I didn’t watch the “Steroid Hearings” yesterday, but by the accounts I’ve read I’d say the Senate’s investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball was quite a spectacle. Some wonder why the Senate would waste tax-payer dollars on such a trivial matter. The answer to that is easy: Under Democratic leadership, the Senate is trivial. I say that as an ardent liberal. Under Republican leadership, the Senate (and the House) were even worse. They were crooked pirates plundering the public coffers for all they could. But the Democrats have shown time and again that they are unwilling to stand up to this law-breaking White House and do the job of oversight for which they have been hired.
Bringing a high-profile sports celebrity to the Capital for a grilling is a good way to show the Senate means business. “You want oversight, we’ll give you oversight up the ass… but only about stuff that doesn’t actually matter.” But like all their other efforts, the Senate’s investigation will peter out and will be forgotten soon enough, ending like most Congressional efforts these days — with no actual results, just a lot of rhetoric.
But this exercise did have some value. It was the perfect microcosm for what is wrong with Washington, and why the Senate is doomed to remain trivial. Here’s why:
1. The week before yesterday’s hearing, Clemens was in town for his deposition. By many reports he spent his time schmoozing with several of the committee members. This was the equivalent of high-powered lobbyists wining and dining our elected officials prior to a big vote. As the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy put it:
It was pretty clear that most of the congressmen and women came to the hearing with their minds made up. Clemens last week visited more than 20 representatives – an outrageous parade that compromised the hearing and painted numerous elected officials as fanboy/sycophants. Listening to the questions yesterday, you could pretty much tell which reps got autographed baseballs and signed photos for their office walls.
2. You would expect a subject like steroids to be free of party politics, but you’d be wrong. Yesterday the Republicans for the most part defended Roger Clemens and attacked Brian McNamee, while the Democrats tended to do the opposite. You can understand why the Republicans would show deference to Clemens. He’s a multi-millionaire after all. Nevertheless, the partisanship on display yesterday pretty much rules out the two parties working together to actually solve real problems, like say Iraq, healthcare, education, global warming…
3. When we watch or read about the hearings in much more esoteric subjects, it isn’t surprising that we would assume the Congress knows what it is doing. After all, what do we know about the latest high-tech military aircraft. We just trust that our politicians and their aids do know something about it. But yesterday we had a look at something we all can understand, and it is clear that the Senators in that room don’t know jack shit. Is there any reason to believe they are any more competent or informed about more complex topics?
So, who do I believe? Well, I just don’t see what benefit McNamee gets from lying, while Clemens motive is clear. And McNamee’s claims about Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch were corroborated by those two. Of course, I knew all this before yesterday. And so did everyone else. The only thing really accomplished is that both men have now testified under oath. One of them is lying… My bet is that it’s Clemens. But I also bet that we’ll never get the truth from the Senate’s efforts.