Paul Greenberg

Here's how to get a dubious bill into law, or at least past the U.S. House of Representatives, which of late has deserved to be called the lower chamber:

-- First, make the bill long. Very long. So long no one may actually read it, supporters or opponents. Introduce a 310-page horse-choker of an amendment at 3 in the morning on the day of the roll-call vote. So it can't be examined too closely or too long. Only after the bill passes may its true costs emerge. To cite an old proverb I just made up: Pass in haste, repent at leisure.

-- Make sure that the bill itself, which was already 1,200 pages long before this super-sized amendment was added, surpasseth all understanding. (Which may be the only thing it has in common with the peace of God.) No sense risking a reasoned debate. Just round up enough party-line votes and give the majority its orders.

-- Insert all kinds of exceptions into the bill so those special interests that stand to benefit by them -- whether regional, economic or ideological -- will join the stampede.

-- Coat the bill and the campaign for it with high-sounding sloganspeak, if not hysteria. Warn that The End Is Near unless this bill is passed, at least if you consider the year 2100 near. (Imagine the hoots if, in 1909, the scientific establishment had announced what the world's average temperature was going to be a hundred years hence.) Accuse anyone not willing to rubber-stamp the bill of treason -- against the whole planet. Honest. See columnist Paul Krugman's latest j'accuse in the New York Times.

-- Keep the faith. Science may retain a healthy skepticism, but scientists can be as true believers as any of the rest of us, just as in the 1970s it became an article of "scientific" faith that the next ice age was imminent. Now it's global warming. Talk about running hot and cold. There's no fundamentalism like scientific fundamentalism. (Well, maybe secular fundamentalism.) Who says the Age of Faith is passed? Some folks'll believe anything if it comes from an authoritative figure in a lab coat. Or maybe Al Gore on one of his jet-setting tours in the cause of saving energy.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.