HOT DOG EATING….For the sixth time in seven years, Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi has won the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest. What’s worse, he won by an enormous margin and he wasn’t even really trying.

It is disturbing that in a country of nearly 300 million people, a place where hot dogs are as American as hot dogs, hot dog eating has fallen to such a sorry state. And while it’s true that this decline began under the Clinton administration, it is under the negligent handling of the Bush administration that it has been allowed to fall to its current catastrophic levels.

Democrats have proposed a toughminded and fiscally responsible $20 million program that would make our woefully outgunned hot dog eaters into a world class team once again, a sum that’s easily affordable for a country as rich as ours. But the Bush administration, having passed over a trillion dollars of tax cuts since they took office, now claims that we can’t afford this. The question they should be asking is, can we afford not to do this?

Hot dog eating is at a low ebb in this country, but there’s no reason we have to accept mediocrity. The Democratic proposal is both affordable and necessary, a first step toward a time when our hot dog eaters can once again stand up and proudly say to the world, “Bring ’em on.”

Call your congressman.