How Henry Waxman Struck Out

Why did Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman waste Congressional time and resources investigating Major League Baseball player Roger Clemens this week?

And how did Henry Waxman strike out?

Why the Investigation at All?

First things first. Why the investigation at all? It’s not as if there aren’t more important and relevant world issues for attention from Waxman’s committee and Congress in general. As Geoffrey Norman noted:

An august congressional committee — headed by one of the nation’s most persistent nuisances, Henry Waxman — met in public session for the purpose of grandstanding and showboating. No, let me be fair — this is Congress, where they do the American people’s serious business. Waxman’s committee met to find out if Roger Clemens lied when he said he had never used steroids and other “performance-enhancing” drugs, as his former trainer and chief accuser, Brian McNamee — who sat the same table with Clemens, separated by someone who looked like an inspector for the FDA — had charged. Waxman and his committee were in deadly earnest. Congress takes a dim view of lying done by anyone who is not a member and, therefore, licensed to do it.

Some of us who strayed off ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, and the other venues that were giving their full attention to the Clemens drama were struck by another news story — one given much less play than the hearings. It seems a car bomb in Damascus had sent one Imad Mughniyah to meet his maker. Mughniyah was one of the most elusive and accomplished terrorists in the world, linked to all sorts of outrages going as far back as the destruction of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon some 25 years ago. He was the Roger Clemens of HVTs (high-value targets), and the world is a vastly better and safer place without him.

Imad Mughniyah’s death is incredibly important news. (More on that important story here.) So let’s take it as a starting point that Waxman had plenty of more important issues to pursue.

Let it also be noted that Waxman’s committee is not the Sports Oversight Committee. So why a hearing on baseball? I think I know why Waxman tried to use his Endless Oversight Committee to give baseball a black eye.

I suspect it’s at least partly because baseball is as American as apple pie. For liberal Democrats, just about every decent, positive traditional thing that defines America is a prime target for attack. Some recent liberal targets of traditional American life include traditional marriage (let’s blow that definition wide open, shall we?), motherhood (don’t mention Mother’s Day, might offend gay male parents), children (while in the womb, for starters), Christmas (Happy HOLIDAYS everyone!), Christianity (all of the above reasons), Fourth of July fireworks (too dangerous), hot dogs (nitrites) and even the Boy Scouts of America (unfairly won’t let men attracted to males take impressionable young males into the woods).

Since baseball is a traditional American pastime, it is at least a little suspect as far as the left is concerned. Therefore, anything that goes wrong with the sport must be duly noted, underscored, pumped up, hyped, and amplified (while anything that goes wrong with nontraditional values must be ignored, explained away, or blamed on Republicans).

Waxman wants you to believe he called this hearing because he’s concerned about drug use in baseball. Sure. Since when are Democrats concerned about drug use? When was the last time you heard the War on Drugs articulated as an important part of the Democratic Party platform? It’s all Global Warming All the Time — at least, when the Iraq war is going well.

Drug use is not a problem for Democrats. Waxman probably assumes that current and former users of recreational drugs are large part of his liberal base. Even Barack Obama admits to prior recreational drug use, and he’s the current Democratic Party frontrunner for President of the United States.

Nor is lying a serious problem for Democrats — not even perjury under oath. Just ask Bill Clinton, or his wife –not coincidentally, the other Democratic Party frontrunner for President of the United States.

So if it’s not really about drug use or lying under oath for Henry Waxman, what is it about? It’s about Waxman’s enemies list (written or unwritten), his friends list, and his political agenda for dealing with each of those lists.

So How Did Waxman Strike Out?

Unfortunately for Waxman, his “star witness” at his Get Clemens Hearing, Brian McNamee, turned out to be Brian McNamee, turned out to be about as credible as Bill Clinton:

WASHINGTON — Undergoing hours of pointed questioning by a House committee, Roger Clemens repeatedly proclaimed Wednesday that he had never used steroids or human growth hormone — accusations leveled against the legendary pitcher under oath by his former personal trainer, who sat a few feet away and faced intense scrutiny about his own credibility.

The somber, occasionally tense hearing was called after Clemens vehemently denied the accusations made by Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report, a sweeping examination of the steroid problem that has come to dominate baseball over the last decade.

Clemens was asked why his longtime friend, teammate and training partner, Andy Pettitte, would say under oath that Clemens had told him he had used HGH if he never did. He was asked about his wife’s admission that she had received an HGH injection from McNamee. And he was asked about his denial that he had attended a party at Jose Canseco’s home after a surprise statement from his former nanny that placed him at the Miami residence around the time of the gathering.

McNamee, for his part, faced questions about lying to police in an unrelated incident in 2001, and for lying to federal authorities about players’ steroid use and then withholding evidence from them even after he agreed to tell the truth.

But after 4 1/2 hours of curiously partisan questioning, with Democrats primarily taking aim at Clemens and Republicans generally attacking McNamee, the he-said, he-said stories remained largely unresolved, and it was unclear whether either man might ultimately face perjury charges.

