iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A two-time MVP outfielder and a United States senator say the congressional hearings on steroids in baseball nearly a decade ago had a direct impact on preventing players tainted by the baseball’s steroids era from being considered for the Hall of Fame.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., told the ESPN’s Perspectives podcast “Capital Games” that while he thought at the time the hearings shouldn’t have been a congressional priority, they doomed the candidacies of high-profile players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. That, in part, paved the way for this weekend’s crop of three clean players from the same era gaining induction in the Hall.

“What I think the hearing helped do was, that the American people looked up and said, ‘You know, it’s maybe the first time that it really hit us between the eyes that we have a real problem here.’ And I think it helped to change things,” said Donnelly.

Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy wasn’t a fan of the 2005 hearings, either, and wanted the commissioner to do more and to push for “amnesty” so former players could come clean about past steroid use. Still, he said, the hearings were effective, and helped baseball move beyond a dark period.

“I reluctantly have to say I think they made a difference,” said Murphy. He added that Hall voters are ”going to remember what you did or what you didn’t say and hold you accountable. …I think it directly affects them.”

Murphy, who fell short in being elected to the Hall in his final year of voting eligibility last year, added that he would be upset if players who were proven to be cheats from that era were admitted into the Hall of Fame.

“That is a concern for guys that, you know, played in the ’70′s and ’80′s most of the time,” Murphy said during the podcast. “I guess the best way to say it, is that right now they’re not letting the guys in that are associated with those huge inflated numbers and steroids. If it comes to the point eventually — which some people speculate will happen with the turnover of the voters and the age of the voters, which will take a long time — if it does happen eventually where they get in, then I got a real beef. …I got a problem with that.”

Murphy doesn’t anticipate any of those candidates getting in soon.

“It’s going to take such a long time, I think, and I really think the lack of honesty and openness has hurt the guys,” said Murphy. “I think eventually it’s going to happen, but I think it’s going to be decades.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame will add six new members to its ranks at this weekend’s ceremony in Cooperstown, New York. Three players and three managers — all of whom were active and clean of drug allegations during some of baseball’s darkest days — will get their plaques.

Though the now-famous congressional hearings drew criticism at the time, it’s quite possible baseball wouldn’t see a moment like this if not for Congress. The March 2005 session on steroids in baseball served as a wake-up call for baseball to clean itself up, ultimately opening the doors for the players who were clean during a tainted era to gain election to the Hall, according to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian.

“It was really important at the time, and looking back it’s probably even more important today,” Kurkjian said.

“It showed that baseball needed congressional help to get to the bottom of this. We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it,” said Kurkjian. “It was the start of cleaning up the game — which still isn’t completely clean I’m sure. But it was a giant step in the right direction.”

This year’s Hall of Fame class includes pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, slugger Frank Thomas, plus managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa. The star-studded class comes a year after no former player won election to the Hall. All three of 2013′s inductees, in fact, died before the U.S. entered World War II.

The Hall notably still doesn’t include players implicated for using performance-enhancing drugs — men including McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and Palmeiro — whose conduct received the now-famous congressional scrutiny nine years ago.

Donnelly, a Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees fan, said he was skeptical of Congress’ involvement in a baseball matter. But time has proven the value of that scrutiny, culminating with his son’s childhood hero, Frank Thomas, gaining entry on Sunday — an important moment for fans of his generation, he said.

“Frank [Thomas] was doing it the right way. Frank’s kind of numbers were the numbers that people who just work hard every day would be able to achieve. And so, I think we’re in a different place now. I think the game is better for having that passed. And I think as we look, baseball is in a good place right now,” he added.

Murphy was a seven-time all-star who was a teammate of Glavine’s and played for Cox and Torre with the Atlanta Braves.

“It’s a good time for baseball,” Murphy said of the current Hall of Fame class. “I think we can maybe have an opportunity to show what guys can do, that you don’t really need that stuff… You need to have some talent, you need to have some brains, and you need to work hard.”

Murphy said the steroids era also had an impact on some of the players — including himself — who preceded it, since their statistics aren’t as gaudy as those who dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s.

He said he’d like to see an “adjustment” in statistics to take that into consideration. But for now, Murphy said he’s satisfied that players with tainted numbers aren’t getting in.

Kurkjian, who is among the writers who vote for the Hall every year, said he and other voters need more clarity on how to handle the steroids era. He suggested a commission made of representatives of Major League Baseball, baseball writers, Hall officials and even Hall-of-Famers themselves to chart a path forward.

