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Baseball Fair Game For Congress?

Aired March 15, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville; on the right, Joe Watkins.

In the CROSSFIRE, baseball is coming back to the nation's capital and not just on the diamond. Congress is investigating the impact of steroids on America's pastime. Some of the game's biggest names have been summoned to appear, so has baseball's commissioner and the head of the Players Union.

Major League Baseball says it's already cracked down on steroids. Should Congress keep bringing the heat?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Joe Watkins.



Apparently, between rebuilding Iraq, fixing Social Security and out-of-control gas prices, Congress just doesn't have enough to do. On Thursday, a congressional committee will hear -- will hold a hearing on steroids in baseball.

JOE WATKINS, GUEST CO-HOST: Baseball commissioner Bud Selig says he'll be there, but no word yet on whether the players subpoenaed will show up. We'll get into whether it's a good idea for Congress to get involved in this issue.

First, though, let's get the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

President Bush met with Jordan's King Abdullah in the Oval Office this morning. Fighting terrorism and spread of democracy in the Middle East were among the things the leaders discussed. President Bush also pointed to a recent free trade agreement between Jordan and the U.S. as a way to encourage democracy and help Jordan become more prosperous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His Majesty leads a great country in a midst of a part of the world that's changing, changing for the better. And I want to thank His Majesty for his leadership, his understanding about the need for reform, his strong alliance, his clear vision that the world needs to jointly fight terror.

And it's -- really appreciate you coming.


WATKINS: President Bush has been pushing for democratic reforms across the region. Elections in Iraq and voting by Palestinians are all good examples of how Bush's foreign policy is helping the Middle East change for the better.

CARVILLE: I'm all for it. I hope people vote in Palestine. I hope they vote wherever, you know?


WATKINS: It's a good story. It's a very good story.


CARVILLE: What's that? He ought -- he ought -- he ought to just sort of do that and meet with King Abdullah, because there's a story today in "The Financial Times" that his approval rating in Jordan, President Bush, is 5 percent.


CARVILLE: So, I don't think the Jordanians are going anywhere with him.



CARVILLE: But that's fine. He can't do any harm sitting there talking to the king.

If there was any doubt whatsoever, even an iota of doubt, that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is the most brilliant and courageous person in American politics, it was erased today when she gave a political pistol-whipping to deficit-loving, weak-dollar-worshipping, high-trade-surplus-adoring, partisan hack Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.



CARVILLE: Greenspan, cowering in the face of tough questioning from the gutsy junior senator from New York, had to admit with great shame that it turns -- -- quote -- "It turns out we were all wrong when talking about the federal surplus" -- end quote.

Senator Clinton, counterpunching with devastating ferocity retorted, "Just for the record, we were not all wrong." Alan was down for the count, fellow. Your policy produced nothing but deficits, weak dollars and no income growth. Take a retirement ceremony, a cheap stainless steel watch and a trip down to Disney World and get the hell out of here.

Thank you, Senator Clinton.



WATKINS: Spoken like a true fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton.


WATKINS: I know you're going to be involved in her campaign when she gets ready to run for the presidency.

But you know what?

CARVILLE: She's a great lady, just a great lady.

WATKINS: To his credit, sometimes, Republicans don't like Alan Greenspan. Sometimes, Democrats don't like Alan Greenspan. The truth of the matter is, Alan Greenspan is not like us. He's not a partisan guy.


WATKINS: And, sometimes, Democrats like him, sometimes Republicans.


WATKINS: What he's saying now is that the president is right, and that's OK. The president is right.



CARVILLE: Yes. He said we were all wrong, he said, about the surplus. He went up there and took a little pistol-whipping. I don't dislike Alan Greenspan. His policies have been idiotic and he ought to stick and try to do something about creating some jobs and get this deficit under control and this trade deficit.


WATKINS: Who is that man tilting into the wind in California? Why, it's State Treasurer Angelides.

The 51-year-old Democrat made it official today. He's been criticizing Arnold Schwarzenegger since he became governor. And now Angelides says he's a candidate for the Democratic nomination and he plans to beat Arnold head to head. Angelides says it won't be a plain vanilla election. How could it be? He's going against the most popular California governor since Ronald Reagan.

Only 16 months into office and Arnold has already been endorsed by the state party and he will have a lot of money. Angelides, kind of a plain guy, has raised more than $12 million, but he might have to face the California attorney general in the primary. And actor Rob Reiner has been talking about making a run. And, Arnold, well, he'll be back.

CARVILLE: But what state party endorsed him?

WATKINS: The California state party.

CARVILLE: Which one? The Republican Party actually endorsed a Republican governor?


CARVILLE: I'll tell you what, that's...

WATKINS: Hey, you know what?


CARVILLE: I like Hillary Clinton. Boy, that's somebody. Hurry up and get a -- get a -- get a news alert out on that.


