The Corner

The Spectecutive Branch

Re my earlier post, an Arlen Specter defender (the loneliest march down Main Street?) writes:

Every CEO in the country, including Ronald Reagan as President, reads executive summaries of important documents.  The idea that any Senator has to read an entire bill is nonsense.  He needs staff not only to read it but to relate how items on page 3 relate to provisions on page 1009.  Did George Bush read every line of the bills he signed?  Bill Clinton signed Welfare reform and I bet he did not read the final bill (though to be fair he is wonky enough to have read a lot of it).  What is true is that without time there is no way staff could read it and draft the necessary critiques for Senatorial review but this “He hasn’t read the bill stuff” is stupidity not some great insight.

Sorry, I pass. Arlen Specter is not a CEO — notwithstanding the vast Gulf Emir-sized retinue to which he has become accustomed. He doesn’t run anything. He has no payroll to make, no contracts to fulfill, no deliveries to expedite. A legislator is elected to legislate — so, if he doesn’t read the law before he makes it law, he’s not doing the only job he has. When you go to see Barbra Streisand, she has an orchestra and a conductor and arrangers and lighting designers and hair stylists, but she’s still expected to do the singing herself. If she stood up and said, “Okay, I’ve outsourced ‘People’ to my intern Kevin and ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ to the niece of a friend of mine who needed a summer job and the Yentl medley to some people Kevin met for a breakfast session and said seemed to know what they were talking about,” you’d begin to wonder why anyone needs Barbra.

Why does anyone need Specter? Why can’t we just eliminate the middle-man and have his “staffers” announce their collective vote like a U.N. Security Council meeting?

If a bill is too big to read, it’s a good sign you shouldn’t be passing it. Rule by anonymous technocrats is a form of tyranny, however benign.

[UPDATE: From another correspondent:

Your reader seems to forget that Congress passed the onerous Sarbanes-Oxley* on the premise there needed to be a new law requiring CEOs to read their financial statements and personally face legal penalties in case there are errors.  Maybe Congress would be a bit more cautious if they faced jail time when their 10-year budgets didn’t pan out.

*Another hastily drawn piece of must-pass-now legislation that’s done wonders for our overseas competitors.]

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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