“I still don’t know what the right answer is any more with all the steroid people. I think we need a nationwide discussion over what we’re supposed to do here. Should we be voting for steroid guys or not?” he said.

“The responsibility is enormous. It should be taken seriously, and yet at the same time I think we need somebody to clarify what we should be doing here. Because I, for one, am not sure what to do anymore,” he added.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald is one important step closer to becoming the next secretary of Veteran Affairs, after a Senate panel Wednesday unanimously backed his nomination. The vote was 14-0.

The agreement by both Democrats and Republicans that McDonald is qualified to take over the embattled agency should mean he’ll face little resistance when the full Senate votes to confirm, most likely this week.

McDonald, a former military man as well, told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that, “Veterans are in need. There is much to do. I can think of no higher calling than to serve our veterans who have so selflessly served our country.”

If confirmed, he promised better communications with VA offices and more transparency with Congress over funding needs.

Meanwhile, members of the House and Senate are working hard to reach a compromise bill that would give the next VA secretary more power to fire subordinates for mismanagement as well as allow vets to seek private care if they can’t get the attention they need from VA clinics.

Although hired for his management skills, P&G had financial problems during McDonald’s tenure as CEO from 2009 through 2013, and he was eventually replaced by the former P&G executive who held the position before him.

McDonald was a West Point graduate, serving five years in the Army, earning the rank of captain, before joining P&G. Recent VA secretaries have been generals and colonels.

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US Senate(NEW YORK) — Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate may have taken a major hit Wednesday after allegations of plagiarism were leveled at Montana Senator John Walsh.

As reported by The New York Times, Walsh, who is running for re-election in November, apparently lifted major portions of his thesis to graduate from the United States Army War College in 2007 from other sources available on the Internet.

The Iraq war vet and one-time National Guard adjunct general’s paper on American Middle East policy also lists no attributions.

Although Walsh said he believes he did nothing wrong, an aide to the senator did not dispute the charges of plagiarism, but said it should be taken in the context of his military career, according to the Times.

Walsh spoke later about the brewing scandal, explaining that he committed an unintentional mistake due to post-traumatic stress resulting from his service in Iraq and medication he was taking at the time. He said a fellow veteran’s suicide added to the stress.

Johnson was tapped to replace Montana Senator Max Baucus earlier this year, who became ambassador to China.

However, even before the charges of plagiarism surfaced, polls showed Walsh running behind his Republican opponent, as Democrats try desperately to keep control of the Senate.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald is one important step closer to becoming the next secretary of Veteran Affairs, after a Senate panel Wednesday unanimously backed his nomination. The vote was 14-0.

The agreement by both Democrats and Republicans that McDonald is qualified to take over the embattled agency should mean he’ll face little resistance when the full Senate votes to confirm, most likely this week.

McDonald, a former military man as well, told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that, “Veterans are in need. There is much to do. I can think of no higher calling than to serve our veterans who have so selflessly served our country.”

If confirmed, he promised better communications with VA offices and more transparency with Congress over funding needs.

Meanwhile, members of the House and Senate are working hard to reach a compromise bill that would give the next VA secretary more power to fire subordinates for mismanagement as well as allow vets to seek private care if they can’t get the attention they need from VA clinics.

Although hired for his management skills, P&G had financial problems during McDonald’s tenure as CEO from 2009 through 2013, and he was eventually replaced by the former P&G executive who held the position before him.

McDonald was a West Point graduate, serving five years in the Army, earning the rank of captain, before joining P&G. Recent VA secretaries have been generals and colonels.

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US Senate(NEW YORK) — Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate may have taken a major hit Wednesday after allegations of plagiarism were leveled at Montana Senator John Walsh.

As reported by The New York Times, Walsh, who is running for re-election in November, apparently lifted major portions of his thesis to graduate from the United States Army War College in 2007 from other sources available on the Internet.

The Iraq war vet and one-time National Guard adjunct general’s paper on American Middle East policy also lists no attributions.

Although Walsh said he believes he did nothing wrong, an aide to the senator did not dispute the charges of plagiarism, but said it should be taken in the context of his military career, according to the Times.

Walsh spoke later about the brewing scandal, explaining that he committed an unintentional mistake due to post-traumatic stress resulting from his service in Iraq and medication he was taking at the time. He said a fellow veteran’s suicide added to the stress.

Johnson was tapped to replace Montana Senator Max Baucus earlier this year, who became ambassador to China.

However, even before the charges of plagiarism surfaced, polls showed Walsh running behind his Republican opponent, as Democrats try desperately to keep control of the Senate.
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans unveiled a plan Wednesday to address the southern border crisis, recommending that the National Guard assist in humanitarian care of the influx of minors entering the country.