WATKINS: A lot of Democrats, a lot of Democrats. I mean, Arnold has got a huge approval rating. A lot of Democrats like...


CARVILLE: I saw it was dropping.

It's not enough that Greenspan had to take such a pommeling from Senator Clinton. The Bush administration's Social Security plan continues to sink as fast as Greenspan's reputation. This morning "Washington Post" reports a poll conducted March 13 through 16, that 58 percent of Americans say, the more they hear about President Bush's Social Security plan, the less they like it. That's 58 percent.


CARVILLE: I believe it's because the American people are starting to catch on to all of their lies. Thanks again to "The New York Times"' great columnist Paul Krugman, who pointed out that President Bush, in his January 15th radio address, said -- and I quote -- "According to Social Security trustees, waiting just one year adds $600 billion to the cost of fixing Social Security" -- unquote -- from this president's mouth. The fact is, the trustees never said. Krugman says President Bush was -- quote -- "grossly misrepresenting the meaning of a technical discussion of accounting issues" -- unquote. In the race to the bottom, I'm dying to see who gets there first, the reputation of Alan Greenspan or support for President Bush's Social Security plan.


WATKINS: You know, the fact that the president is willing to tackle this and restructure Social Security shows that he's a leader.

CARVILLE: Tackle it? He's lying about it?


WATKINS: And Alan Greenspan has supported it. You know why Alan Greenspan supports it?


WATKINS: Not because he's a Republican or a Democrat.

CARVILLE: Right. He's -- yes. He supports...

WATKINS: Alan Greenspan supports it because he knows it's right. We have got to fix Social Security. And this president is willing to tackle this tough issue.

CARVILLE: Right. .

WATKINS: I'd give him credit for that.


CARVILLE: Anybody can -- anybody can -- anybody -- it's easy to lie to people. You know what? He's tackling it. And guess what? It's slipping away, because 58 percent of the American people say, the more they hear about this thing, the less they like it. And they're catching on to all of the scare tactics and all the lies they're telling, just like telling people that all this is going to happen.

The truth of the matter is, this plan is going down. Greenspan's reputation is going down. And people have got a sense that we have punched this country into unbelievable debt and we're not getting anything in return. And they want some changes made. And they'll be coming.


CARVILLE: All right.

Congress wants to haul a bunch of baseball players up to Capitol Hill to talk about steroids. Will this really help the game or just cause a political grandstanding? We'll debate that with a couple members of the Congress just ahead.

WATKINS: And why is the Bush administration getting ready to kick reporters out of the White House? Find out later on CROSSFIRE.

ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.



WATKINS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The House Government Reform Committee, under the leadership of Virginia Republican Tom Davis, is launching hearings on steroids in Major League Baseball. The possibility of players using an unfair advantage to fuel their achievements could taint the game for years. But some people don't think Congress should be involved.

Two members of the committee join us from Capitol Hill, Democrat Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania and California Republican Darrell Issa.

Well, men, welcome to the CROSSFIRE.



CARVILLE: Thank you.


CARVILLE: Congressman Issa, one of the reasons, the main reason, we're told by the people on the Hill, that they're doing this is for the youth of America. Has Congress gotten so out of touch with the American people that they actually think that the youth of America care what a bunch of congressmen think?

ISSA: Well, James, as soon as you realize that professional baseball players are doing steroids and you want to become a professional baseball player, you have to do steroids to get to the majors, you see it trickle all the way down into high school and college ball. So, it is the youth of America that are experimenting with these illegal drugs in order to make that cut to make it to the majors.

CARVILLE: Right. Congressman, I understand that, in 1982, this -- I have been following sports for a long time -- Lyle Alzado, who was in the NFL, took steroids, had a brain cancer, which he says was the result of steroids. Ben Johnson won the Olympics. His eyeballs was stuck out about two feet in front of his eye. He ran the 100 in about four seconds, he was so pumped up.

Every baseball fans see these guys. They show up at the plate. They don't have a neck. I don't know why they would want to look like that.


CARVILLE: But this has been going on for a while. Why this epiphany right now on March 17, right before the baseball season?

ISSA: You know, James, you have got to ask when the good time is.

In 1991, the federal government acted to make steroids illegal. In 1995, '96, '97, there was scandal after scandal in which they kept promising that there would be something about it. Now, to be candid, a book comes out that tells all and people are pushing the accusations back and forth. And, as the chairman said, the youth of America are realizing that, if you want to make the majors today, you have got to do steroids. And it's not right. It's not legal.

And we have to do something about it. We do have an obligation in Congress, the kind of oversight of this monopoly which we created. They have an antitrust exemption that says they can do anything they want in the way of getting together and agreeing to standards that would prevent this, and yet they haven't shown that leadership in over a decade, since this problem began.

CARVILLE: Thank you, sir.

