Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cronkite remembered as 'honorable' and 'an icon'

Cronkite remembered as 'honorable' and 'an icon'

By FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer Frazier Moore, Ap Television Writer 45 mins ago

NEW YORK – The death of Walter Cronkite elicited tributes from colleagues, presidents past and present, world-famous astronauts and those who hoped in vain to fill his empty anchor chair, all honoring the avuncular face of TV journalism who became the "most trusted man in America."

Cronkite died with his family by his side Friday night at his Manhattan home after a long illness, CBS vice president Linda Mason said. Marlene Adler, Cronkite's chief of staff, said Cronkite died of cerebrovascular disease. He was 92.

"It's hard to imagine a man for whom I had more admiration," Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" said on CNN. "... He was a superb reporter and honorable man."

Cronkite was the face of the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981, when stories ranged from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to racial and anti-war riots, Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis.

It was Cronkite who read the bulletins coming from Dallas when Kennedy was shot Nov. 22, 1963, interrupting a live CBS-TV broadcast of a soap opera.

"Walter was who I wanted to be when I grew up," said CBS's "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer, 72, who began working at CBS News in 1969.

"He set a standard for all of us. He made television news what it became."

Cronkite died just three days before the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, another earthshaking moment of history linked inexorably with his reporting.

"He had a passion for human space exploration, an enthusiasm that was contagious, and the trust of his audience. He will be missed," astronaut Neil Armstrong said.

President Barack Obama issued a statement saying that Cronkite set the standard by which all other news anchors have been judged, echoing sentiments from former Presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

"He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down," Obama said. "This country has lost an icon and a dear friend, and he will be truly missed."

Cronkite was the broadcaster to whom the title "anchorman" was first applied, and he became so identified in that role that his name became the term for it in other languages. (Swedish anchors are known as Kronkiters; in Holland, they are Cronkiters.)

"Walter Cronkite was and always will be the gold standard," said ABC News anchor Charles Gibson. "His objectivity, his evenhandedness, his news judgment are all great examples."

CBS has scheduled a prime-time special, "That's the Way it Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite," for 7 p.m. Sunday.

"He was a great broadcaster and a gentleman whose experience, honesty, professionalism and style defined the role of anchor and commentator," CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement.

A former wire service reporter and war correspondent, Cronkite valued accuracy, objectivity and understated compassion. He expressed liberal views in more recent writings but said he had always aimed to be fair and professional in his judgments on the air.

But when Cronkite took sides, he helped shape the times. After the 1968 Tet offensive, he visited Vietnam and wrote and narrated a "speculative, personal" report advocating negotiations leading to the withdrawal of American troops.

"We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds," he said, and concluded, "We are mired in stalemate."

After the broadcast, President Lyndon B. Johnson reportedly said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

He also helped broker the 1977 invitation that took Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, the breakthrough to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

Off camera, his stamina and admittedly demanding ways brought him the nickname "Old Ironpants." But to viewers, he was "Uncle Walter," with his jowls and grainy baritone, his warm, direct expression and his trim mustache.

When he summed up the news each evening by stating, "And THAT's the way it is," millions agreed. His reputation survived accusations of bias by Richard Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, and being labeled a "pinko" in the tirades of a fictional icon, Archie Bunker of CBS's "All in the Family."

Polls in 1972 and 1974 pronounced Cronkite the "most trusted man in America." Like fellow Midwesterner Johnny Carson, Cronkite seemed to embody the nation's mainstream. When he broke down as he announced Kennedy's death, removing his glasses and fighting back tears, the times seemed to break down with him.

Cronkite was the top newsman during the peak era for the networks, when the nightly broadcasts grew to a half-hour and 24-hour cable and the Internet were still well in the future. In the fall of 1972, responding to reports in The Washington Post, Cronkite aired a two-part series on Watergate that helped ensure national attention to the then-emerging scandal.

As many as 18 million households tuned in to Cronkite's top-rated program each evening. Twice that number watched his final show, on March 6, 1981, compared with fewer than 10 million in 2005 for the departure of Dan Rather.

Rather, who replaced Cronkite at the anchor desk, called Cronkite "a giant of the journalistic craft."

