Roid rage seizes Capitol

There is nothing like good, old-fashioned congressional outrage to get the blood pumping, and for my money it doesn’t get any better than sitting just a few feet away from some unfortunate, perspiring, wide-eyed witness caught in the death-glare of a committee chairman who has commandeered more TV cameras than he can shake a subpoena at.

It is Tuesday afternoon and I am embedded at Outrage Central, otherwise known as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). I have a great seat near home plate, and apart from the fact that there are no high-priced, overcooked hot dogs or stale light beer, I wouldn’t trade this spot for Springsteen tickets.

Waxman’s panel is throwing heat in search of the truth about steroid use in Major League Baseball. Although the panel will have to wait till next month to get a whack at the likes of pitcher Roger Clemens and trainer Kirk Radomski, it is delivering some stiff brush-back pitches to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and players’ union chief Donald Fehr.

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The panel gave a hero’s welcome earlier to the Sultan of Political Swat, former Senate majority leader, diplomatic fixer and steroid report author George Mitchell (D). And befitting a home-run king at a carnival exhibition, every question pitched at the Maine Mauler came straight down the middle of the plate, a little high, and moving as slowly as a spending bill in August.

But quicker than you could say seventh-inning stretch, Mitchell was yanked so the committee could do what it does best — filet, skewer, then grill. Selig and Fehr have dragged their feet in getting to the bottom of the steroid problem, but their big sin seems to be that they simply don’t appear as outraged as Congress is. What’s the big deal here, anyway?

The players just want to stay competitive, eke out another season and continue endearing themselves to the hometown fans. After all, these guys have limited time to make their mark and a big pile of dough, and good solid hitting, fielding and base-running are apparently not enough in modern sports.

So, players take a short cut. They “juice up,” get the “fix,” spread on “the clear,” apply “the cream,” take “the beans,” bulk up, hit the long ball and keep the crowd jumping to its feet. What aging jock wants to spend six hours in the gym when a little yellow pill will do the trick? This steroids stuff is so complicated; I am a little worried that members of Congress might not be equipped to deal with it.

But, then again...

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When’s the last time a congressman held a news conference back home to announce that the high point of his year was that he got really, really smart on Medicaid policy? It doesn’t get the same crowd roar as the grand opening of his district’s first fur-lined windmill-powered bicycle path, does it? All courtesy of the United States Congress’s own brand of steroids, known as earmarks. Let’s call them the little greenies.

Get a little outrage going on Congress’s own addiction to the little greenies and then we’ve got something to tell the kids about. Maybe we could have some members of Congress tell their tearful tales about the first time they tried the stuff.

Perhaps Waxman and ranking Republican Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) could subpoena the trainers who first shot earmark HGH into the buttocks of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

By the look of the action here in the committee room, I’d say Selig and Fehr have had about all they can take and would probably agree to just about anything short of waterboarding if they could slip out of the Rayburn House Office Building without having someone stick a corndog in their ear.

It’s a little fuzzy to me what Congress’s next move really is; perhaps they could whip up one of those nifty little non-binding resolutions. Something like: “Whereas the Baseball Commissioner, Owners, and Players have collectively disrespected the game of baseball and the fans who love it,” — or:

“Whereas Members of Congress, in the midst of their Roid Rage, would still jump through hoops of fire to use the owner’s box at the new Nationals Stadium for a political fundraiser …”

Whatever they do, Congress better slap something together quickly before the cameras lose interest and move along to the next big Capitol Hill story — giving the nation’s ailing economy a shot in the arm. And that’s the straight dope.