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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What is it with Congress and baseball?

Earlier this year, Congress held hearings about steroids in baseball. A lot of people thought it was kind of strange for that legislative body to concern itself with something so unimportant. Shouldn't it spend more time worrying about major issues? You know...Iraq, health care, Social Security, etc.

Well, this week, some members of Congress are going even further. This time, their concern is quite transparently about partisan politics, and cannot be readily (or credibly) framed as a public policy concern.

Major League Baseball owns the Washington Nationals and plans to sell the team soon to one of seven or eight private groups that have bid on the team. The deal is expected to yield $300 to $400 million, so baseball is looking for especially affluent people. Remember, the President himself was once a minor partner in the Texas Rangers (a connection that advanced his political career).

One group bidding on the Nats includes billionaire George Soros as a minor investor. Soros, of course, is a well-known backer of Democratic politicians and progressive causes and groups. Some sources suggest he gave $20 million last year to defeat George W. Bush. This is from the Washington Post story, June 28:
some Republicans on Capitol Hill already are hinting at revoking the league's antitrust exemption if billionaire financier George Soros, an ardent critic of President Bush and supporter of liberal causes, buys the team.

"It's not necessarily smart business sense to have anybody who is so polarizing in the political world," Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) said. "That goes for anybody, but especially as it relates to Major League Baseball because it's one of the few businesses that get incredibly special treatment from Congress and the federal government."

Rep. Tom M. Davis III (R-Va.), who was a strong supporter of bringing a baseball team to Virginia, told Roll Call yesterday that "Major League Baseball understands the stakes" if Soros buys the team. "I don't think they want to get involved in a political fight."
You can always count on the Washington Times for the most colorful quotes:
"Soros is a political thug, and if he becomes an owner of the Nationals, I would recommend they be moved back to Montreal,"
conservative publicist Craig Shirley told Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times.

Mr. Shirley added: "If Soros gets the Nationals, I think the president of France should throw out the first ball, not President Bush."
Pretty outrageous, eh? Here are the kind words from the Times story:
Beltway conservatives wouldn't boycott a Soros team, said R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., editor in chief of the American Spectator.

"The difference with liberals is that they have the political libidos of a nymphomaniac while conservatives have practically no political libido. Conservatives don't see everything as political. We'll go to the baseball game and not pay attention to who owns the team, though I suppose it would make a difference if the Nazis or the communists owned it. George Soros isn't that extreme -- just short of it," he said.

The Post story quotes an angry Democrat and one Republican who tries to claim that the opposition to Soros stems from his funding of efforts to legalize drugs. Yes, it links this ownership question to baseball's steroids problem.

So that angle takes this full circle, eh?

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