Cronkite had stepped down at a vigorous 64 years old with the assurance that other duties awaited him at CBS News, but he found little demand there for his services. He hosted the short-lived science magazine series "Walter Cronkite's Universe" and was retained by the network as a consultant, although, as he was known to state wistfully, he was never consulted.

He also sailed his beloved boat, the Wyntje, hosted or narrated specials on public and cable TV, and issued his columns and the best-selling "Walter Cronkite: A Reporter's Life."

For 24 years he served as onsite host for New Year's Day telecasts by the Vienna Philharmonic, ending that cherished tradition only in 2009.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Cronkite was asked to introduce the postponed Emmy awards show. He told the audience that in its coverage of the attack and its aftermath, "television, the great common denominator, has lifted our common vision as never before."

Cronkite joined CBS in 1950, after a decade with United Press, during which he covered World War II and the Nuremberg trials, and a brief stint with a regional radio group.

At CBS he found a respected radio-news organization dipping its toe into TV. He was named anchor for CBS's coverage of the 1952 political conventions, the first year the presidential nominations got wide TV coverage. From there, he was assigned to such news-oriented programs as "You Are There" and "Twentieth Century." (He also briefly hosted a morning show, accompanied by a puppet named Charlemagne the Lion.)

On April 16, 1962, he replaced Douglas Edwards as anchor of the network's "Evening News."

"I never asked them why," Cronkite recalled in a 2006 TV portrait. "I was so pleased to get the job, I didn't want to endanger it by suggesting that I didn't know why I had it."

He was up against the NBC team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, which was solidly ahead in the ratings. Cronkite lacked Brinkley's wry wit and Huntley's rugged good looks, but he established himself as an anchorman to whom people could relate.

His rise to the top was interrupted just once: In 1964, disappointing ratings for the Republican National Convention led CBS boss William S. Paley to dump him as anchor of the Democratic gathering. Critics and viewers protested and he was never displaced again.

Cronkite won numerous Emmys and other awards for excellence in news coverage. In 1978, he and the evening news were the first anchorman and daily broadcast ever given a DuPont award.

Cronkite's salary reportedly reaching seven figures, he was both anchorman and star — interviewed by Playboy, ham enough to appear as himself on an episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." But he repeatedly condemned television practices that put entertainment values ahead of news judgment.

"Broadcast journalism is never going to substitute for print," he said. "We cannot cover in depth in a half hour many of the stories required to get a good understanding of the world."

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., the son and grandson of dentists. The family moved to Houston when he was 10. He joked years later that he was disappointed when he "didn't see a single damn cowboy."

He got a taste of journalism at The Houston Post, where he worked summers after high school and served as campus correspondent at the University of Texas. He also did some sports announcing at a local radio station.

Cronkite quit school after his junior year for a full-time job with the Houston Press. After a brief stint at KCMO in Kansas City, Mo., he joined United Press in 1937. Dispatched to London early in World War II, Cronkite covered the battle of the North Atlantic, flew on a bombing mission over Germany and glided into Holland with the 101st Airborne Division. He was a chief correspondent at the postwar Nuremberg trials and spent his final two years with the news service managing its Moscow bureau.

Cronkite returned to the United States in 1948 and covered Washington for a group of Midwest radio stations. He accepted Edward R. Murrow's invitation to join CBS in 1950.

In 1940, Cronkite married Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell, whom he met when they both worked at KCMO. They had three children, Nancy, Mary Kathleen and Walter Leland III. Betsy Cronkite died in 2005.

In his book, he paid tribute to her "extraordinarily keen sense of humor, which saw us over many bumps (mostly of my making), and her tolerance, even support, for the uncertain schedule and wanderings of a newsman."


AP National Writer Hillel Italie, AP Television Writer David Bauder and Associated Press writers Polly Anderson, Virginia Byrne and Cristian Salazar in New York City contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Not An Option


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, July 15, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Congress: It didn't take long to run into an "uh-oh" moment when reading the House's "health care for all Americans" bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.

IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure

When we first saw the paragraph Tuesday, just after the 1,018-page document was released, we thought we surely must be misreading it. So we sought help from the House Ways and Means Committee.

It turns out we were right: The provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage. Under the Orwellian header of "Protecting The Choice To Keep Current Coverage," the "Limitation On New Enrollment" section of the bill clearly states:

"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law.

