Of Roger Clemens, anti-trust laws and liars in Congress

Rick Robinson Author, Writ of Mandamus
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Last Thursday, Americans sat fixated as a banner across the bottom of their television screens announced that the government was about to hand down indictments for Congressional lying.

Crowds of citizens gathered in Times Square in New York City, waiting for the definitive scroll of the news ticker. People congregated in front of appliance stores, their noses pressed to the plate glass of Main Street windows, watching the pictures on the other side with breathless anticipation. Finally, someone was going to be held accountable by the figurative hands of government for lying to us all these years.

“George Bush,” shouted the Democrats as they shook their fists in anger. “George Bush will be indicted for fibbing to us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

The Republicans countered with similar rage. “No, the indictments will be against Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters. Justice is ours. Drain the swamp.”

When the six-count indictment was handed down against “Rocket” Roger Clemens, Republicans and Democrats alike scratched their collective heads before heading back to their daily lives. Eyes moist with disappointment, they quickly concluded that there was nothing to see here.

The only people left in front of their television sets were confused Libertarians asking: “Who the hell is Roger Clemens?”

Jurisdictional Balk

The “Man Bites Dog” headlines about Roger Clemens relate to a Congressional soap opera which began in February 2008. Under oath, the Rocket swore that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. Mrs. Rocket, Debbie Clemens, on the other hand, was thrown under the investigative bus when it was revealed that she had received HGH injections.

Not so fast, countered Clemens’ trainer. He told the Congressional Committee on Meaningless Investigations that he had shot steroids and HGH into both of their backsides.

Not since the Clinton impeachment trial had Congress discussed offending butts with so much vigor.

Okay, we get it. Someone is lying.

The indictment of Roger Clemens, however, is built on an unstable constitutional foundation. The introductory paragraph of the indictment states that Major League Baseball “operates in interstate commerce and foreign commerce and is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States Congress.”

Not according to Congress and the Supreme Court.

In 1922, a rogue baseball league sued the National League for violating the nation’s anti-trust laws. The United States Supreme Court held that baseball was exempt from those laws because it did not constitute interstate commerce. Decades later, faced with the opportunity to reverse itself, the Supreme Court refused. Instead, it literally tossed the ball back to Congress, which has repeatedly balked at overturning the Court’s judicial conclusion. In the eyes of two branches of government, unless a ballpark rests on a state boundary that a base runner must when cross running out a ground ball, baseball is not interstate commerce.

Clemens has been indicted for his comments before an institution which denies jurisdiction over the game he played.

That brings us to the real constitutional issue, which is …

Who Cares?

America’s economy remains on the Disabled List. Jobs are being created at a rate of just under two per week. Bin Laden is still at-large and Joe Biden is still vice-president. With all due respect to Congress’ obsession with the asses in the Clemens family, there should be other issues at the top of its legislative batting order.

And the next time Congress tries to explain how legislation will be good for America, how about they take an oath first. If congressmen and women were subject to perjury charges every time they went to the floor of the House to speak and vote, daily sessions would consist of the presentation of the Mace followed quickly by a motion to adjourn.

In the end, Congress should not be the institution we designate to protect the integrity of baseball. That job is up to us fans — who use the money we earn in interstate commerce to buy overpriced beer and game dogs.

Rick Robinson has written three top-selling political thrillers. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny, has won seven international writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival. He can be reached at richardleerobinson@yahoo.com.