by Frank James
President Bush, the nation's baseball fan-in-chief, offered his first public response to the Mitchell Report on the use of illegal performance-enhancing steroid drugs by Major League Baseball players. It came in response to a reporter's question following the president's meeting with his cabinet this morning.
Q Mr. President, on the Mitchell report, sir, do you think that the baseball players actually mentioned in the report should be punished?
THE PRESIDENT: A couple of reactions to the Mitchell report. As you know, I'm a baseball fan; I love the sport, I love the game. Like many fans, I've been troubled by the steroid allegations. I think it's best that all of us not jump to any conclusions on individual players' name, but we can jump to this conclusion: that steroids have sullied the game, and players and the owners must take the Mitchell report seriously. I'm confident they will.
And my hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us. You know, I -- in the State of the Union a couple of years ago, I addressed the issue of steroids, and the reason I did so is because I understand the impact that professional athletes can have on our nation's youth. And I just urge our -- those in the public spotlight, particularly athletes, to understand that when they violate their bodies, they're sending a terrible signal to America's young.
The president was being unduly modest in styling himself as a mere fan. He was "merely" one of the former owners of the Texas Rangers. He made his fortune, in fact, from selling his stake in that baseball team.
Bush was a team owner during what is now being called the Steroids Era in professional baseball, a period during which, the Mitchell Report says, owners were complicit in the "juicing" of players. So people will naturally be wondering what the president knew of the problem when he was an owner.
The president raised the steroid-in-sports issue to a presidential level when he mentioned, in his 2004 State of the Union speech the need to fight the use of such drugs, especially since younger athletes were at risk of using them and damaging their bodies.