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won't be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.

From the beginning, opponents of the public option plan have warned that if the government gets into the business of offering subsidized health insurance coverage, the private insurance market will wither. Drawn by a public option that will be 30% to 40% cheaper than their current premiums because taxpayers will be funding it, employers will gladly scrap their private plans and go with Washington's coverage.

The nonpartisan Lewin Group estimated in April that 120 million or more Americans could lose their group coverage at work and end up in such a program. That would leave private carriers with 50 million or fewer customers. This could cause the market to, as Lewin Vice President John Sheils put it, "fizzle out altogether."

What wasn't known until now is that the bill itself will kill the market for private individual coverage by not letting any new policies be written after the public option becomes law.

The legislation is also likely to finish off health savings accounts, a goal that Democrats have had for years. They want to crush that alternative because nothing gives individuals more control over their medical care, and the government less, than HSAs.

With HSAs out of the way, a key obstacle to the left's expansion of the welfare state will be removed.

The public option won't be an option for many, but rather a mandate for buying government care. A free people should be outraged at this advance of soft tyranny.

Washington does not have the constitutional or moral authority to outlaw private markets in which parties voluntarily participate. It shouldn't be killing business opportunities, or limiting choices, or legislating major changes in Americans' lives.

It took just 16 pages of reading to find this naked attempt by the political powers to increase their reach. It's scary to think how many more breaches of liberty we'll come across in the final 1,002.

A Right That's Wrong


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, July 15, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Reform: Of the many objectionable provisions in the House's latest medical insurance bill, none is as destructive or morally offensive as the one that declares health care to be a "right."

IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure

A "right," as we all know, has one key characteristic: It can't be taken away. Ever. That's exactly what the new Democrat-sponsored bill would ensure. As the Associated Press put it, the legislation would "for the first time make health care a right and a responsibility for all Americans."

That second word — "responsibility" — is also key. The government will force you to take part in its plan, whether you want to or not. As it turns out, "responsibility" is code for "tax hikes" and "compulsory participation."

The House plan calls for a 5.4% surcharge on those earning $1 million or more. But the tax will also reach down to families with incomes of $280,000. "Small businesses" will be excluded, we hear, but only those with payrolls under $400,000. Those with more will have to cover their workers or face a "fee" — another tax — equal to 8% of workers' wages.

"Why should I care?" you ask. "Those people are all rich." And, of course, they're the people "responsible" for your new "right." But even those at lower or middle incomes will face higher taxes under both the House and Senate bills. Individuals who decline to take part will be hit with a penalty of up to 2.5% of what they earn.

All told, Congress will raise taxes by $544 billion. Some "right."

By the way, among the "rights" that don't come with the new government-run plan are the "right" to treatment, the "right" to choose your own doctor, the "right" to see a doctor immediately and the "right" to a second opinion. Sorry.

This is more than just verbiage. It's quite similar, in fact, to what happened with Social Security and Medicare, the massive government-run health care program. They too are now considered by government and many Americans as "rights" (though the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that they are not).

Even so, the underlying assumption has led to runaway government spending on — you guessed it — health care. Over the next 50 years, according to the Social Security Trustees' annual report, Medicare alone will spend $38 trillion more than it takes in.

To fill that hole, taxes will have to be raised or care will have to be rationed. The new reforms will only make things worse. By Democrats' own estimates, they'll cost $1.5 trillion over just 10 years. Others think it'll be twice that.

Eventually, Medicare, Medicaid and the new "public option" will morph into one giant health care program consuming 17% or more of our GDP. Medicare and Medicaid are in fact bankrupt. Should we now let the same people who run those programs run all of health care and inoculate it from reform?

As for rights, what about our right to be left alone? The 10th Amendment — a real right — says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution . . . are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention a "right" to health care. Absent a change in that document, Congress has no business introducing one.

The 'Public Option' Health Care Scam By Steve Chapman


July 16, 2009

Some statements are inherently unbelievable. Such as: "I am an official of the government of Nigeria, and I would like to deposit $60 million in your bank account." Or: "I'm Barry Bonds, and I thought it was flaxseed oil." And this new one: "I'm Barack Obama, and I favor more competition in health insurance."

