A close compatriot
of President Bush squats in a scandal so malodorous it led news
shows from coast to coast. It's a scandal that some say is too
hot for Bush to comment on. But there was the President, speaking
without a stammer or stutter on this issue of pressing national
only one curious twist. The scandalized bosom buddy was not the
bosomy Karl Rove, but Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.
Yes, in an era of war and economic crisis, Bush took time to rush
to the defense of a four-time All-Star who has become the highest
profile casualty of Major League Baseball's steroid testing program.
Palmeiro a "friend" and said, "He's testified in public [to being
clean], and I believe him.... Still do." Presidential lickspittle
Scott McClellan also made clear at a White House press briefing
that Palmeiro has the full support of the Oval Office.
we are now to accept Jose Canseco's
book as holy writ, we should also
remember that his Texas Rangers team
had an owner named George W. Bush
who Canseco describes as
"most certainly knowing" that the
players were on the juice.
It no doubt
will puzzle future generations (or present ones, for that matter)
why the President felt compelled to comment on what a 40-year-old
ballplayer may or may not have ingested. But the reasons are clear
enough. This is a case of how the Bush administration's Politics
of Distraction have turned around to nip the President in the
It all began at the January 2003 State of the Union address when
Bush inexplicably took time to talk tough on steroids. As New
England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady grinned next to the First
Lady, Bush put the plague of steroids on the front burner of the
national consciousness. This was Politics of Distraction 101,
a classic ploy to give the public something to chew over instead
of those two pesky countries the US armed forces happened to be
But a fly
flew into the flaxseed oil when bankrupt former all-star Jose
Canseco attempted to capitalize on steroid mania by releasing
an inject-and-tell book called, appropriately enough, Juiced.
In Juiced, Canseco names every buttock that cozied up to his all-star
Two of those cheeks, Canseco revealed, belonged to Palmeiro. The
repercussions were immediate. Palmeiro had always presented himself
as a Holy Joe, a rock ribbed Republican, a podium thumper for
the American Dream. Thanks to Canseco, Palmeiro found himself
subpoenaed and forced to testify in front of congress last March.
Grimacing with indignation, Palmeiro wagged his finger and said
under oath," Let me start by telling you this: I have never used
steroids. Period. I don't know how to say it any more clearly
than that. Never."
Palmeiro tells Congress
the "whole" truth.
was convincing. So convincing Palmeiro was even named to a Congressional
committee that would work to "clean up the sport." Canseco was
the liar. Palmeiro the hero dragged through the mud. Never mind
that after Canseco joined the Texas Rangers Palmeiro's home run
averages jumped from 19 per year to 37. Never mind because the
steely-eyed Palmeiro made you believe that his anger was righteous.
Now, in the wake of this latest test, he looks like the one thing
worse than a liar: a sanctimonious liar. As Tom Boswell of the
Washington Post wrote, "In this culture, heaven help you if, after
playing that once-per-lifetime, I-swear-on-a-stack-of-Bibles card,
you get caught."
thinks he can whip out those Bibles for an encore. In a teleconference
Monday, Palmeiro said, "When I testified in front of Congress,
I know that I was testifying under oath and I told the truth.
Today I am telling the truth again... I have never intentionally
used steroids. Never. Ever. Period." [The guy has to lay off the
state of disgrace also means that we are now treated to the sight
of Canseco, last seen living with Omarosa and Bronson "Balki"
Pinchot on VH1's "The Surreal Life," posturing like Abe Lincoln,
parading around talk shows saying things like (and I love this
quote) "Palmeiros test proves that almost everything in
my book is true."
we are now to accept Canseco's book as holy writ, we should also
remember that his Texas Rangers team had an owner named George
W. Bush who Canseco describes as "most certainly knowing" that
the players were on the juice. This went wildly underreported
when the book was released, largely because Canseco's credibility
was in constant question. Now that Canseco has morphed into Honest
Abe, we should start asking whether Bush should receive the next
congressional subpoena about steroids in sports.
We should ask what Bush actually knows and when did he know it.
We should press Palmeiro on what his friend in the owner's box,
cheerleader from Yale, did and did not allow. We should take these
Politics of Distraction, which Bush hoisted into our lives, and
drop the whole stinking, steaming, anabolic load on his front
Dave Zirin's new book, "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance
in the United States," is now in stores. You can receive his column,
Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing edgeofsports-
[email protected]. Contact him at [email protected].