Friday, August 05, 2005


Bob, Bill, George -- the '90s Hangover?

Bob Tyrrell's a friend -- and host of a monthly NY dinner that I've been priveleged to attend on more than one occasion. However, I have to ask: What on earth was he thinking in his current column? (Hat tip: Balloon Juice)

Yes, it is true that there is a rather uncomfortable familiarity to Rafael Palmeiro's statement to a congressional panel back in March, "I have never used steroids. Period. I do not know how to say it more clearly than that. Never."

As Tyrell is quick to point out, it sounds something like another now-notorious public pronouncement: "I did not have sex with that woman -- Ms. Lewinsky." (For that matter, one could toss them in with "Read my lips -- no new taxes" into a nice box called, "Public Statements Prominent Individuals Would Prefer To Take Back.")

With a best-selling book on Bill Clinton, it's quite understandble that Bob would say, "Palmeiro is one of Clinton's finest students" from the "Decade of Illusions." There certainly was a certain newly-revealed deceptive culture in the '90s. But, with regard to the question at hand of baseball -- and Rafael Palmeiro specifically -- speculation can drift into areas that have little to do with Slick Willie.

If we go back to that era, one is forced to note a rather significant figure in Rafael Palmeiro's life.

Who was the principal owner of a Texas Rangers team over a period that when its roster included at one time or another Palmeiro, Jose Canseco AND Sammy Sosa -- all of whom testified before Congress on steroids? (Um, that is, they testified on the SUBJECT of steroids -- though, actually, Palmeiro might have been ON them at that moment. Ironically, the one whom engendered nearly universal contempt at the time -- whistle-blowing author Canseco -- looks to be the one telling the truth.)

Who was the man who still calls Palmeiro a friend and -- despite this week's revelations -- says that he believes him?

Early in Clinton years, the Wall Street Journal once famously deplored the import of "Arkansas morés" to Washington. They were somewhat prescient. Fair or otherwise, the fact is that Texas -- most decidedly NOT Bill Clinton country -- seems to have been Ground Zero for this sports-substance scandal which is only now exploding. (The late Ken Caminiti -- the pre-Canseco poster boy for steroids -- was a member of the Houston Astros in the early '90s.)

Texas morés? Well, when it came to steroids it was obviously "the moré, the merrier!" (Well, they do say that they grow 'em bigger in Texas. )

Former Rangers owner George W. Bush claims that he knew nothing of steroid use in his club at the time (Canseco claims he "must" have known, but unlike the shared steroid use of his former teammates, he has no first-hand knowledge). But, it would be nice to hear the president say something -- other than the generic "steroids are bad" -- about his former club's rather big role in this growing scandal.

Needless to say, it doesn't exactly do any good for the image of the president to have the word perjury now swirling around two Texas friends (albeit men with very different professions and roles).

This has little to do with the decade of illusions -- and nothing to do with Bill Clinton (Canseco claims that the steroid use on the Rangers began in 1993 -- it would have been difficult for Clinton to have had that quick of an impact on baseball). Certain tones -- possibly attributable to the 42nd president -- may have been set in the '90s, but the Uh-Oh Decade's grim realities are all its own.

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