Today's hearing certainly didn't lack for drama. Someone obviously lied. Actually both of them probably lied about numerous things, and I don't know that we have any clearer picture of the central question -- did Roger 'roid -- than we had when the day began. Far too much was said about Roger Clemens' butt. All in all it was kind of pathetic on about eleven levels, but we knew it would be.
I was somewhat surprised that, Rep. Elijah Cummings' opening fusillade notwithstanding, McNamee took way more fire than Clemens did. Clemens was outright coddled by Rep. Tom Davis and others didn't unload on him in the way in which I thought they would. Some have suggested that this is the result of Clemens' recent lobbying efforts. That may be, but I think a lot more of it has to do with the nature of Congressional hearings and the nature of the legal system.
As to the first point, McNamee probably had an easier go of it in the press before today because he simply isn't as famous as Roger Clemens. "Drug trafficker may have lied" just isn't as newsworthy as "star athlete used steroids." Congress may occasionally get star struck, and they certainly are grandstanders, but they aren't newspapers. Rather than reveal something salacious, Congressmen want to appear to be tough. To be getting down to the bottom of things. To wag their fingers with righteous indignation while looking over the tops of eyeglasses which have slid ever so slightly down their nose. Because Clemens has been in the press so much and because McNamee has been relatively quiet, McNamee represented far cleaner canvass upon which Congress could paint.
As to the latter point -- and you may scoff hearing this from a lawyer -- I cannot overstate just how utterly important the concept of credibility is in the legal system. If you have lied in the past -- even about stuff that has nothing to do with your current testimony -- you are almost useless as a witness. If you cannot provide some overwhelmingly good reason for the lie -- like you had to save lives or something -- your word is spit. Thieves, murderers, rapists, and felons of all stripes routinely provide snitch testimony which puts people in jail. Liars almost never do.
Congress, lest we forget, is made up largely of lawyers, and the staffers who prep them for these hearings are almost exclusively members of the bar. Given their background and predispositions, they are going to react with great vengeance and furious anger at anyone before them with a reputation for lying. That's Brian McNamee, by his own admission. When you marry this with their interest in finger-wagging you have a perfect storm. McNamee never stood a chance today, because it's too easy to take shots at a liar in any kind of legal forum.
Not that Clemens came off wonderfully. He was still rough around the edges in that impatient, petulant, and cocky way in which we've all come to expect. Maybe he was trying to coach his nanny (although I think that exchange made Waxman look worse than Clemens). I still have no idea why he has fomented all of this. All that said, he came out the other side surprisingly intact, and I can't see any basis for thinking less of him today than we did a week ago. Many will probably think better of him for not losing his cool as much as they thought he would.
One thing we didn't learn today is whether or not Roger Clemens took steroids. The old circumstantial stuff was rehashed, and the new stuff came with equal amounts of he-said/he-said. I suppose the closest we came to real information was during the investigation of the abscesses on Clemens' right buttock. If finding out the definitive truth in this matter requires a closer examination of that, however, I may have to temporarily suspend this blog, because I don't think I can bring myself to think about it anymore.
So what did we get today? Here's a partial list:
Muck. Drama. Deceit. Drugs. Anger. Stupidity. Banality. Loyalty. Betrayal.
All we get tomorrow is pitchers and catchers reporting. And not a moment too soon.