WASHINGTON -- America's ambitious educators -- the likes of Princeton's Rev. John Witherspoon (1723-1794) and Harvard's Charles William Eliot (1834-1926) -- now include Reps. Tom Davis and Henry Waxman, chairman and ranking member respectively of the House Government Reform Committee, which, come Thursday morning, wants to instruct the nation, and especially all the little boys and girls watching C-SPAN. The committee's topic will be steroids in baseball, the committee having decided that there has been a serious insufficiency of talk about that subject since its much-talked-about appearance in the president's State of the Union address 14 months ago.
The committee has discovered that its duties include informing all Americans, and especially children, that dangerous and illegal behavior is dangerous and illegal. So the committee has subpoenaed some baseball and players association officials and some current and retired players, including Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Committee staffers say it has not subpoenaed Barry Bonds because his presence might make the hearing a media circus. Heaven forfend.
Cynics will say that, absent television, congressional behavior would be different. But to be fair to Waxman, he is a liberal representing Beverly Hills and Hollywood, so he is not expected to have a lick of sense regarding the limits of government, and he rarely sees a human activity that he does not think merits increased federal supervision. Davis, however, is a Republican whose Northern Virginia district is just up the road from Montpelier, home of James Madison, from whose writings Davis seems to have learned nothing about a government -- or a committee -- of enumerated powers.
The Government Reform Committee, formerly Government Operations Committee, took today's name in 1995, during the ``Republican revolution'' to restore limited, modest government. The committee claims ``broad jurisdiction,'' meaning a license to rove whither it will in the name of ``oversight.''
Fine. It can grandstand to its heart's content in the name of informing itself -- about government operations. But not to inform the rest of us about whatever the committee thinks we ought to be told.