House Speaker John Boehner has already called on President Obama to implement the reserve military force, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry already made the decision on his own.

Both Boehner and Perry have not been shy about blaming the president’s policies for inviting the influx of illegal immigrants, and both have stressed how the crisis has taxed both the U.S. Border Patrol and local municipalities that have been dealing with the tens of thousands of people coming across the border.

Following prompting, the president sent a team to Texas to evaluate whether deploying the National Guard would tackle the immigration issues, White House officials confirmed.

Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the House Working Group, announced the committee’s solutions Wednesday.

“Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” Granger said in a statement. “In our personal meetings with the Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis. We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back.”

In addition to deploying the National Guard, the group suggested establishing an independent third-party commission to develop border security metrics, along with the creation of repatriation centers in other countries to secure the return of families and unaccompanied minors. Lawmakers also called for tougher penalties for individuals participating in the smuggling of children.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans unveiled a plan Wednesday to address the southern border crisis, recommending that the National Guard assist in humanitarian care of the influx of minors entering the country.

House Speaker John Boehner has already called on President Obama to implement the reserve military force, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry already made the decision on his own.

Both Boehner and Perry have not been shy about blaming the president’s policies for inviting the influx of illegal immigrants, and both have stressed how the crisis has taxed both the U.S. Border Patrol and local municipalities that have been dealing with the tens of thousands of people coming across the border.

Following prompting, the President sent a team to Texas to evaluate whether deploying the National Guard would tackle the immigration issues, White House officials confirmed.

Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Texas), Chairwoman of the House Working Group, announced the committee’s solutions Wednesday.

“Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” Granger said in a statement. “In our personal meetings with the Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis. We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back.”

In addition to deploying the National Guard, the group suggested establishing an independent third party commission to develop border security metrics, along with the creation of repatriation centers in other countries to secure the return of families and unaccompanied minors. Lawmakers also called for tougher penalties for individuals participating in the smuggling of children.

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United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — Speaker John Boehner praised a “special guest” on the House floor Wednesday, prompting applause and a standing ovation for a doctor who helped deliver a congresswoman’s baby born with a prenatal condition.

Boehner honored Dr. Jessica Bienstock, the residency program director for the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“In her career, she has delivered nearly 1,000 babies,” Boehner said, at one time wiping his eye. “One of them is well-known to us, and she is Abigail Rose Beutler, who of course is the daughter of our friend.”

The child was born to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and was diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome, a condition that prevents the development of kidneys and lungs. Beutler held her one-year-old daughter on the floor Wednesday.

“We’re all familiar with Abigail’s story, and the odds that she overcame. If she is a happy, healthy miracle, Dr. Bienstock is the miracle worker who helped give the gift of hope and life to this family,” Boehner said. “I think our House owes a debt of gratitude to her and to all of our doctors, nurses and medical professionals.”

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Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images(ASPEN, Colo.) — Expect it to be rocky in Aspen.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is planning on confronting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over comments he made earlier in the week about his campaign’s viability against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Monday while campaigning in Connecticut for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, Christie was asked whether he would hit the campaign trail for Astorino and he answered that he, “will spend time in places where we have a chance to win, I said that right from the beginning.”

“We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes,” Christie continued. “If the New York race becomes competitive, I’ll consider campaigning in the New York race, but right now, by the public polls, there’s a lot more competitive races like this one in Connecticut.”

Astorino, as well as the New York GOP, were livid. Both he and Christie are now in Aspen, Colorado, for Republican Governors’ Association events and Astorino said he expected to talk to Christie–the RGA chairman–about his comments. Astorino said he planned already to travel to the area, but an aide said he expected the meeting to be a “frank chat.”

In a conference call, Astorino told reporters he had not seen the New Jersey governor yet, but he plans on seeing him this evening at a group dinner, saying it’s, “the first time we will all be together.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Astorino said, “If Gov. Christie is unable to help a Republican candidate for governor, then maybe he should consider stepping down as chairman of the RGA. That’s his job,” according to the New York Daily News.

He said Wednesday he stood by those comments and he does not believe he has burned any bridges with Christie, and instead the Westchester County Executive thinks, “once he and I have a chance to talk about the campaign and I can fill him in on things he may not know and how we are going to win this race then he may change his mind.”

The purpose of Wednesday’s call was in response to a story on the cover of Wednesday’s New York Times, showing Cuomo had interfered with a commission that attempted to root out corruption in state politics.

Astorino said this development will also make the RGA more interested in supporting his candidacy, noting it could “change perceptions on this race.” He wouldn’t name names, but said other governors already have plans to campaign with him in New York.

