Friday, February 15, 2008
After hearing, reps, lawyers debate if spectacle was worth it
WASHINGTON -- Roger Clemens' visit to Capitol Hill left a lot of people wondering the same thing: Was it really necessary?
The chairman of the committee that held Wednesday's hearing in which Clemens denied using steroids and human growth hormone said this week he didn't think the session had to take place.
The pitching great's lawyers expressed a similar sentiment, although -- to no one's surprise -- the two factions disagree over the specifics.
"I didn't particularly want to do a hearing," said California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "We held the hearing because Roger Clemens wanted that hearing, because Roger Clemens wanted the chance to speak in public and make his case."
Well, yes and no, according to the Clemens camp.
"Any suggestion whatsoever that this hearing was the result of our request is simply not accurate," said Lanny Breuer, one of Clemens' lawyers.
The crux of the issue is whether the depositions and affidavits taken from several witnesses, including Clemens, in the weeks before the hearing could have given the committee all the evidence it needed to issue a report without the public spectacle. As with nearly everything else associated with the hearing, the explanations aren't simple or tidy.
"When I was first retained, I argued to this committee that this should not be the kind of hearing that they had, that Roger Clemens would be proud and delighted to join chairman Waxman and anyone else and to say to them and to say to anyone else what he has said to the children all over America: That there are no shortcuts, that it's hard work, and he is against steroids and he is against HGH. I was turned down flat," Breuer said.
"It was only after the depositions were all written that we were then asked if we want to go forward. And even then my colleague and I said we did not need a hearing as long as there would be a fair report," he said.
But the Clemens camp was concerned whether the report would be fair, so the star pitcher decided to go ahead with the hearing.
"What we could not live with was a report that was cut-and-pasted without all of us hearing and seeing from Roger directly," Breuer said.
As it turned out, Clemens did not have an easy day in the witness chair, and many committee members later continued to question the credibility of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
Said another of his lawyers, Rusty Hardin: "In all of my years of watching politics, I've never seen a good witness before Congress."
Asked what the hearing accomplished, committee member Elijah Cummings said that it gave the subject of substance abuse another day in the spotlight.
"Although there was a lot of back and forth, a lot of arguing, the fact still remains that it dominated the news cycle," said Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who was very critical of Clemens during the hearing. "So anybody who has any interest in sports had to at least hear about it. I had people coming up to me saying, 'I was glued to the television.' We got probably 100 phone calls. So the issue was raised. So if we're able to cause one child to say, 'I'm not going the steroids route,' if we're able to save one life, I think it's well worth it."
Cummings said the point was made, regardless of whether Clemens was telling the truth or lying.
"I don't worry so much about the Roger Clemenses of the world," Cummings said. "You know why? He's a multimillionaire. He's been paid well. He's paid to do two things: practice and play. He's going to be fine. What about the kid that lives up the street from me in Baltimore?"
Hardin wasn't convinced by Cummings' remarks.
"I'm very disturbed to hear him say, after the way he asked his questions, that he doesn't think that it's about whether Roger did it or not," Hardin said. "If that's the case, why did he feel compelled to hammer him the way he did?"