WATKINS: Congressman Kanjorski, you have made it clear that you don't think that Congress should have anything to do with this. You think that this is not matter for the U.S. Congress to be deliberating.

But, by the same token, former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said just today that Congress has every right to investigate this. I mean, after all, we have people -- some people have died from steroid abuse and we have lots of kids who emulate these athletes who might be inclined to take steroids as well.

Why do you disagree with that? Why don't you think that this is -- that this is an appropriate role for Congress?

REP. PAUL KANJORSKI (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, you miss my point. I'm not for steroids. And we -- the Congress has a perfect right to examine the use of steroids. What I'm opposed to is the use of the subpoena power to bring people in and acquire into their...


WATKINS: ... serious issue? Is what you're saying, Congressman, is that this really isn't that serious an issue, that this is something that we could kind of gloss over? After all, Pete Rose was banished from baseball for gambling. Is this not more serious to...


KANJORSKI: I hope he wasn't -- I hope he wasn't banished by the Congress of the United States.

I think there are very serious matters that the Congress should examine into and they should use the subpoena power when it's important and they can't discover that information through any other means or method. Then they can use the subpoena power.

WATKINS: You don't think this is important?

KANJORSKI: But you just don't use the subpoena power to hype a book or to embarrass people.

WATKINS: Do you think that this is important to the kids in your district? I'm sure you have young people that live in your district that plays sports that look up to these athletic figures.

KANJORSKI: Absolutely.

WATKINS: Is this important to them?

KANJORSKI: Absolutely.

But, then, if we are going find out, are we going to call every baseball player and find out and every football player and every college athlete? Why are we just going to call seven people and of what importance are they? The fact of the matter is, the committee has not laid a predicate for this examination.

So, all we're waiting for now is, on Thursday, a tremendous, sensational hearing, where some people will be asked questions that may put them in conflict with a prior secret testimony before grand juries, may subject them to perjury, and, at the very least, if they don't wish to testify, will embarrass them by the claiming of the benefit of the Fifth Amendment.

I just don't think it's necessary. The Congress of the United States hasn't issued subpoenas and threatened and brought contempt citations for 19 years. And out of -- since the last 52 years, we've only done it 25 times; 14 of those times were by the Un-American Activities Committee. And I think, very often, the use of subpoena smacks of what we fought all these 50 years to get away from, an abusive use by Congress of an extraordinarily powerful power to invade into the freedom and liberty of American citizens. It's wrong to do it without cause.



CARVILLE: Congressman, Congressman, I think that a lot of sports fans, and myself included, we've been knowing this stuff has been going on in the NFL. We've been knowing it's going on in the Olympics. We've been knowing it's going on in baseball forever.

And then, finally, it blows up. Baseball gets its act together. The players, they get together and have a deal and they're getting ready to start the season, that now the Congress of the United States wakes up and says, oh, my God, there are steroids in sports. And people are kind of scratching their heads. And where have you guys been all this time? (APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: And at the very time that they get their act together, we're going to come right before the baseball season on the day of the opening of the NCAA basketball tournament. To tell you the truth, I'm more interested in whether LSU can beat UAB in Boise, Idaho, than I am in dragging a couple of ballplayers out -- up on Capitol Hill.

And I think that's what most people are saying. If these guys are getting their act together, why do it now? Let's see how the season goes and put these things off and have them in December.

ISSA: Well, you know, James, you mentioned the Olympics.

And there is no question, the Olympics have the gold standard for steroids testing and other drug testing. And if the unions represent -- and, you know, that they represent the players and the owners were able to reach an agreement on that kind of mandatory drug testing for the privilege of being a professional baseball player -- it's not a right to be a multimillion dollar slugger. It's a privilege.

And if, in fact, that standard was met, we wouldn't be having this obligation. But there need to be mandatory drug testing. That's recognized by the Olympic Committee and it's been in place for a number of years. Well, the fact is that the majority of the owners -- and I've talked to owners of several professional baseball -- or professional sports teams, including baseball, and they say, look, we'd love nothing better than to have mandatory testing, but we've got to get past the union and their representatives in order to get that kind of testing.

And they're standing behind civil rights and privacy and all these false issues, when, in fact, there should -- we should know the players are clean and we should know that, if you don't do drugs, you can still make the majors if you're the best, rather than, today, where you know you have to do drugs because those enhancing drugs will get you to the majors. It shouldn't be that way. And we have got to make sure that it's a clean sport.


CARVILLE: Excuse me. Thank you, Congressman.


WATKINS: Just ahead, are kids getting mixed messages from million-dollar contracts rewarding steroid use?

And who was behind the plan to smuggle Russian-made weapons into the United States? Wolf Blitzer has details right after this.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, charges have been filed against 18 men accused of trying to smuggle Russian-made weapons into the United States.

