The Steroid Show Trial

I don’t usually find myself rushing to point out the simple logic in a George Will column, but given the contrived spectacle conceived and performed in Congress today his recent column on the event seems appropriate:

America’s ambitious educators – the likes of Princeton’s Rev. John Witherspoon (1723-1794) and Harvard’s Charles William Eliot (1834-1926) – now include Reps. Tom Davis and Henry Waxman, chairman and ranking member respectively of the House Government Reform Committee, which, come Thursday morning, wants to instruct the nation, and especially all the little boys and girls watching C-SPAN. The committee’s topic will be steroids in baseball, the committee having decided that there has been a serious insufficiency of talk about that subject since its much-talked-about appearance in the president’s State of the Union address 14 months ago.

The committee has discovered that its duties include informing all Americans, and especially children, that dangerous and illegal behavior is dangerous and illegal. So the committee has subpoenaed some baseball and players association officials and some current and retired players, including Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Committee staffers say it has not subpoenaed Barry Bonds because his presence might make the hearing a media circus. Heaven forfend.

Cynics will say that, absent television, congressional behavior would be different. But to be fair to Waxman, he is a liberal representing Beverly Hills and Hollywood, so he is not expected to have a lick of sense regarding the limits of government, and he rarely sees a human activity that he does not think merits increased federal supervision. Davis, however, is a Republican whose Northern Virginia district is just up the road from Montpelier, home of James Madison, from whose writings Davis seems to have learned nothing about a government – or a committee – of enumerated powersSteroids are obviously still a large problem, and baseball’s new testing program appears to misrepresent what MLB claimed it would be last year. Still, todays show trial hearing doesn’t really move baseball (or the nation) any closer to solving the problem. As AP reported it, it was a day of “extraordinary theater.”

Perhaps the answer is explicit commercials that borrow the “this is your brain on drugs” theme from previous ONDCP anti-drug campaigns. I’m thinking, “this is your rampant acne on steroids”, “this is your uncontrollable rage on steroids,” or even “these are your shriveled testicles on steroids.”

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