by Burt Prelutsky | Los Angeles

I have come clean in the past about having been friends with Rep. Henry Waxman.  We had met in the late 1950s at UCLA and wound up spending a lot of time over the following decade playing cards.  In fact, once, some years later, I received a phone call from a guy profiling Waxman for the Washington Post.  He wanted my impression of the young, pre-Congressional fellow.  I told him that Henry was a terrible poker player, but was very astute at hearts.  I said it made perfect sense because poker is a cut-throat game, every man for himself, whereas hearts is a game that involves constantly changing alliances.  I regarded it as a perfect metaphor for a career in politics.

I knew from personal experience that Henry was a fish when it came to poker, but it was some time later that I found out how truly awful he was.  Before being elected to Congress, he had gone to Sacramento as a state assemblyman.  Wherever politicians congregate, you will find two things — poker games and lobbyists.  As you can imagine, lobbyists are not there to win money from those they spend their lives trying to influence.  But it seems that Henry was so inept that, in spite of their best efforts, they kept beating him.  This so embarrassed the lobbyists that they finally banished him from the game.

Naturally, once Mr. Waxman went to Washington, I saw him less and less frequently.  Periodically, he would return to L.A., but that was in order to spend time  meeting with constituents and holding political fund-raisers.

Over the years, Henry continued to be a liberal.  He continued to think FDR was a combination of Moses and Santa Claus.  I, on the other hand, who had been raised in a similar middle-class Jewish home, spent the intervening years wising up.

So it was that while attending a party a while back, a celebration of Henry’s 30th year in the House, I asked him what he was up to.  When he said that one of his committees was preparing to investigate Fox News for biased reporting, I couldn’t keep my yap shut and maintain my status as a polite guest.  Instead, after telling him that I thought it was a swell idea, I went on to suggest that when he and his colleagues finished investigating Fox, I trusted they would turn their eagle eyes on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and our own Pravda wannabe, the L.A. Times.

Henry simply gawked at me.  He looked even more than usual like a fish out of water.  It was as if he thought his old school chum had been replaced during the dead of night by a space pod.

I assume he had heard from mutual acquaintances that I was no longer a Democrat, but he was so obviously unprepared for my transformation into a conservative that I almost felt sorry for him.  There was a moment of shocked silence, almost as if he was hoping I was going to laugh and admit I was just pulling his leg.  Then the moment passed, and he moved off to be among those who thought three decades of Waxman in the U.S. Congress was something worth celebrating.

For old times sake, I have generally left Waxman out of my attacks on liberals in the House.  After all, with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Charles Rangel, John Murtha, Barbara Lee, Linda Sanchez, Bernard Sanders and Barney Frank, taking up space, I didn’t think it was necessary to focus on my old college buddy.

But things have changed.  First there was the totally irresponsible Waxman-Markey cap & trade bill, which would destroy America’s industrial capacity and send energy costs soaring for every American household, while simultaneously providing our competitors in China and India with every possible advantage.

But, for me, the final straw was Waxman’s voting along with 74 other House Democrats to continue funding ACORN with our tax dollars.  Just as there’s no need to catalogue all of ACORN’s crimes and sins at this time, there’s no reason to bother trying to find a good excuse for Waxman’s defending this gang of creeps and thugs.

At this late date, I am not easily shocked, but I was so shocked and disgusted to find Waxman siding with ACORN that I decided I was going to share a piece of information that should add a measure of embarrassment to his well-deserved shame.

A few years ago, Henry garnered a great deal of publicity when he chaired a committee investigating the use of illegal substances in major league baseball.  I suspect there were a lot of people who had never even heard of Waxman prior to the hearings.  For my part, being a lifelong baseball fan, I was glad to see Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro, sweating on the hot seat.

Those punks had done everything in their power to destroy the national pastime by cheating, thereby erasing such honorable names as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Roger Maris, from the record book.

Shortly after the hearings, I had lunch with Henry.  He confessed that he knew so little about baseball, he had no real idea who the players were, and that he was amazed to discover they were so famous that members of Congress and their staffs actually crowded into the hallways to collect autographs.

That was bad enough.  But I then asked him, “If a minor leaguer uses steroids or human growth hormones in order to reach the majors, but stops once he gets there, how long will he continue to test positive?”

Henry admitted he had no idea.

So here was a congressman investigating baseball who not only had no idea who its most famous players were, but no pertinent information about the substances they were being condemned for using.

Now, seriously, do you really think that he knows any more about energy than he does about baseball or poker? CRO

copyright 2009 Burt Prelutsky

Television scriptwriter, former humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine.

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