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End the War on Reading By: Jamie Weinstein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 01, 2009

We were told again and again by the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad), and Ed Asner that Reading is Fundamental. In public service announcements on television and on the radio, these celebrities conveyed to us the importance of learning to read. But last week, congressional Democrats told us that those celebrities were lying. Reading is not as fundamental as we were led to believe, Democrats said, in actions if not words.

House Democrats, with the support of eight Republicans, passed a 1,200-plus-page climate-change bill on Friday. As the bill passed, an eerie silence overcame the country as Americans silently wondered whether this was the moment The One had prophesied of during his campaign. You know, that magical moment when “the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Well, if it was that magical moment, most who voted for the bill didn’t know it. That’s because few congressmen actually had an opportunity to read the climate-change bill in its entirety before they cast their vote. Twelve hundred pages long, 300 pages of amendments were added to the bill less than 24 hours before the vote. This is hardly sufficient time for members to read and fully understand what the complicated piece of legislation they were asked to vote on stipulated.

Translation: No, America, reading is not fundamental.

I thought we came to the collective conclusion as a country a long time ago that it was a good idea for members of Congress to read major pieces of legislation and important reports on which the legislation was based before they cast a vote. Barack Obama’s campaign hammered Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail for her admission that she had not read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq before voting to give President George W. Bush the authority to use force against Saddam Hussein.

That seems like a reasonable position to me, one that should apply to other major policy decisions other than the decision to go to war. But now Congress, with the support of President Obama, seems to think that giving members of Congress time to read legislation before voting on it is an extravagant request. Why, Mr. President and Speaker Pelosi, are you launching this cruel war on reading? It’s fundamental, remember?

This Democratic assault on reading began before last week’s climate-change vote. In February, Congress passed a 1,100-page stimulus bill that authorized something like a zillion dollars to be spent to supposedly jumpstart the economy. That’s an awful lot of money. One would imagine it would be important for legislatures to pour over the bill to understand what they were voting on. Not so, said the Democrats in power.

This isn’t the only war, however, the Obama Administration may have launched since coming into office. During the presidential campaign, we heard a lot about the war on science the Bush Administration was supposedly waging. Both Barack Obama and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promised to end this alleged war and bring peace to science once elected. Now, there is evidence that the Obama Administration has launched its own war on science. CBS News has reported that the director of the Environmental Protection Agency had put the kibosh on a report that cautioned the administration from making hasty policy decisions with regards to climate change “based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.”

This report was inconvenient for an administration intent on passing costly climate change legislation and it appears to have been suppressed by the Obama Administration. This sounds an awful lot like what Democrats accused President Bush of doing.

What’s going on here? A war on Science? A war on Reading? Is this the change America voted for?

But back to the climate change bill. It is troubling that the Democrats’ savage war on reading has prevented legislators from reading major pieces of legislation in their entirety before they come up for a vote. But a better question is whether we should be crafting pieces of legislation that run over 1,000 pages in the first place? During his second stint as British Prime Minister, the great Winston Churchill was presented with a mammoth report on housing. When asked whether he had considered the report, Churchill retorted that “this report by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read.”

The same goes with these outrageously long pieces of legislation. Even if the Democrats were not launching a ruthless war against reading, the fact of the matter is that many congressmen probably wouldn’t actually read a 1,000-page bill. Congressional legislation should be streamlined. There is no reason whatsoever that Congress needs to be considering bills that are as long as the Bible.

While few have had a chance to read the climate change bill in its entirety, the bill is very likely, in the undistinguished words of the distinguished House Minority Leader from Ohio, John Boehner, a “piece of shit.” Let us hope that the Senate acts like the deliberative body it was crafted to be and rejects the bill, much like it wisely rejected the prospect of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

And let us hope that President Obama implores his friends in Congress to end the unenlightened war being waged against reading – if not for members of Congress, then at least for the children.     

Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.

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