Friday, February 15, 2008

Holding Out For an Argument

Over at the Washington Post, Mike Wise just could not resist commenting, after his ardent research, on the Clemens/Steroid congressional hearing ("Untruth be Told" - ooh, cle-ver, Mike).

This is from the introductory paragraph:

the Texas-size audaciousness to think that his stature in society was big enough to get away with committing perjury.

So, if you were like me, a naïve reader thinking that the venerability of the Washington Post might lend it at least a whiff of credibility, you’d think that Mike Wise would attempt to prove his claim that Roger Clemens said something so audacious as to be unmistakable, something akin to “Only the little people pay taxes.”

Now, I do see some evidence of lying: Roger Clemens is supposedly an ignorant sap when everyone around him his taking steroid and HGH injections, left, right, and all over the place. But that’s not Wise’s claim: Wise claims that these lies show an obvious character flaw of a giant, arrogant ego. So, where’s Wise’s proof?

To put it simply: he has none. He tries to smuggle in a thesis, hoping that because his other points are solid, and because plenty of baseball fans already see Clemens as a jerk, you’ll forget that his evidence does not prove his claim.

Years ago, Clemens gave his essence away on, of all shows, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." He couldn't just renew his vows to his Debbie in a small civil ceremony before their children; no, Clemens had to co-opt Robin Leach and do it up big and right, at a resort in Hawaii.

So Wise’s condemnation comes entirely out of the fact that, oh-no-oh-golly-how-arrogant, Roger Clemens had the audacity to live within his means, to want to renew his vows to the love of his life in a place just slightly above the Mike-Wise-budget-Motel-6-Deal.

There’s a lot of invective, but not a lot of facts. Mike claims that Clemens has a huge ego, a you-can’t-believe-how-large ego, because he talks about his upbringing while being questioned on his of steroids. Well, someone get the goddamn psychologists in here, stat: someone being questioned about THEMSELVES is actually talking about THEMSELVES. Well, fuck, I ain’t never seen such self-obsession in all my life.

Now, I will admit: I haven’t seen ANY footage from these hearings, so I don’t know if Roger was actually “egotistical” or “back-pedalling.” But it seems to me that if you’re going to accuse a man of being something, or doing something, you should probably think far enough ahead to map out some actual evidence, or at the very least, implication, that YOUR words are relevant. I can sit here until I’m blue in the face talking about Mike Wise’s ignorance, arrogance, and contempt for anyone who makes a better living than a Washington Post editorial writer, but unless I back that up with a snippet of a fact or two, I’m not saying anything at all. I’m typing, and words are appearing on my laptop’s screen, but they aren’t actually saying anything; they are worthless.

In addition to the aforementioned, and quite irrelevant, remark about how Clemens had chosen to spend his second wedding (foregoing the Mike Wise Monastery Experience™), Mike sees fit to mention the political affiliation of his defenders and attackers: obviously, questioning the man bringing the charges up is an absolutely “ridiculous” suggestion (I’m surprised, and you’ll see why in a moment, that he didn’t manage to invoke the “McCarthy” incantation), one fit only for the stupid, witch-hunting puritans we call Republicans. You should note that he doesn’t actually call them “Republicans,” though – they are far more useful, loaded terms, for him to stick to them: “Red Staters.” They are not just his political adversaries, they are from those “deep south” states, those squalid wastelands where the citizens, red of neck and large of brow, head from industrial job to beer store while dragging their knuckles upon the dirt road. “Red Stater” describes an entire group of people; “Democrat” describes a specific political affiliation. The former is emotionally loaded with the image of adherence to an ideology, perhaps one that one is born into, such as religion or race – a common assumption made about the south and Republicans. If I might risk heading off on a tangent, it’s a bit like the terms “Ayn-Rander” and “Objectivist.” One just sounds much more irrational, doesn’t it? Even if there’s nothing in the term’s meaning that marks it as being worse than another, Mike Wise is going for rhetorical weight here, and the term “Red Staters” certainly suits that purpose.

Mike Wise would have had a passable editorial if he had just stuck to a semblance of the truth, and condemned Clemens for lying – maybe he could have even thrown in a splash of that good ol’ liberal hate for the great achiever. Instead, he attempted to open up his can of schadenfreude early, and in so doing, betrayed his true feelings: envy of - and contempt for - those greater than himself.


Clemens hearing a waste? ( This one makes me wonder - if the entire point was to discourage kids from using performance-enhancing drugs, wouldn't it have been easier to ask Clemens whether he was using steroids, get him to say "no, my achievements were all natural," and get him to do a PSA or something? Grilling him in front of a congressional committee that invariably makes him look like a liar undermines your objective: not only has Roger Clemens taken drugs and become one of the best, and most highly paid, baseball players ever, but he's also seemed to have escaped the nasty side-effects they told us about in health class. I, quite frankly, see no downside to taking steroids if Roger Clemens has - they seem to have done exactly what my pusher told me they would do. Geez, "Mission Accomplished," guys. )

McNamee's lawyer predicts pardon for Clemens

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