“His job as the chairman of the RGA is to help get Republican governors re-elected and Republican candidates for governor elected and it would obviously be very convenient for him to come across the river into New York where he is frequently fundraising and to do things for me in New York and I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen,” he said Wednesday.

In the same press conference, Astorino even speculated Cuomo and Christie were scheming over the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal that has engulfed Christie’s administration in New Jersey. He said he doesn’t, “know if there’s a connection between him and Andrew Cuomo on Bridgegate, or if Cuomo has something that he’s holding back, information that could be damaging to the governor.”

“My take is maybe it’s inconvenient to come over the bridge to New York to help a Republican candidate for governor here,” Astorino said. “That’s his call, whether he wants to or not, but as RGA chair he has governors and candidates who have a chance to win … and it’s incumbent upon him to help all of us.”

When asked about it Wednesday, Astorino didn’t go as far, saying, “There’s no secret the Port Authority is represented by the governor of both states and their respective appointees and staff.”

Astorino said he doesn’t feel betrayed and instead he and Christie are “friends,” and he’s “admired” his work as RGA chairman and as governor of the Garden State.

New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox will also be in Aspen. He too chose not to hold his fire saying in a statement this week that he was “disappointed” to hear Christie’s comments and that the New Jersey Governor, “seems to have forgotten from whence he came,” noting Christie’s “underdog challenge” against Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The now notorious love letters of former President Warren Harding ironically may be the basis of a belated campaign to improve the image of the man generally considered to be one of the country’s worst leaders.

Harding’s grandnephew Richard Harding made the case before a packed Library of Congress assembly Tuesday by saying, “It is with some ambivalence, but with a sense of history, that we are present.”

Richard Harding and a battery of historians and archivists said Tuesday that the salacious letters – some of them 40 pages long – give new insight to the man who has been called America’s worst president.

“Warren Harding doesn’t need protecting. He needs honest and hard-working historians to tell the story like they see it,” Richard Harding told the gathering.

The roughly thousand pages were written by Harding between 1910 and 1920 to Carrie Phillips, when he was lieutenant governor of Ohio and a U.S. senator. They were found in 1964 but protected by the Harding family, which gave the collection to the Library of Congress on the condition that they be held in a safe for 50 years. The letters will become available to the public next Tuesday.

The panel included James Robenalt, author of The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War; James Hutson, chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress; Library of Congress archivist Karen Femia; and Richard Harding.

Robenalt, who published a smaller trove of microfilms of Harding letters in his book in 2009, referred to the correspondence as “one of the great stories of the 20th century.”

The allure of the letters centers on Harding’s often explicit relationship with Phillips, who Robenalt ventures was a German spy who managed to discourage Harding from running for president in 1916, right in the middle of World War I. The affair ended when Phillips blackmailed Harding after he entered the White House in 1921.

A sampling of the letters Robenalt discovered at the Western Reserve Historical Society gives an indication as to what’s coming next Tuesday, when historians can start crafting what could be an entirely new portrait of the former president. In one letter to Phillips on Sept. 15, 1913, Harding writes, “I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips.” On Jan. 5 the same year, he wrote: “…so I got up, had a luxurious bath and donned my bathrobe in which to breakfast. Three weeks ago [the robe] touched and covered your beautiful form, and that made it hallowed to me, and I wanted contact with it, to make me seem nearer to you.”

The standard interpretation of Harding was that he was “an intelligent man, too trusting of his cronies, too passive as a leader…and too passive for a nation that needed activist leadership,” as the historian Gary Alan Fine put it. His administration is notorious for the Teapot Dome scandal, an oil leasing scandal that consumed one of Harding’s top cabinet members.

The panel Tuesday argued that his image is still much more imprecise than most historians assume.

Femia claimed the legacy “was like an empty room, an echo chamber for rumor, gossip, and absolute fabrication.” Hutson agreed, using his introduction as something of a call to those in the room to fill the gaps in Harding scholarship.

“It’s astonishing the amount of misinformation about Harding, and everyone connected to him,” Hutson added. “The question arises: what’s wrong with the picture here? Why didn’t historians correct this stuff?”

The letters may reveal that Harding’s infatuation with Phillips delayed his ascension to the White House, and perhaps caused an entirely different outcome to the Great War and the trajectory of 20th-century American history since, at Phillips’ urging, he wanted to keep America out of the war.

“Had Harding become president in 1916, and he had a good chance to do so, the world would have been a lot different,” Robenalt said. “The world changed because of this relationship.”

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