Washington politics is the TV gift that keeps giving.
Smack in the middle of a dizzying presidential campaign season, come the House oversight committee hearings into the Mitchell Report, a damning months long investigation into steroid and human growth hormone use in Major League Baseball.
For more than four hours on Wednesday Roger Clemens sat at a table with his accuser and former trainer Brian McNamee separated only by Mitchell Report lawyer Charles P. Scheeler, who one member of the committee likened to a “potted plant,” a phrase cribbed from the Watergate hearings.
The testimony was frequently testy, occasionally cringe-inducing (when a committee member burrowed into the nitty-gritty of the abscess on Clemens’s buttocks). But what was most troubling was that prior to their questioning, Clemens sought out and was granted private meetings with 25 of the 40 committee members.
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) held up a poster with four pictures of Clemens in action at various points in his career before, during and after he is alleged to have taken steroids and HGH. She observed that he didn’t look any different in any of these pictures to her (not inflated like Barry Bonds, for instance) and perhaps he might want to talk about his vaunted training regimen.
One wonders: Did Congresswoman Foxx have a closed-door tête-à-tête with Clemens?
The former pitcher spent three days lobbying committee members, many of whom have professed their unshakable resolve as independent uncompromised participants — even while labeling him "charming."
Bryant Gumbel aptly described Clemens’s lobbying efforts as “jury tampering” on HBO’s Real Sports on Monday.
Congressman Thomas Davis (R-VA) was asked about Clemens’ flesh-pressing efforts before the hearings and he lamely replied that no one had broken any laws.
Committee members weren’t the only targets of Clemens’ ingratiating tour. During the hearing, it was also revealed that Clemens met with a former nanny employed by admitted steroid user Jose Conseco.
The nanny has said she saw Clemens at a 1998 party at Conseco’s house. Clemens denies he was there. The committee asked Clemens’s lawyers for the nanny’s name on Friday. They did not comply with that request until Monday – giving Clemens time to, what, convince her that she was mistaken?
“I was doing y’all a favor,” Clemens told the committee. “And as far as I was concerned, I hadn’t seen this lady in a long time, she’s a sweet lady, and I wanted to get her to you.”
The specter of Clemens glad-handing committee members and flouting requests is unseemly – for him and the elected officials presiding over the proceedings.
They come off as star-struck fans rather than public servants whose stated goal is to protect impressionable kids from the scourge of steroids.
But it sure makes for interesting television.