Waxman is licking his wounds today and admitting that he wishes he’d never called Roger Clemens to testify before Congress. By the way, the New York Times spin is that Waxman wishes Clemens hadn’t embarrassed himself, but that’s absurd. Waxman couldn’t care less about embarrassing Clemens. Waxman didn’t convene the committee hearing to give Clemens a medal and a round of applause. His entire goal was to embarrass Clemens, and baseball in general. What Waxman regrets is that he, Waxman, was embarrassed by his star witness, who turns out to be a first class liar.

Now Waxman is desperately trying to figure out a way to make lemonade out of the lemons he picked for himself. Maybe a referral to the Justice Department? Maybe some more subpoenas?

Look, some baseball players have used steroids. There are some reasons to be suspicious about Clemens (the fact that another witness, Andy Pettitte, says Clemens mentioned using human growth hormone in the context of recovery from injury, and see comments here for example). I’m sure some baseball fans have their own theories based on observations of Clemens’ physique and the like.

But Clemens is not acting like a guilty man. He willingly stepped before Congress, didn’t take the fifth, and — when asked how he explains his success — said “I worked my butt off.” That I actually believe. From the Los Angeles Times:

In his prepared opening statement, Clemens said he trained hard with McNamee and trusted in him.

“I had no idea that this man would exploit the trust I gave him,” Clemens said, “to try to save his own skin by making up lies that have devastated me and my family.”

As the hearing wore on, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) asked Clemens: “Can I look at my two children with a straight face and tell them that you, Roger Clemens, have always played the game with honesty and integrity?”

Said Clemens: “Yes sir. . . . You can tell your boys that I did it the right way and I worked my butt off to do it.”

Compare how Clemens has acted since Day One with the way, say, O.J. Simpson acted from Day One. Unlike Clemens, Simpson drove around L.A. freeways with a gun to his head. While this turned out to be an excellent public relations move, garnering public sympathy as it did (even from me initially), it is also very typical behavior for someone who has just slaughtered his ex wife and the mother of his children, plus an unlucky visitor to their home, in cold blood. That, plus a suicide note, plus a failure to testify at the criminal trial, plus DNA evidence, plus a whole host of other little facts, were all typical of evidence one usually sees from the guilty, and rarely from the innocent.

Clemens is a rare bird, one with the courage to testify to Congress rather than hiding behind a rock. If one is lying and the target of a criminal probe, testifying under oath is a high-risk maneuver. Even O.J. Simpson didn’t try that in his criminal trial. Now Clemens’ prime accuser turns out to be a Major League Liar. Maybe Clemens used HGH only briefly to recover from injury, and that was it. Maybe not. But for this sort of nonsense far removed from the responsibilities of the United States government, Democrats chose to use a Congressional committee hearing room and all the resources of Waxman’s committee? It’s a carnival of the trivialities.

Of course, there is an upside to Waxman’s collosal waste of time. There’s nothing more frightening than seeing Congress actually Doing Something. Maybe I should be grateful that Waxman isn’t working on a higher-value target from his own point of view, like raising taxes to crushing levels or banning SUVs completely.

Meanwhile, why do some celebrities get the benefit of the doubt well past the stage of being tried and convicted, while others are presumed guilty from the moment charges are leveled? Why was Clemens treated so disrespectfully by Waxman?

Oh, yeah — maybe it’s the fact that Clemens happens to be a Republican. Trying to destroy people because they don’t belong to the right party is like something out of Communist Russia — but since when has the hard left, which Waxman typifies, had a problem with Communism? Can you in your wildest dreams imagine Waxman giving the Waxman Treatment to a Democratic party donor?

What’s Next for Scrupulously Non-Partisan Public Servant Henry Waxman (D-Cal)?

Henry Waxman has stepped in it by going after Clemens with testimony from a known liar. But you can expect Waxman to carry on as if nothing happened. If he can’t figure out a way to get the Justice Department interested or otherwise make political hay out of Roger Clemens, off he goes to his next Endless Oversight Committee hearing. Maybe Waxman will retreat to his permanent standing target, President George W. Bush, whose main crime is to be something other than a Democrat.

It truly makes me wonder what Waxman would do with himself if Obama or Clinton were elected president. Any wrongdoing by a Democratic president would, of course,  be buried by Waxman the same way he buried the report on the theft of classified documents from the National Archives by Clinton’s National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger. If a Democrat were elected, Waxman might try to keep himself busy Investigating lower level Republican officials in other branches of government, but where’s the excitement in that?

Maybe he can try to subpoena the Pope and ask him some pointed questions. He’s the ultimate Christian target; surely he’s on Waxman’s enemies list somewhere. Yes, I’m sure Waxman is aware of the difficulties in subpoenaing the Pope. But wait till the Pope is on U.S. soil and — whammo! I’m sure Waxman can find one or two star witnesses (credible or not) to try to make Waxman look good, or — let’s not set our sights too high — at least not like a total nincompoop.

Cross-posted, with minor variations, at GINA COBB

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