Don't Expect Reform

The election year of 2000 did not result in a clear and definite election of a president. However both in politics and outside of politics some positive, although essentially negative, things did occur, all of which may clear-up future political campaigns, and relieve anxiety in both political and other fields of national concern.

Campaign reform has had its last run, at least for the immediate future, unless some advocate of reform, say the New York Times, is prepared to challenge the long-held and honored view held by John Locke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, and others, that freedom of speech, especially in the political order, and of assembly stand on their own, outside the Constitution, as the foundation stones of democracy, despite the weakening of that principle by the Supreme Court in Valeo v. Buckley 25 years ago. McCain-Feingold reform faded from sight during the campaign, as did Buckley reforms in the primaries. Bush and Gore reforms suffered something like partial birth abortion along the way of the campaign in which record spending levels were set, including hard money, soft money, hot money, and other forms came into play.

Even Walter Cronkite's proposal that the television companies set up a time bank from which chosen candidates would be given time never took off. Campaign reform should be banned as an issue in 2004.

Similar treatment should be given to the proposals to set limits on legal fees in tort proceedings, first, because of Constitutional questions especially as to the right to counsel, and also because of the complications of any administration of such laws, unless assignment of lawyers and determination of fees were to be left to Common Cause or Ralph Nader.

Two other quasi-political problems have been given some attention, but have, at least for the time being, not taken up as national political issues. One is Olympic ethics, both in the conduct of the games and in the determination of sites. The other is the restoration of balance or equity among major league baseball teams. (Restoration is not a right word, since there never was equity among teams, and never will be, unless actions more drastic than now being proposed are taken.

Money seems to be the root of corruption in Olympic proceedings, as it is said to be in politics by Common Cause. The International Olympic Committee has declared that it will handle its ethical problems without the intervention of national political powers. The last intervention of consequence was that of President Jimmy Carter who "kept us out of the Olympics" in the summer of 1980.

Evidence of the potential for corruption of the games showed at the first games, in 776 B.C. Winning athletes at that meeting were, by report, given not only wreaths and trophies, but free meals and lifetime exemption from taxation. Three hundred years later, playwright and athlete Euripides wrote that "out of the tens of thousands of ills in Greece none is worse than the tribe of professional athletes."

We are indebted to Andrew Strenk, resident historian, on the staff of the 1984 Olympic Organizing Committee, for giving us a fair warning of what was to come.

"The compelling consideration in determining Olympic competition and events is "dollars and 'business sense," he said.

"Behind the scenes" Strenk notes "the Olympic Committee has to ask how many people will watch the event. The new Olympic object, thus, becomes not the finish line, but the bottom line".

In some of the preliminary Olympic trials contestants are so adorned with logos and signs that they appear to be race car and racing boat drivers.

Money has undoubtedly influenced and will continue to encourage drug use by athletes. Possibly, a partial solution could be for the Olympic Committee of get out a report comparable to the Racing Form, which notes what drugs are being used on the horses.

Rome did not expect its gladiators or emperors to set the moral tone of the country or to be role models. Don't expect too much from the Olympics.

Equity in baseball is another matter. It is a lost cause. The problem is deeply metaphysical and will not be worked out by financial balances such as those introduced by Bowie Kuhn and continued by the present Commissioner, Bud Selig, who in his efforts has sought the advice and counsel of George Mitchell and of George Will. More drastic and personal action are in order, such as handicapping fast base runners in the manner in which race horses are handicapped by weight increases. Good hitters could be handicapped, as are good polo players. Poor hitters could be given points as are handicapped golfers, etc.

The equities and balances were worked out in sand lot games when I was a boy. There was a boy, Norbert by name, who was the poorest player in town and, in the beginning, always the last chosen. He was given four strikes. The team that got Norbert was given four outs per inning, Norbert's outs did not count, etc., until Norbert's handicaps came to be so valuable that he was the first chosen.

Eugene J. McCarthy was a teacher and congressman before he became a Democratic-Farmer-Labor senator from Minnesota from 1959 through 1970.

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