That, however, is the claim behind his support of a government-run health insurance plan to give consumers one more choice. The president says a "public option" would improve the functioning of the market because it would "force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest."

He has indicated that while he is willing to discuss a variety of remedies as part of health insurance reform, this one is non-negotiable. House Democrats, not surprisingly, included the government plan in the 1,000-page bill they unveiled Tuesday.

It will come as a surprise to private health insurance providers that they have not had to compete up till now. Nationally, there are some 1,300 companies battling for customers. Critics say in many states, one or two insurers enjoy a dominant position. But market dominance doesn't necessarily mean insufficient competition.

Microsoft's dominance of software didn't prevent the rise of Google, and Google's dominance of search engine traffic didn't prevent Microsoft from offering Bing. If a few health insurance providers were suppressing competition at the expense of consumers, you'd expect to see obscene profits. But net profit margins in the business run about 3 percent, only slightly above the median for all industries.

There are reasons, though, to think that the president's real enthusiasm is not for competition but for government expansion. Free-market advocates want to foster competition by letting consumers in one state buy coverage offered in other states. If WellPoint has more than half the business in Indiana, why not let Indiana residents or companies go to California or Minnesota to see if they can find options that are cheaper or better?

But the administration and its allies show no interest in removing that particular barrier to competition. Maybe that's because it would reduce the power of state regulators to boss insurance companies around.

Nor does Obama believe in fostering competition in other health insurance realms -- such as existing government health insurance programs. John Goodman, head of the National Center for Policy Analysis, suggests letting Americans now enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) select a voucher to buy private coverage if they want. Don't hold your breath waiting for the administration to push that idea.

Supporters of the "public option" think it can achieve efficiencies allowing it to underprice existing insurers. But efficiency is to government programs what barbecue sauce is to an ice-cream sundae: not a typical component. Nor is there any reason to think Washington can administer health insurance with appreciably lower overhead than private companies.

Medicare supposedly does so, but that is partly because it doesn't have to engage in marketing to attract customers, which this program would. It also spends less than private companies combating fraud and unwarranted treatments -- a type of monitoring that spends dollars while saving more.

As the Congressional Budget Office has pointed out, "The traditional fee-for-service Medicare program does relatively little to manage benefits, which tends to reduce its administrative costs but may raise its overall spending relative to a more tightly managed approach." False economies are one reason Medicare has done a poor job of controlling costs.

But a public program of the sort Democrats propose doesn't have to control costs, because in a pinch it can count on the government to keep it in business. Competition is healthy, but how are private companies supposed to compete with an operation that can tap the Treasury?

Students of the Obama economic policy will also note a curious consistency in its approach to economic issues. Some problems, like the near-collapse of General Motors and Chrysler, came about because competition worked very well at serving consumers and punishing poorly run companies. Some problems, such as high health insurance premiums, came about because competition allegedly didn't work so well. In both cases, the administration proposes the same solution: more federal spending and a bigger federal role.

Will introducing a government-run insurance program work? After all, that Nigerian financial scam works. Just not necessarily the way you hope.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Attacking Success


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, July 13, 2009 4:20 PM PT

CIA: The latest media kerfuffle over the supposedly secret "plan" to kidnap or kill al-Qaida leaders shows just how pathetic our Congress has become. Gee, aren't we supposed to kidnap or kill the enemy?

Read More: Global War On Terror

The Democrats, still stinging from the stunning revelation that Rep. Nancy Pelosi lied about being briefed by the CIA about waterboarding, have whipped up a new spy scandal to even the score against the CIA.

To make it even more damaging, they've thrown in former Vice President Dick Cheney for good measure, charging that he pushed a covert program to kill or capture al-Qaida's leaders through the CIA. The plan began after 9/11, when President Bush authorized a secret program to capture or kill al-Qaida terrorists.

This is a rare two-fer for the Democrats: They protect one of their own (Pelosi) while going after the now departed bogeyman (Cheney), whom they've tried to build up as an archvillain who tricked Americans into deposing Iraq's lovable Saddam Hussein.

Congressional Democrats want a full-on investigation of the CIA — and they're likely to get it. "To have a massive program that was concealed from the leaders in Congress is not only inappropriate, it could be illegal," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.

