Sosa. Los steroidos are mucho bad, si?

SOSA. I'll just assume that was supposed to be Spanish. So, yes. Very mucho.

REP 1. You're role models! What ever happened to sportsmanship? Would anyone like to comment?

[Softly, we hear the delicate sound of crickets chirping.]


My point is, it's safe to say nobody wants baseball players to use steroids -- not even many baseball players. Boom. That took two seconds for me to say, and hours of official testimony.

Unless Congress is going to do something real about juiced baseball players -- something more substantial than getting on TV and stating the obvious -- then Congress should butt out.

While the committee members spent hours figuring out that steroids are bad, they were not talking about raising the minimum wage, making health care affordable for everyone, stopping corporate crime, reforming the electoral system, fixing the economy, and stopping companies from sending your job to India.

Even if Congress did decide to crack down on doping in baseball, you know what its fix would look like?

The House and Senate would debate the Stop Steroids Bill for weeks. Subcommittees would take the bill, carve it up like a Christmas goose and slip in extra measures that have nothing to do with drugs -- building bridges or regulating cattle feed or drilling for oil in Alaska. George Steinbrenner would send lawmakers some nice fruit baskets. Everyone would get some time on "Face the Nation."

Months later, Congress would pass the Stop Steroids Bill.

It would give pharmaceutical companies that produce steroids a nice tax break.

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