The federal government's dangerous addiction to steroids show trials worsened noticeably this week, when the scarequote-worthy "House Committee on Government Reform" issued seven subpoeanas to current and former players (including bloody-footed Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, whose main qualifications appear to be that he's a pro-Bush Christian World Series champeen who loves the sound of his own voice), to swear on the Holy Bible that they indeed know the text of the Fifth Amendment.
Even if you think that the subpoenaed Rafael Palmeiro—accused by disgraced Bash Brother Jose Canseco of taking steroids—deserves whatever punishment he can get for all those Viagra ads, there are several interesting precedents at play. First, the Government Reform Committee is demanding to see "the names, disciplinary action taken and reason for suspension for all drug-related violations since 1990," even though those tests were conducted on the condition of secrecy and privacy. Not particularly comforting news for the 50 million or so Americans who pee in the jar every year.
Second, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who pushed for the March 17 hearings, has openly admitted that the impetus for the hearing is to "find the truth" in the allegations made in Canseco's book. I look forward to the Committee's similar fact-checking on whether George W. Bush snorted coke at Camp David, Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick, and Al Gore inhaled epic amounts of pot before enthusiastically putting his shoulder into the wheel of the Drug War.
Third, Congress has concocted an interesting claim of jurisdiction: "Under the rules of the House," the Committee warned Major League Baseball in a letter this week, "'the Committee on Government Reform may at any time conduct investigations of any matter.'"
Intriguingly, Major League Baseball and its eternally oppositional Player's Union have united under one lawyer to challenge the subpoenas—all the way to the Supreme Court, they vow—on grounds of out-of-control jurisdiction, constitutional invasion of privacy, and interference with an ongoing criminal investigation (the BALCO case up in San Francisco).
And I would hope they add Criminally Bad Taste to their bill of particulars. Waxman's horrid little letter calling for the hearings begins with an unabashed reference to arguably the most cynical film ever made:
In the movie Field of Dreams, Terrence Mann, a writer, explains the unique role baseball has had in American life:
The one constant through all the years … has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time … this game is part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.
This is not a good time, however, for baseball.
It's an excellent time, however, for baseball to tell Congress to get bent. UPDATE: Here's the Committee's finger-wagging response (PDF) to MLB's challenge of its author-i-TAY. The Drug War is cited.