Sounds good. Righteous, even. In fact, the plan never got off the ground. Nor was it "massive," as Durbin says. Just $1 million was spent — a pittance. So why the big deal?

This all came about after CIA Director Leon Panetta told the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that Cheney had ordered a covert program and that the CIA had lied to Congress about it for eight years.

Anyone who thinks about this for even a moment will be struck by its absurdity. After 9/11, the U.S. declared a war on terror. Who else would we target but al-Qaida's leaders?

We've targeted al-Qaida's bigwigs through the use of drones for several years. It's been a huge success. Al-Qaida's alpha dogs won't show their faces in public for fear of being sent to meet their maker by a U.S.-made rocket with their name on it.

This is a bipartisan policy, by the way. Yes, it began under Bush. But as Marc Thiessen notes on the National Review Online blog, "The Obama administration itself has reportedly escalated targeted killings of al-Qaida terrorists in Pakistan using Predator and Reaper drones."

So whether you send in a special-ops team with sniper scopes to kill someone, or do it from the sky with drones, the effect is the same: It's an assassination. Let's not play word games. Indeed, the only surprise in this would be if the U.S. weren't targeting al-Qaida's best for termination with extreme prejudice.

Even so, apart from drones, the CIA's perfectly legitimate program never really killed anyone. It never left the planning stages. And it was canceled on June 23 by Panetta. A nonissue, in short.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder says he might appoint a special prosecutor to go after Cheney and former CIA operatives who conducted rough interrogations of al-Qaida leaders.

If only Democrats pursued al-Qaida with the same fervor as they do their political enemies, we'd all be a lot safer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama Rewrites the Cold War: The President has a duty to stand up to the lies of our enemies By Liz Cheney


There are two different versions of the story of the end of the Cold War: the Russian version, and the truth. President Barack Obama endorsed the Russian version in Moscow last week.

Speaking to a group of students, our president explained it this way: "The American and Soviet armies were still massed in Europe, trained and ready to fight. The ideological trenches of the last century were roughly in place. Competition in everything from astrophysics to athletics was treated as a zero-sum game. If one person won, then the other person had to lose. And then within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful."

The truth, of course, is that the Soviets ran a brutal, authoritarian regime. The KGB killed their opponents or dragged them off to the Gulag. There was no free press, no freedom of speech, no freedom of worship, no freedom of any kind. The basis of the Cold War was not "competition in astrophysics and athletics." It was a global battle between tyranny and freedom. The Soviet "sphere of influence" was delineated by walls and barbed wire and tanks and secret police to prevent people from escaping. America was an unmatched force for good in the world during the Cold War. The Soviets were not. The Cold War ended not because the Soviets decided it should but because they were no match for the forces of freedom and the commitment of free nations to defend liberty and defeat Communism.

It is irresponsible for an American president to go to Moscow and tell a room full of young Russians less than the truth about how the Cold War ended. One wonders whether this was just an attempt to push "reset" -- or maybe to curry favor. Perhaps, most concerning of all, Mr. Obama believes what he said.

Mr. Obama's method for pushing reset around the world is becoming clearer with each foreign trip. He proclaims moral equivalence between the U.S. and our adversaries, he readily accepts a false historical narrative, and he refuses to stand up against anti-American lies.

The approach was evident in his speech in Moscow and in his speech in Cairo last month. In Cairo, he asserted there was some sort of equivalence between American support for the 1953 coup in Iran and the evil that the Iranian mullahs have done in the world since 1979. On an earlier trip to Mexico City, the president listened to an extended anti-American screed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and then let the lies stand by responding only with, "I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for the things that occurred when I was 3 months old."

Asked at a NATO meeting in France in April whether he believed in American exceptionalism, the president said, "I believe in American Exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." In other words, not so much.

The Obama administration does seem to believe in another kind of exceptionalism -- Obama exceptionalism. "We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand," one Obama handler has said. What they don't seem to realize is that once you're president, your brand is America, and the American people expect you to defend us against lies, not embrace or ignore them. We also expect you to know your history.

Mr. Obama has become fond of saying, as he did in Russia again last week, that American nuclear disarmament will encourage the North Koreans and the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. Does he really believe that the North Koreans and the Iranians are simply waiting for America to cut funds for missile defense and reduce our strategic nuclear stockpile before they halt their weapons programs?

