Congress must forget the trivial

Unless you’ve been vacationing on Mars the past couple of weeks, there is no way you could have missed the latest in baseball’s adventures in steroids. It seems now the perceived last bastion of athletic purity — one Alex Rodriguez — has been outed as a steroid injector in the early part of this decade.

Rodriguez has admitted such, and the truth is not pretty. A-Rod’s statistical successes were aided by performance-enhancing drugs. While they were not illegal at the time, these substances still gave him an unfair advantage over those who played the game clean.

And while they have yet to call A-Rod on the carpet and hold any public hearings on this matter, I hear rumblings of Congress doing just that. I think cooler heads will prevail, but there has been discussion nonetheless.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Congress to stick its nose into who’s sticking whose rear-end with a hypodermic needle.

Consider these among Congress’ Greatest Hits of the 21st Century:

Who could forget the day Congress hauled in Roger Clemens and his trainer? Some members of Congress condemned him while others slobbered all over him. And just a year before that, Mark McGwire dissembled about not dwelling on “the past,” Sammy Sosa pretended he couldn’t understand English, and Rafael Palmeiro wagged his fingers at his inquisitors, all denying any links to steroids, human growth hormones and other banned substances.

Congress often plays out high-drama soap operas in the form of oversight hearings

Want more? There’s more! Try to remember this golden oldie from 2003!

Your House of Representatives actually wasted their time and your money interrogating university presidents and athletic directors on the pressing issue of why Tulane, Boise State and other mid-major college football programs were being frozen from the Bowl Championship Series and the riches that accompany those prestigious bowl games.

Ah, the memories.

But every one of these made-for-TV mini-dramas detracts our elected leaders from the real business of the nation.

So, I ask, who is going to hold hearings to expose Congress’ own responsibility — or rather its irresponsibility — in letting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac run amok and bring our economy to its knees?

Who is going to question our elected federal officials on how they will spend a trillion of our hard-earned tax dollars? Who will hold hearings on $75 billion being spent to rescue many irresponsible over-extended borrowers and greedy mortgage companies and commercial lenders? Who will hold hearings on these same greedy banks who government officials say are too big to fail, while these same banks act like small businesses are too small to fool with?

Who will televise the hearings when your grandchildren and mine are still paying the bill our Congress just zipped through the giant federal credit card machine for $787 billion?

Who will oversee the overseers?

As a member of Congress, it’s easy to hang the responsibility for some malfeasance on a witness at a kangaroo court-style hearing. They can always make it look like it’s someone else’s fault.

Let’s stipulate that Congress has no business sorting out who is using steroids or who should be allowed to play for the BCS championship. Let’s also all agree that with all of the grave matters facing our country, Congress should focus on what’s important!

What Congress does, it ought to do well. Had they been doing their jobs, members of Congress would have provided better oversight over Freddie and Fannie and the mortgage industry in general, and we wouldn’t find ourselves in the mess we are in today. It’s ironic that every time there’s a dust-up, we cry for more laws. There were laws on the books governing Fannie and Freddie, but no oversight. There were laws on the books governing Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but no oversight by the SEC.

When a new problem rears its ugly head — be it steroids, mortgage foreclosures or spats between football conferences — the Pavlovian response by lawmakers is to make more laws.

We don’t need more laws, and we don’t need more regulation. We need enforcement of the laws we have on the books already. The fact is, for every circumstance with which we’re dealing today, or every crime committed today, there is already a law on the books, and governing bodies to carry out the laws.

Let baseball deal with steroids. Let college football deal with the BCS. Let Congress deal with the oversight matters that will keep us from being in this situation again. Please?

J.C. Watts ( is chairman of J.C. Watts Companies, a business consulting group. He is former chairman of the Republican Conference of the U.S. House, where he served as an Oklahoma representative from 1995 to 2002.

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