A court appearance in Atlanta for the man accused of last week's courthouse shootings.

And a look at the news from a different perspective. We'll talk with political humorist Bill Maher.

All those stories, plus an anthrax scare happening right now here in Washington, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Major League Baseball has already turned over 400 pages of documents to a congressional committee looking into steroids in the American pastime. There are already grand juries looking into this issue. So, what benefit can be gained from Congress getting involved? Two members of the committee are still in the CROSSFIRE, Pennsylvania Democrat Paul Kanjorski and California Republican Darrell Issa.

WATKINS: Congressman Kanjorski, how do you tell kids who see these players using steroids signing multi-million dollar contracts, how do you tell these kids that they're supposed to play by the rules and stay clean? Are you saying that Congress shouldn't have any role in doing that?

KANJORSKI: No, I'm saying that Congress should not sensationalize what we're doing.

We certainly should find out. For instance, I'd like to know who manufactures steroids., what's the nature of how they're distributed, who gives the prescriptions, who's making the money in the...


WATKINS: You're open -- you're open, then, to hearings on those issues, then? You're open to hearings on those issues?

KANJORSKI: Absolutely. I have no problem with hearings.

I am merely saying, I think jumping ahead, issuing subpoenas to seven ballplayers, who, at best, I think, can answer a question: Have you in the past or do you now use steroids, yes or no? That's all they're really going to be useful as witnesses. And I think it's going to interfere with their freedom and their liberty and could embarrass them and could subject them to perjury.

WATKINS: Whose freedom and liberty?


KANJORSKI: And I just don't think -- I think that's an abuse of the subpoena power of the Congress.

CARVILLE: Congressman Issa, if George Will, my friend and fellow baseball fan, is watching this, we're going to have to peel him off the ceiling, because you suggested that Congress would get involved in union negotiations now. I mean, you all don't have enough to do without getting involved in labor negotiations between the owners and the union?

ISSA: You know, you know, James, James...


ISSA: George Will sits on the board of one of those Major League teams. I assure you...

CARVILLE: Well, I understand. I don't agree with everything George Will says.

ISSA: Well, but...

CARVILLE: But there are a lot of conservatives that would say Congress shouldn't get involved in labor negotiations between the Players Union and the owners.

ISSA: You're absolutely right. We should...


CARVILLE: And you have suggested -- you have suggested that, if you don't like the negotiation -- if you don't like the negotiation, that the Congress would get involved. I'm stunned that a conservative would say that.

ISSA: Oh, just the opposite.

What I'm saying is, that, in fact, because we grant the antitrust exemption, because they haven't cleaned up in over a decade of talking about it, the steroid problem, what we should do is say, steroids are illegal. Steroid must be -- steroids must be tested for. And you have to come to us with an acceptable zero-tolerance drug and drug rehabilitation system. That's all we're asking for.

But just as we give the unions -- or just as we give the unions an opportunity to negotiate against a monopoly that is incredibly profitable, that is the national pastime, to say that you must come up with a system to be -- that will be mandatory to remain drug free is not unreasonable. We interfere all the...

CARVILLE: Well, suppose you don't like instant replay. Can Congress get involved? Maybe they don't like the instant replay rule.

KANJORSKI: Absolutely.


CARVILLE: I mean, at some point, isn't there a limit to what government power can do?

(CROSSTALK) ISSA: Look, instant replays don't kill people. Instant replays don't lead to the youth of America crossing over the Tijuana border and going into those unregulated pharmacies without a prescription and getting shot up and then going back across. And it happens every day outside of San Diego.

This is an epidemic in America.



ISSA: And it's generated by professional sports being the standard to use it and succeed.

KANJORSKI: And I would take issue with that finding. I just have to say that, you know, baseball...

CARVILLE: I'm sorry, but it's the bottom of the ninth and there's three out and a called third strike, guys.


CARVILLE: And we got to go.



CARVILLE: Is the Bush administration really considering a plan to kick reporters out of the White House? I'll have the details next on CROSSFIRE.

Thank -- thank you so much. Thank you so much, both of you.

WATKINS: Thanks, guys.

CARVILLE: Great show.


ISSA: Thank you.


CARVILLE: There's talk about kicking reporters out of the White House, but not because President Bush doesn't like them.

Someone from the General Service Administration thinks the press area in the White House is a firetrap. Built on top of a swimming pool, the area is filled with miles of cables, ladders, cameras and other equipment. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says there have been discussions about moving reporters out during major renovations, possibly this summer, when the president goes on vacation at his Texas ranch.

WATKINS: Well, that's a good thing to do. I used to work at the White House. I mean, I think that that area could...


CARVILLE: Well, I tell you what. After Jeff Gannon and all them softball questions, they ought to fumigate the place, as opposed to...


CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

WATKINS: From the right, I'm Joe Watkins. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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