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Thursday, February 14, 2008
Congressional hearing report card

By Patrick Hruby and Mike Philbrick
Page 2

The congressional hearings have come and gone, and in case you haven't quite figured it out yet, here's the lesson we all learned Wednesday: It matters little if you're right or wrong ... it's how you come across when the cameras are rolling.

So in the spirit of armchair quarterbacks and postgame analytical geniuses everywhere, we hand out our grades for Wednesday's patriots participants.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
HIGH POINT: His "this is not your time to argue with me!" word-slap closing remark he gave to Roger Clemens.
LOW POINT: When he opened with "Andy Pettitte's consistent honesty makes him a role model on and off the field." Looks like someone needs All-Star Game tickets.
FINAL VERDICT: Even though he looks like a goblin from the Harry Potter moves, Rep. Waxman played a competent ringmaster to this circus.
GRADE: B+

The Congressional Vote Bell
HIGH POINT: When Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va. said the bell would be heard frequently, because members have votes to make and "there's chaos on the floor." Out of the way, man! We're making laws here!
LOW POINT: Bell sounds like an iMac alert sound. Lame.
FINAL VERDICT: Good to know the U.S. government works like a Soviet canine behavior conditioning experiment.
OVERALL GRADE: B

Former Senator George Mitchell
HIGH POINT: Being born and everything after, if the committee's reverence was any indication.
LOW POINT: Not showing up to: (a) have Rep. Waxman and Rep. Davis kiss his ring; (b) bask in the soft, balmy glow of his own awesomeness.
FINAL VERDICT: If Mitchell drops by Capitol Hill, do congressmen ask for his autograph, too?
OVERALL GRADE: A+

Andy Pettitte
HIGH POINT: The part in his deposition where he admits to cutting down the cherry tree.
LOW POINT: ESPN rerunning that "shuffle sideways, catch a football" workout footage of Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee yet again. Why are they slam-dunking footballs, anyway?
FINAL VERDICT: After lying, re-lying, sort of lying, then supposedly telling the truth, Andy never had to publicly admit to cheating with banned substances and wasn't around to explain the details of ratting out his friend. Despite all this, his credibility/mystique in the chamber was second only to Sen. Mitchell.
OVERALL GRADE: A+

Roger Clemens
HIGH POINT: Made it through his entire opening statement before reaching for bottled water; definitively cleared up the whole Springsteen tickets mess.
LOW POINT: When he interrupted Rep. Waxman's closing remarks, got gaveled into submission and subsequently appeared as though he wanted to throw a bat handle at the committee chairman.
FINAL VERDICT: If he doesn't go to prison, there's a ChapStick endorsement at the end of all this.
OVERALL GRADE: D

Roger Clemens' notepad
HIGH POINT: Every time Clemens acted as if he was taking detailed notes, the better to provide lucid answers.
LOW POINT: Every time Clemens opened his mouth, the better to answer questions that nobody asked in the first place.
FINAL VERDICT: Those doodles would fetch $1,000-plus on eBay, easily.
OVERALL GRADE: C

Debbie Clemens
HIGH POINT: The decision to comb her hair over her forehead to cover what's most likely a third ear.
LOW POINT: For all you married ladies out there, you should never put yourself in a position where you're taking secret bedroom injections.
FINAL VERDICT: Even though Deb carried the yellow rose of Texas with her, remember what 20th century philosopher Bret Michaels taught us: "Every rose has its thorn."
GRADE: C+

Brian McNamee
HIGH POINT: Every time Roger Clemens answered a question.
LOW POINT: When Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., refused to agree to disagree.
FINAL VERDICT: Even though he looked like he physically shrank as the day went on, the overall consensus from Sen. Mitchell to the Feds is that he's the most honest of all the liars. What an honor.
GRADE: C-

Charles Scheeler
HIGH POINT: Absolutely crushed the assertion of Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., that Mitchell didn't do enough to contact Clemens ("I'm an easy man to find! I'm a man! I'm 40!") before the release of his report; the bemused, billion-dollar smirk he repeatedly shot Clemens, the look of a father listening to his son swear up and down he didn't take cookies from the jar, even though he has crumbs and chocolate chips smeared all over his face.
LOW POINT: At one point during hearing, appeared to nod off.
FINAL VERDICT: Didn't have to say a whole lot, despite the hearing allegedly being about the veracity of the Mitchell report. Bonus points for not actually putting head down on desk.
OVERALL GRADE: A

