I don’t think that I have to provide regular readers my steroid-prosecution-skeptic bonafides. You know where I stand: questionable use of government resources and a highly questionable way for us to assess what happened in baseball over the past 20-25 years too. A fun spectacle on some level, but ultimately signifying nothing positive or particularly useful.
All that said, I just can’t get on board with Mike Vaccaro’s column in today’s New York Post. The column in which he argues — in a way you might think I’d argue — that the Roger Clemens prosecution is a waste of everyone’s time and money and that the legal system has better things to be doing. The problem I have is the example he uses as a means of jumping into the matter:
Caylee Anthony is dead. And nobody has yet been forced to answer for it. This was the kind of case that merited all the time, all the attention and all the energy of our judicial system. A 2-year-old girl drowns, her body is tossed in the woods, a suspect is arrested, arraigned, indicted, tried. This is why lawyers are paid handsomely, why judges and juries are empanelled, why taxpayer dollars are spent.
In this moment, frankly, it is difficult to build an angry lather about Roger Clemens …
Look, I get that some people got emotional over the Anthony trial — Vaccaro himself was clearly annoyed by the verdict in real time on Twitter yesterday afternoon — but if a dead toddler is your threshold for what is a worthy prosecution, nothing that goes down in our legal system is going to seem all that legit to you.*
There are clear priorities in our legal system. There has to be. But it’s not as if every transgression against Man and State is placed on a big board, all of them judged against one another and only the most dire cases pursued. There are different tracks in the justice system, all leading from different stations. Some begin with the police on the street. Some begin with people monitoring paperwork. Some begin with citizens filing their own lawsuits. An investigator and a prosecutor tasked with looking at drug crimes or the veracity of testimony before Congress can’t have Caylee Anthony as their bogey, or else they’re never going to make a case.
Back to Clemens. No, it’s not the highest and best use of the legal system. But I’d argue that, in the way it all came down, it’s a higher use than the Barry Bonds case in that, unlike the Bonds case, it truly did involve a person trying to bully his way through legal proceedings based on his fame, offering up implausibilities that demanded they be put to the test one way or the other lest the proceedings look like a farce. Clemens was given multiple outs and opportunities to avoid the public spectacle and willingly passed them up. And yes, I wish that others who have come before Congress and told lies were put in the dock too, but our shameful overlooking of the lies of tobacco or oil executives, for example, does not mean Roger Clemens is worthy of no scrutiny himself.
But no matter where you fall on that issue, I would hope we can agree that, when talking about Roger Clemens, using the Casey Anthony case as a framing device is not exactly the most artful or apt thing in the world, and that it really does nothing to help us think about what to feel about Clemens, steroids in baseball or the legal system.
*It’s also possible that Vacarro doesn’t truly believe that child murder is the threshold for our legal system to act and that he’s merely being sensationalistic and emotionally manipulative here. Perish the thought.