The White House ought to take a lesson from President Harry Truman. In April, 1950, Truman signed National Security Council report 68 (NSC-68). One of the foundational documents of America's Cold War strategy, NSC-68 explains the danger of disarming America in the hope of appeasing our enemies. "No people in history," it reads, "have preserved their freedom who thought that by not being strong enough to protect themselves they might prove inoffensive to their enemies."

Perhaps Mr. Obama thinks he is making America inoffensive to our enemies. In reality, he is emboldening them and weakening us. America can be disarmed literally -- by cutting our weapons systems and our defensive capabilities -- as Mr. Obama has agreed to do. We can also be disarmed morally by a president who spreads false narratives about our history or who accepts, even if by his silence, our enemies' lies about us.

Ms. Cheney served as deputy assistant secretary of state and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs from 2002-2004 and 2005-2006.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Congress Needs A Read-The-Bill Bill


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, July 10, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Honesty: Lawmakers voted on the stimulus and global warming bills without having read either. Eventually they'll vote on health care legislation that could fund unrelated items. Time to end this systemic fraud.

Related Topics: General Politics

The stimulus bill, signed into law less than a month after Barack Obama took office, reached 1,434 pages and will eventually cost the nation more than $1 trillion.

Waxman-Markey, the global warming bill, passed the House last month after Democrats added a 309-page amendment at 3 a.m. the morning before the vote, bringing that package of nonsense up to 1,200 or so pages.

The next piece of deception up for legislative consideration is the $1.6 trillion health care bill, a Washington lightweight at a mere 615 pages. The Boston Globe reports that it contains a provision for funding walking paths, bike paths, streetlights, gym equipment and farmers' markets.

We'd like to say the dishonesty of fixing those items to a health care bill is staggering. But we've become accustomed to Congress operating in secret and obscuring its activities.

Before it votes on health care, we have in mind another bill that Congress should take up. This one should be short, just a few words. It would be far more important to the future of the republic than fevered legislation establishing a public option for health care coverage or vainly trying to manipulate the climate.

This humble bill would simply require each member of Congress to sign a document saying he or she had read the legislation in full before they could vote for it.

Lawmakers should never vote for a bill they haven't read in its entirety. If a bill cannot be read and thoroughly understood in one sitting, it's too long. It shouldn't take much longer to read a bill that enacts statutory law than it does to read this editorial.

Convincing our current elected officials to make law more honestly is likely to be an almost hopeless job. They'll insist that minding the people's business is a complicated affair that requires extensive policy craft. But good law that's brief is not out of the question.

The Declaration of Independence, the grand document that founded our country, was written in only 1,337 words.

The Constitution, which set up the federal government and laid down its parameters, is, without the amendments and signatures, roughly 4,440 words. It is the shortest constitution in the world.

The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution that established personal liberties that the government cannot quash, was composed in fewer than 600 words.

Part of the beauty of these documents is that the founders didn't need to write lengthy diatribes to distill large concepts, and to show remarkable measures of wisdom, prescience and courage. The words are clear, their meanings unambiguous.

Yet today's lawmakers write and pass 1,200- and 1,400-page bills filled with ponderous language and laden with re-election pork. What they don't have is the backbone to make policy openly. They bury what they don't want voters to know about inside massive volumes that they don't even bother to read. Today's Congress makes a mockery of our founders' genius and of our founding in general.

Any bill that requires lawmakers to read legislation and to swear they've done so before voting for it should also include a provision that says the bills have to be available online for the public to read before they're brought to the floor for a vote.

A group called Let Freedom Ring is asking lawmakers to pledge they'll read legislation before voting on it. It believes a bill should be publicly accessible 72 hours before a vote.

We'd prefer a slightly larger window, but getting just three days of light on proposed law would be an achievement. Congress knows that the longer the public has to think about what's in a bill, the harder it is to ram through. That's why the Democrats are in such a hurry to move cap-and-trade and health care legislation.

This topic reminds us of the premise that the only legitimate government is one so limited that it can hardly be considered a government at all. It should be roughly the same for lawmaking: Any bill that goes beyond the basics should never be considered legislation. That would bring needed sunshine to a murky federal process. Only politicians and those who feed off of them wouldn't be better off.