The Nanny
HIGH POINT: Got to party at Canseco's!
LOW POINT: English-speaking ability impugned in an environment already hostile to immigrants; got to chase around toddlers at a party that had only "ice tea and sandwiches." Bor-ing!
FINAL VERDICT: Depends. Did she have to take HGH to fit into that peach bikini/green board shorts combo?
OVERALL GRADE: Incomplete

God
HIGH POINT: When He finally meets Pettitte, released congressional transcripts figure to save Him at least 20 minutes, time better spent appearing on a tortilla in Guadalajara.
LOW POINT: When Rep. Eleanor Norton, D-D.C., tried to do His job.
FINAL VERDICT: Only God -- and possibly Rep. Shays -- can judge that.
OVERALL GRADE:

The NFL
HIGH POINT: Spygate what?
LOW POINT: None.
FINAL VERDICT: Roger Goodell's meeting with Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., on the same day of the Clemens hearing is purely coincidental.
OVERALL GRADE: A

The English language
HIGH POINT: Semantic debate between Rep. Shays and McNamee over the exact meaning of "drug dealer." Since when are politicians so concerned with using precise language?
LOW POINT: Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., characterizing the phrase "it is what it is" as mysterious New Yorker lingo requiring further Congressional investigation, as opposed to an empty, shrugging cliché deployed in 1,000 locker rooms and/or anywhere else dumb people want to sound vaguely philosophical.
FINAL VERDICT: Rough day. Or maybe we're just misremembering things, like Andy.
OVERALL GRADE: C

The children
HIGH POINT: Everyone sounding very, very concerned about their health, safety and general well-being.
LOW POINT: A Congressional hearing actually devoted to the welfare of children would probably focus on failing schools, youth obesity, pediatric health care or how playing "Grand Theft Auto" is the sole cause of all violent crime.
FINAL VERDICT: Hey -- Clemens "shared his talents God gave him with children." What more do the little ingrates want?
OVERALL GRADE: F

Logic
HIGH POINT: Are you kidding?
LOW POINT: Clemens' tortured explanations for, well, almost everything (particularly his claim that he and Pettitte never discussed HGH); committee members' tortured lines of questioning regarding, well, almost everything. Not exactly a roomful of federal prosecutors.
FINAL VERDICT: Took a worse beating than the truth, and that's really saying something.
OVERALL GRADE: F-

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.
HIGH POINT: Pointing out that the hearing was a circus, and that America has a penchant for trial-by-media.
LOW POINT: Doing his best -- "This is disgusting! Oh, another lie! Clemens is a baseball titan! Gee whiz, are you kidding me?" -- to ensure that the hearing was both a circus and a trial-by-media.
FINAL VERDICT: We know one thing we don't believe, and that's Burton's ability to select decent hair-conditioning products.
OVERALL GRADE: B+, for unintentional irony

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.
HIGH POINT: Thorough, scientific examination of Clemens' buttocks abscess.
LOW POINT: Thorough, scientific examination of Clemens' buttocks abscess.
FINAL VERDICT: Offhandedly mentioned that Canseco told Congress that he and Clemens had numerous conversations about stacking and cycling steroids. But never mind that. More abscess!
OVERALL GRADE: F

The Third Ear
HIGH POINT: Whenever a member asked a witness to speak up or move closer to the microphone; whenever a witness asked a member to repeat the question. And to think: Clemens made third ears sound like something bad.
LOW POINT: Wasn't actually mentioned during the hearing.
FINAL VERDICT: How could Congress be oh-so-worried about past statements and witness credibility, yet NOT ask Clemens about this?
OVERALL GRADE: Incomplete

Vitamin B-12
HIGH POINT: If it's good enough for Roger's mom, it's good enough for us.
LOW POINT: Roger might want to consider telling people he has anemia, Alzheimer's, and is also becoming a vegan.
FINAL VERDICT: All fun and games until someone gets a palpable mass in his hindquarters.
OVERALL GRADE: C

