Calling Out Clive Crook
I know and truly like Clive Crook. We were colleagues for a while when I wrote for nationaljournal.com, and the BTW and I have joined Clive and his wonderful wife for dinner a number of times. He is smart, perceptive, funny, and a gifted writer.
And that's why I'm surprised that Clive would use a truly ridiculous statistic like this when posting about the economic stimulus plan:
Republicans have a point when they complain about the inordinate length of the bill–1,400 pages or thereabouts...
Would a shorter bill have made it better? At less than 3 pages and at a cost of $700 billion, was the original version of the TARP that Hank Paulson sent to Congress a gem? Should the legalese needed to make the changes in the stimulus bill been dropped or shortened so that many provisions would have been subject to court challenges and the money never spent?
What Clive seems to be saying is that, at 1400 pages, the bill could not possibly have been reviewed in detail by many members of Congress before they voted for it given the rush to get it done. What he doesn't say is that most representatives and senators generally only review the parts of any bill that are important to them for some reason. They may look at the parts that pertain to their committee assignment or which are relevant to their district or state. More likely, they've had their personal or committee staff look at the bill and tell them whether there's anything they need to be concerned about.
But citing the number of pages as a reason to think legislation is bad is ridculous. That's on a par with football commentators talking about the number of minutes one team has had the ball compared to the other or the greater number of plays one team has run. It's also similar to the meaningless total number of points one tennis player has won during a match compared to the other.
These statistics are meaningless and often completely misleading. The same can be said for the number of pages in legislation.
Wait, There's More! Update: Clive responds.