Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Youppi! (R-District of Columbia)

As Canada Day approaches, let us tip our cap to Canada’s greatest baseball team this season, the Washington Nationals, nee Expos (44-31; with all apologies to my .500-Blue Jays). Although les gars might not be feeling invincible these days, given a tenuous 2.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, Capitol Hill Republicans appear prepared to take on all comers. Witness their deplorable and hubristic effort to blackmail Major League Baseball into rejecting Kerry uber-contributor George Soros’s bid to purchase the team:

"I think Major League Baseball understands the stakes," said Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R), the Northern Virginia lawmaker who recently convened high-profile steroid hearings. "I don't think they want to get involved in a political fight."
Davis, whose panel also oversees District of Columbia issues, said that if a Soros sale went through, "I don't think it's the Nats that get hurt. I think it's Major League Baseball that gets hurt. They enjoy all sorts of exemptions" from anti-trust laws. Indeed, Hill Republicans could potentially make life difficult for MLB in a variety of ways. In addition to being exempt from anti-trust rules, baseball is still under scrutiny over the steroid issue. The Nats, meanwhile, hope to have a publicly-funded stadium built soon, though money for that venture is expected to come through the sale of bonds rather than a federal outlay. Still, Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), vice chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that covers the District of Columbia budget, said if Soros buys the team and seeks public funding for the new stadium or anything else, the GOP attitude would be, "Let him pay for it." (From Roll Call, via the DCCC, via Ryan Avent).

And just like that, with a few idiotic comments, a couple of Republicans have politicised the issue of who can and cannot own a baseball team. It is one thing to believe that the Nationals, and MLB, should ‘pay’ for being owned by a Democratic Party supporter. It is rather another for Congressmen to come out and say it. If Soros’s bid is denied, or worse, if it is accepted and the Republican-dominated Congress comes down hard on MLB, it’s going to be tough to deny that political partisanship played a part. The stupidity and hypocrisy is compounded by the fact that myriad Republicans and their supporters have owned MLB teams over the years (as documented here), with nary a complaint. And all this because Soros supported a candidate who lost -- to a former MLB owner!

Finding a non-partisan issue in Washington these days is like trying to find a 100-steal catcher. Ain't gonna happen.


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