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.
HIGH POINT: Abscess? Try palpable mass.
LOW POINT: Making a horrible pun/joke about "lynching" (he even used air quotes!). Quick, somebody slam Tiger Woods for not speaking out on this!
FINAL VERDICT: Appears to share Rep. Burton's hairstylist and his post-hearing flop sweat when he met the press brought back memories of Doc Gooden on the hill in the late '80s.
OVERALL GRADE: C

Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind.
HIGH POINT: National appeal to start snitchin'
LOW POINT: Said "one last thing" and kept talking at least three times while wrapping up remarks.
FINAL VERDICT: Intelligent post-hearings interview on ESPN makes you wonder how Rep. Burton even hails from the same state.
OVERALL GRADE: A-

The MLBPA
HIGH POINT: After Clemens was asked whether he was angry at the union for not informing him about letters from Mitchell's investigators, he declined to throw Donald Fehr and Co. under the bus -- a courtesy he did not extend to his wife, mom, nanny, agent, lawyers, investigators, Pettitte, McNamee and probably a half-dozen others we're probably forgetting to mention.
LOW POINT: Came off as slightly hard to deal with.
FINAL VERDICT: Who cares? Salaries go up every year.
OVERALL GRADE: A

Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo.
HIGH POINT: Gratuitously (if indirectly) crushing Sammy Sosa for "temporarily forgetting his ability to speak English" at a previous hearing.
LOW POINT: Letting Clemens speak in the royal we while prattling on about not having a car in high school, running home two miles uphill every day, working his butt off, his hatred of the phrase "pampered athlete" and refusing to let "someone in the room" break his spirit. Yawn. Want some cheese?
FINAL VERDICT: Tried to look like less of a fanboy by attributing his "what uniform will you wear to the Hall of Fame?" question to a colleague, which only made it doubly embarrassing.
OVERALL GRADE: D-

Rusty Hardin
HIGH POINT: "THAT'S WHAT ANY LAWYER IN THE FREE WORLD WOULD DO!"
LOW POINT: Subsequently attempting to stare down Rep. Waxman. Good luck with that.
FINAL VERDICT: Hardin's criminal defense practice just got about $2 million in free advertising. And out-grandstanding a group of congressmen is no easy thing.
OVERALL GRADE: B+

Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn.
HIGH POINT: Reminding America that Congress is "working on major issues, too."
LOW POINT: Admitted to reading Parade Magazine.
FINAL VERDICT: Saddened by what he heard from McNamee, because he used to be a minor league batboy, and "there's a special bond between batboys and trainers." Huh?
OVERALL GRADE: D-

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa
HIGH POINT: Mentioned that his son was watching the hearings on ESPN. Thanks for the free plug!
LOW POINT: When Clemens answered one of his medical-themed questions with: "I laid down on the table ... the guy jumped on me like he was trying to start a Harley-Davidson ... McNamee told me that he should be doing that for me." Actually, that was another high point.
FINAL VERDICT: Seemed well-informed. Not something we expect from our duly-elected officials.
OVERALL GRADE: B

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
HIGH POINT: "P-H-D must stand for piling higher and deeper." Oh, snap! What writers' strike?
LOW POINT: McNamee's asking for free Under Armor shirts equals no credibility. Um, don't congressmen ask for free money from constituents all the time?
FINAL VERDICT: After Issa mentioned that his mom got a B-12 shot, Braley shot him a death stare. We could relate.
OVERALL GRADE: F

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.
HIGH POINT: "Mr. Clemens, I am not an expert in any of these issues ... "
LOW POINT: "... but you appear to be the same size in all of these photos."
FINAL VERDICT: As the cameras faded to black you could see Rep. Foxx touching Clemens' arm and shaking his hand (seriously). And did she have expressed written consent from Major League Baseball to make that poster? Someone should subpoena the Kinkos guy.
OVERALL GRADE: F

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2. Sound off to Patrick here.

Mike Philbrick is an editor for Page 2. You can contact him at michael.w.philbrick@espn3.com.