Hardin swings, misses badly

Roger Clemens has played out his hand in the sad steroid saga that has - no doubt - permanently stained his great career. Now, all that's left for him to do is move on and hope he has done enough to erode the credibility of former personal trainer Brian McNamee and discourage the Justice Department from pursuing a perjury case.

So why is attorney Rusty Hardin still on the offensive when there's nothing left to gain and so much still at risk?


That's a question that's still rattling around in my head after reading his comments blasting California Congressman Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House committee that grilled Clemens and McNamee for nearly five hours Wednesday in Washington.

Waxman, reflecting on the contentious hearing that devolved into unexpected partisan bickering between Republicans and Democrats, told The New York Times that he regretted going through with the hearing, which he felt became unnecessary once congressional staffers had gotten sworn depositions from all the principals in the case.


There was strong sentiment on the committee to simply release a report on the investigation and dispense with the theatrics, but Clemens and his attorney pressed the committee to go forward so that Clemens could face the public and proclaim his innocence. That's why it's so curious that Hardin went right back on the attack Thursday.

He called Waxman's comments "unbelievable, disingenuous and outrageous," and told the Times that the committee chair "created this circus in the first place" when he denied an earlier request from Team Clemens to cancel it.

At this point, I think we're all too busy recovering from our steroid hearing hangover to really care how Waxman feels about the hearing or what Hardin thinks about Waxman, but Clemens ought to care that his high-priced, high-powered attorney has decided to punch the accelerator in a still-dangerous game of chicken with federal authorities.

Did Hardin forget, in the midst of another burst of righteous outrage, that the committee still has to decide whether to recommend that the Justice Department initiate a perjury investigation against Clemens or McNamee?

Did he forget he already rankled the committee and the Justice Department - and received a stern letter of reprimand from Waxman - when he objected to the likely presence of federal steroid investigator Jeff Novitzky at the hearing?

If you don't remember the tone of his comments, here's what he said about Novitzky last week: "I can tell you this: If he ever messes with Roger, Roger will eat his lunch."

He subsequently retracted that "inelegant" comment, but he still sounds as if he's challenging the feds to come after Clemens, which cannot possibly be in the best interests of a client whose reputation would be further sullied by a perjury indictment, no matter the outcome of the case.

The back-and-forth nature of the hearing should have demonstrated to everyone that it will be hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Clemens or McNamee lied under oath. It seems likely the committee would have chalked the whole thing up to five hours of free face time on CSPAN and gotten on with something more important to the survival of the species.


Maybe that's how it still goes down, but Hardin again played the thing all wrong, just as he did with the warning to Novitzky and the sleazy recorded phone call and even the strange admission after making the call public that he briefly suspected McNamee was trying to "set Roger up."

(Think about that again. If Clemens never took steroids, how was McNamee going to fool him into admitting to it during a phone call that Clemens was secretly recording?)

I suppose it's possible Hardin knows something we don't. Maybe he has a card in this game that trumps anything Congress or the Justice Department can throw at Clemens. There has been speculation over the past few days that Clemens' friendship with George W. Bush could lead to a presidential pardon if he is charged with a crime.

That would be odd because Bush made the battle against steroid abuse a theme of his 2004 State of the Union address, but it wouldn't be any stranger than some of the behavior of the attorney charged with keeping Clemens out of prison and in line for the Hall of Fame.

Maybe Clemens should have chosen to represent himself. Then he would have an excuse for having a fool for a lawyer.


Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.