February 26, 2008
Sports of The Times
Is It Time for Clemens to Dial Nanny 911?
By HARVEY ARATON
The nanny, it turns out, speaks English and speaks it well, idioms and all.
A reading of an online transcript and a telephone call to the press office of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform revealed that Roger Clemens, aided by political muscle, distorted the linguistic skills of a former employee and grandmother of two.
“And her English, as I understand it, is not that good,” Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican and ranking minority committee member, cued Clemens at the Capitol Hill hearing earlier this month.
“It is not that good,” Clemens replied, seizing the opportunity to make the masses understand why the nanny had to be summoned to his Houston Ponderosa before her interview with committee investigators — for her own good, of course.
But Steven G. Glickman, counsel to the majority and a participant in the telephone interview, indicated through a committee press officer that the unnamed nanny spoke English that was only accented, not deficient.
For instance, when told she had the right to representation, the nanny replied she didn’t have a lawyer before adding: “But I’m not afraid, I’m telling the truth, so bring it on.”
Make her day.
Sounds like an opening line scripted by Clint Eastwood, or Clemens, the cold-blooded gunslinger from 60 feet 6 inches away, but now closer than ever to staring down at Jeff Novitzky, the I.R.S. special agent and sultan of steroid-enforcement swat.
Monday came the news that a draft letter was drawn up last week by committee staff members for the purposes of referring the Clemens case to the Justice Department. Get those scorecards ready. The real game, not the exhibition spitting contest the Clemens and Brian McNamee camps have waged all winter, may be about to begin.
You wonder: Is Clemens finally seeing the big picture, fearing that a hastily stitched tapestry of tall tales dating to 1998 is about to unravel?
It should by now be fairly well established that he was at José Canseco’s place in South Florida when they visited with the Blue Jays that year in June to drop off his family, or to take a tour of the property or a performance-enhancement tutorial.
We also know that Canseco has said Clemens was not at the party, while the nanny said that Clemens was at the house but she did not recall a party, while a photograph that reportedly has surfaced places Clemens at the possible party, while Clemens has a golf receipt to prove that while he might have stopped by, he wasn’t there long enough to party or be party to any discussion of drugs.
Questioned about the dizzying timeline of Clemens’s appearance and exit, the nanny — again, not as verbally challenged as Davis understood her to be and Clemens agreed she was — cut to the heart of the matter, as it relates to the possibility of meaningful disclosure.
“Well, first of all, that’s kind of hard to tell because I wasn’t with him 24/7,” she said, speaking to the absurdity of the ongoing party dissection, 10 years after. With the exception of the Republican cheerleaders who allowed Clemens and his lawyers to set this smoke screen during the hearing, who actually believed it was ever germane to the McNamee claims of injecting Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone?
Surely not Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat and committee chairman, who made himself clear after the hearing that he did not think much of what Clemens had to say. Common sense tells us that Waxman is driving the bus and ready to hand Clemens, if not McNamee, off to Novitzky and the Balco bashers that brought down Marion Jones and brought perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Barry Bonds.
Obviously, an investigation by the Justice Department does not guarantee an eventual indictment on perjury charges, à la Jones and Bonds. It does mean that Clemens’s public relations campaign against McNamee and anyone whose version of events contrasted his own has failed. In the court of public opinion, and to the committee members who did not want his autograph, the more Clemens went on the attack, the less believable he was.
When he publicly aired a secretly taped telephone conversation with McNamee, his former trainer sounded distraught over having to give him up to George Mitchell, not like some deluded soul bent on destroying an all-time great. When Clemens was confronted with the damaging testimony of Andy and Laura Pettitte, his attempts to question his protégé’s comprehension skills made you wonder if Clemens comprehended the gravity of his denials, under oath.
Everyone’s reputation was deemed sacrificial to save his own. His agents took hits for his troubles. His wife, Debbie, was exposed as an H.G.H. user. The nanny, whose interview included an eloquent expression of affection seven years after she left Clemens’s employ, was made to sound like someone who had just slipped into the country in the back of a truck.
Bring it on, Clemens kept saying, while everyone around him took a hit. Now there is a draft letter that probably leads to a criminal investigation. No turning back now. No promise of relief up ahead. For his last act in baseball, he may have to go the distance.