Monday, October 23, 2006
By Radley Balko
LONDON — In the wee hours of the last night of the last session of Congress, Majority Leader Bill Frist attached a ban on Internet gambling to a port security bill.
It was a dubious maneuver, which not only prevented any real floor debate over the ban, but also attached an intrusive, unnecessary, big government measure to a bill that addressed important national security concerns. This meant that any senator who held the position that what Americans do with their own money in their own homes on their own time is none of the government’s business couldn’t vote against the gambling ban, lest they risk being smacked about the head with the “soft on national security” cudgel.
If Frist’s move was underhanded, it was also wholly appropriate, given the way the GOP has handled this issue. The debate — to the extent that there has actually been one — has been marred by misdirection, red herrings, and a certain obliviousness among the bill’s supporters to, well, reality.
The two Republican congressmen pushing the ban in the House of Representatives, for example, — Rep. Jim Leach and Rep. Bob Goodlatte — tried for months to sell the ban as an effort to exorcise the scourge of Jack Abramoff from the Congress and the Republican party, as if Abramoff were the reason the bill never passed in the first place.