How Roger Clemens Did Himself In

It's worth noting, in light of Roger Clemens's indictment yesterday, that he brought this on himself--not just by (allegedly) taking steroids, but by insisting on testifying before Congress, which is the basis for the indictment. I wrote about the hearing for the Atlantic here. But the full saga of steroids and baseball, including the back story on Clemens, is best covered by the guy who chaired the hearings, Rep. Henry Waxman, in his book, "The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works," which, serendipitously, is just out in paperback. (And which, full disclosure, I helped him write.)

What struck me most when working on the book with Waxman is that just about everyone involved on the congressional side, Republican and Democrat, thought it would be a bad idea for Clemens to testify, and made this clear to his lawyers. Waxman and Rep. Tom Davis, the ranking member, were of course concerned that Clemens's outright denial that he had used steroids contradicted the Mitchell Report, and therefore risked undermining its credibility. But both were also sensitive to the circus atmosphere that was inevitable if Clemens came before Congress again.

Here's what I think is important about what happened then: Clemens and his lawyers had another path they could have followed that would have avoided the spectacle of a hearing and, possibly (I'm not a lawyer), an indictment:

As the hearing approached, and the hysteria surrounding Clemens reached fever pitch, Tom David and I had second thoughts about having Clemens and [Brian] McNamee testify, sensing that a public appearance might go badly for Clemens and believing that the depositions we had collected--including a four-hour interview with Clemens--provided more than enough material to produce a compelling committee report that supported Mitchell's conclusion. But when we informed Clemens's legal team that we were willing to consider issuing a report in lieu of a hearing, they nevertheless insisted on going forward, emphasizing that Clemens himself felt strongly about having an opportunity to convince the world of his innocence.

In the days leading up to the hearing, Clemens's lawyers pursued the rather unorthodox strategy of attacking me personally and making several provocative comments about the government investigators assigned to the case. Clemens himself embarked on a goodwill tour of Capitol Hill, going office to office shaking members' hands and signing autographs for many of the same lawmakers who would soon be questioning him. The next day's testimony was carried live on practically every cable network, ESPN reprising its wall-to-wall television and radio coverage. For several hours, Clemens and his lawyers lobbed charges at McNamee and sparred with member of the committee. It was never clear to me, then or now, what Clemens imagined he was going to get out of this. But the new evidence presented against him only strengthened the impression that he was obfuscating. In the end, his testimony was widely judged a disastrous self-inflicted wound, and his reputation seems forever marred.

Now we know what he got out of it: an indictment.

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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