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February, 2008

Witch Hunt

Roger Clemens Gets Burned at the Stake

Here's the key part of the Roger Clemens interview with Mike Wallace on CBS's 60 Minutes in early January 2008:

CLEMENS: I donít know if I can defend myself, I think people ó a lot of people have already made their decisions.

WALLACE: Well, a lot of people have made ...

CLEMENS: And thatís our country, isnít it? Guilty before innocent. Thatís the way our country works now. And then everybodyís talking about sue, sue, sue. Should I sue? Well, let me exhaust. Let me, let me just spend. How about, letís keep spending. But Iím gonna explore what I can do and then I want to see if itís gonna be worth it; worth all the headache.

WALLACE (hand nervously covering mouth): How about a lie detector test?

CLEMENS: Some say theyíre good. Some say theyíre not. Do whatever. I mean ó

WALLACE: So as far as youíre concerned you would conceivably?

CLEMENS: Yeah. I donít know if theyíre good or bad.

This is the point at which Roger Clemens argument crashed down like a house of cards. The transcript reveals he said "yeah"; those who watched the interview know that that was the weakest "yeah" you'll ever see -- his answer before it ("some say they're good. Some say they're not.") and after ("I don't know if they're good or bad") had him shirking away from a lie detector test. Here's how Roger Clemens should have answered this question, and the whole controversy, if I were him:

WALLACE (hand nervously covering mouth): How about a lie detector test?

ME AS ROGER CLEMENS: I would love to take a lie detector test, Mike.

WALLACE: You'll take a lie detector test right here then?


ME AS ROGER CLEMENS: Not on your program so you can get all the attention and advertising revenue, Mike, no. I'm willing to do it in a public venue -- on one condition. I want every major league baseball player who has played the game the last 15 years to take the same lie detector test with me. I want the Commissioner of Baseball up there with us to take the same lie detector test. I want George Mitchell to take the test, and ask him different questions, like why it is his report said at least 50 percent of players were taking steroids -- which would be hundreds of players over the course of the last 15 years, but he only specified 40 in his report -- making those players sacrificial lambs. I want to give him a lie detector test and ask him why he did that. To smooth over this whole situation -- create a witch hunt to placate the fans? I want to know if his involvement with baseball at the ownership level affected his report.

And I want you to join us up there, Mike. I'll have a different set of questions for you. I want to know if you had any suspicions of steroids use in baseball at any time in the last 15 years, and why you've decided to have a big "special report" on it now? I want every member of the media up there too, to ask them the same questions. When balls were flying out of ballparks like we were all in some sort of cartoon. Where were you Mike? Were you simply not observant, or did you not want to "upset the applecart"? What's going on now? You sense that it's ok to swoop in like a vulture and jump on the bandwagon of this story and make a lot of money on it?

Will you take a lie detector test Mike?

That's the interview I would have loved to see. And that's the line of attack Clemens should have used with the Senate investigative committee. Ask Representatives Elijah Cummings, and Tom Davis, and Dan Burton why they were spending tax payer dollars on this witch hunt. Ask them to explain why they had asked only a few players to appear before Congress when the Mitchell report said over 50 percent of baseball players were involved. Give them a lie detector test. Why hasn't Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, taken the stand? Why isn't George Mitchell up there, explaining how he can state so many were taking them, but then only implicate a chosen few?

And this is where Roger Clemens screwed up -- his denials have turned this whole story on him -- making him the focus, when the focus really should be on the Commissioner of Baseball, ALL baseball players (50 to 80 percent of whom were taking steroids according to Mitchell and Jose Canseco), ALL baseball owners and management, ALL of the media including Mike Wallace, and ALL of the fans too.

Baseball fans knew what was happening as it happened. Steroids were the "in" thing in the late nineties -- we even witnessed companies launching ad campaigns such as "Like your career on steroids". And we accepted that, as if it were a good thing. Somewhere along the line, steroids became bad -- reports that little Johnny a high school football player, developed testicular cancer at 17 because he was taking steroids caused people to see that there was an epidemic going on -- kids were emulating their superheros and coming down with cancer.

When Chad Curtis of the NY Yankees in 1998 asked a reporter rhetorically "look around this clubhouse; tell me half of these guys aren't on steroids" -- according to articles in the NY Post at that time, Curtis immediately became ostracized by other players on the team, until his sorry ass was traded a few months later. The press at large let the story die.

Now the tide has turned; it is witch hunting season. Roger Clemens is a grade-A1, certifiable witch. Draw up the stake!

-- LouV

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