Cummings’ brushback sends intended message

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The hearing lasted nearly five hours, but Elijah Cummings could have ended it after one.

Rep. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, brushed Roger Clemens back with an interrogation that destroyed what little credibility the seven-time Cy Young winner had remaining.

Trainer Brian McNamee had told investigators that he shot Clemens with steroids and HGH, accusations that are the linchpin of George Mitchell’s report detailing the use of performance-enhancing substances in baseball.

Yesterday, Cummings repeatedly called Clemens on the fact that two former teammates, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, gave sworn depositions to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that corroborated McNamee’s charges.

Pettitte also told the committee behind closed doors that Clemens admitted to him as many as 10 years ago that he used HGH.

Clemens read his opening statement, which included the firm denial that he had “never used steroids, human growth hormone or any other type of illegal performance-enhancing substances.”

Cummings opened his questioning by asking Clemens, “You understand you are under oath. Is that correct?”

“I would agree with that, yes, sir,” Clemens answered. Cummings responded sternly, “Keep your voice up.”

This was the Cummings version of the scene from the 2000 World Series in which Clemens tossed a broken bat back at Mike Piazza.

Clemens would get his share of softballs from committee members — Rep. Tom Davis might as well have been sitting between Clemens‘ lawyers, Rusty Hardin and Lanny Breuer, for all the water he carried for the pitcher during the hearing.

He got no such treatment from Cummings.

Cummings read part of Pettitte’s testimony and heard Clemens praise Pettitte as a good and honest friend.

Cummings said, “You just said he is a very honest fellow.”

“I think he misremembers,” Clemens replied.

Throughout his questioning, Cummings stopped to ask Clemens whether he understood that he was under oath, almost incredulous that Clemens would continue to deny using performance-enhancing substances in light of what his close friend had told investigators not once but on three separate occasions.

Cummings also brought up the fact that Pettitte’s wife, Laura, also had given them a deposition that supported the accusations. “Andy told me Roger admitted using HGH,” she told investigators.

One more time, Cummings looked at Clemens and asked, “Mr. Clemens, once again, I would remind you that you are under oath.”

Andy is a fine gentleman,” Clemens answered. “I think he misremembers.”

It was all over then, for all intents and purposes.

A number of committee members attacked McNamee for inconsistencies in his testimony and lies they caught him in during past activities.

But all that showed is that Brian McNamee is a liar.

The difference is Roger Clemens is lying.

Clemens had been working the committee members in the days leading up to the hearing, meeting with many of them individually. It appeared to pay off because Clemens could not have withstood many more Cummings moments without a meltdown.

He did not, thanks to committee members like Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican who excoriated McNamee for lying about his involvement in a 2001 rape investigation in Florida and for other falsehoods McNamee made in promoting himself as a medical expert in his work.

“This is really disgusting,” Burton said. “You are here, under oath, yet you have told lie after lie.”

Yes, that is disgusting. In fact, if this were a court of law, McNamee’s lawyer might have stood up and said, “Your honor, we stipulate that our client is a liar.” Because it really meant little, serving only as misdirection from the issue.

Andy Pettitte, after all, is not a liar, according to Clemens himself.

And Pettitte gave McNamee all the credibility he needed for any reasonable person to conclude Roger Clemens was lying up there under oath.

Clemens‘ supporters made a lot of hay over the fact that McNamee had testified in the Mitchell Report that he saw Clemens at a party at the house of Toronto teammate Jose Canseco in 1998.

Clemens denied being at the party. Canseco, who kicked off the whole steroid frenzy with his 2005 book “Juiced,” gave a sworn affidavit that Clemens was not at the party. Others interviewed by investigators also said Clemens was not at the party — as if that meant anything.

That opened the door for Nannygate II.

McNamee said he remembered seeing the Clemens family nanny parading around the party in a peach-colored bikini. Committee investigators interviewed the nanny, whose name is being withheld to protect perhaps the only innocent person in this entire affair, and she said she and Clemens‘ family had been at the party and had stayed at Canseco’s house that night.

Chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, then said the committee had tried to get Clemens‘ lawyers to turn over the contact information for the nanny, which they did not do for several days.

In fact, in a move that sounded one step away from witness tampering, Clemens contacted the nanny and had her meet with him at his home before she was interviewed by committee investigators.

“The impression it leaves is terrible,” Rep. Waxman said.

“I thought I was doing y’all a favor,” Clemens answered.

In one ironic and pathetic moment, Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat, asked Clemens, “What uniform will you wear to the Hall of Fame?”

Clemens joked that he didn’t hear the question.

If a perjury case is brought against Clemens, it could be prison orange.

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