Morning Report 3/18/05
Congress on Steroids

Flexing new muscle, pols wade into battle of the bulge, capture a baseball player

Thanks to the Pentagon policy of stripping prisoners, you can see that this Iraqi at Abu Ghraib didn't bulk up his muscles with steroids. Congress is conducting public, bipartisan probes of the impact of liars and cheaters on our national obsessions. Thursday's hearing focused on baseball; the topic of Iraq has not yet been scheduled.

ONE OF OUR national pastimes took a beating Thursday at the hands of a 'roid-raging Congress. Unfortunately, it was baseball, not Iraq.

Thursday's House hearing wasn't the first time a friendly witness earnestly said into a Capitol Hill microphone, "I will do everything I can, if you will allow me, to turn this into a positive."

That's what moist-eyed Mark McGwire—definitely in the shrunken-ball era of his life— told the members of the House Government Reform Committee. Usually, such an offer is met with platitudinous praise. Not this time.

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Pecs' bad boy didn't knock anything out of the park. Even when he choked up, the retired slugger didn't make a hit with Congress.

Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle did a pretty good job this morning of capturing the moment of Congress grilling baseball players, instead of posing for pictures with them:

    We found out that McGwire is retired and doesn't want to look back, nor talk about his own involvement in steroids, though he'd make a "great" spokesman against them.

    McGwire—who looked exponentially uncomfortable as each member of Congress set out to prove they had Googled "Andro"—did make this unfortunate comment: "I believe there's a reason I'm here. To turn this into a positive thing, not a negative thing." Uh, two things about that, Mark: First, never use "positive" and "negative" when speaking about steroids. Second, you were actually there so they could titter about your home run records and whether any juice was involved. Same for Sosa. Maybe you didn't get the memo or see the subtle wink-wink and nudge-nudge. Palmeiro and Schilling were there to represent all that's good (and "clear" free) about baseball. Thomas played the part of the forgotten via-satellite host. Larry King does this nightly—it's a hoot. "Oh, hey, Frank, sorry, we're out of time."

Baseball writer Jayson Stark of was like a cop-beat reporter stumbling onto the scene of a traffic accident. He wrote of McGwire:

    He drove his reputation off a cliff Thursday, and left his legacy irreparably splattered. Very possibly beyond repair.

Stark also accidentally pointed to a more significant part of the hearing when he recounted a colloquy between McGwire and Indiana's Mark Souder, who chairs the panel's subcommittee that supposedly deals with "drug policy":

    "There's a simple way to solve this," Rep. Mark Souder lectured [McGwire] Thursday, "[by saying], 'I am clean.' . . . The American people can figure out who's willing to say that and who isn't.

    "If the Enron people came in and said, 'I don't want to talk about the past,' " Souder went on, looking McGwire straight in the eyeballs, "you think we'd let them say that?"

Oh, that's so brave. But practically every member of Congress who bathed and basked in the public spotlight at Thursday's hearing stands in the shadows when it comes to topics like the Iraq debacle, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the Bush regime's consistent and continual lying.

The only rep who wasn't a hypocrite on Thursday was California's Henry Waxman—and he didn't even rate a mention in the Washington Post's story. Courteous but firm, he grilled players, owners, everyone. He does the same thing when it comes to Iraq and other topics, as I've frequently pointed out.

Instead of letting baseball officials keep trying to "regulate" themselves, Waxman advocates a national anti-steroid policy. That's too muscular an approach for Congress to take. "Regulation"? That's a dirty word to the GOP leadership and Bush regime.

But Waxman was the only person to provide the real background of baseball owners' 30-year history of "self-regulation" of steroids—they did nothing and they're even covering up that coverup.

The sport experienced a lucrative revival in the late '90s, thanks to a dramatic home-run race by McGwire and Sammy Sosa and to an astounding (and suspicious) rise in slugging by unusually muscular players.

Waxman lays out the steroid coverup by owners, players, and Congress in a background memo.

Compare that information with the prepared statements by Thursday's panelists (nicely compiled and presented by Waxman's crew).

Meanwhile, more important topics still await full hearings by Congress. Like the Bush regime's unwarranted invasion of Iraq, the thousands of dead people that have resulted, and the scandal of "reconstruction."

Spurred by Bush's astonishing choice of the destructive Paul Wolfowitz as the next World Bank chief (the guy charged with providing the money to reconstruct the rest of the world), Ed Helms of The Daily Show pointed out last night in his "Add Hawk" segment: "George W. Bush has huge balls. They're enormous!"

That probably rules out steroids as an explanation for Bush's behavior. But he's a puppet anyway. We'd probably have to go on one of Antonin Scalia's duck hunts to get a look at Dick Cheney's balls.

Borrowing from the techniques employed by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib penal colony, I could see myself conducting that probe:

    Harkavy (grabs Cheney's balls): Cough.

    Cheney: Ahem.

    Harkavy: Cough. Again.

    Cheney: Ahem. Ow! You're hurting me.

Or, maybe we could play poker with Cheney in another way.

In any case, hearings on Capitol Hill are indicated. Except that Congress's balls are as tiny as McGwire's. You can tell by the way most of its members harrumph.

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