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.

Presented by

Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In