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Bush Plays Dumb on Mitchell Report, Own MLB Steroid Role

December 14, 2007

In Washington today, President Bush predictably decried the conclusion of the Mitchell report, proclaiming "steroids have sullied the game." Even less surprising is Bush's call to put the steroid scandal "behind us." George W. Bush, after all, was the managing partner of the major league baseball's Texas Rangers, a team that featured many prominent abusers of performance-enhancing drugs, including his good friend Rafael Palmeiro.
Speaking at the White House Rose Garden this morning, President Bush told reporters:

"Like many fans, I've been troubled by the steroid allegations. I think it's best that all of us not jump to any conclusions on individual players' named...And my hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us."

Especially if that player is Bush compadre and 2004 campaign contributor Rafael Palmeiro.
Palmeiro, a perennial All-Star who produced 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, famously testified on March 17, 2005 to the House Government Reform Committee investigating steroid use. Then, he proclaimed his own innocence, telling the House members, "I have never used steroids. Period."
But just four months later, Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days by the MLB for using what one source described as a "serious steroid." Despite an arbitrator's rejection of his appeal, he maintained his never knowingly used performance enhancing substances. "It was an accident," he said, "I'm paying the price."
There was one (and likely only one) man in America who believed him. The President of the United States, a proven judge of character who could look into people's eyes and know their hearts and souls, announced he believed his good friend:

"Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him. He's the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him. Still do."

(That close friendship - and the $8,000 Palmeiro and his wife contributed to the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004 - was no barrier to the President's conservative allies like Emmett Tyrell claiming that Bill Clinton was responsible for Palmeiro apparent Congressional perjury.)
Palmeiro's case may just be the tip of the iceberg when its comes to George W. Bush turning a blind eye to steroid abuse during his five-year tenure with the Rangers. In a 2005 tell-all book, Palmeiro's teammate Jose Canseco claimed that they weren't the only juiced players on Bush's payroll. As ThinkProgress reported this July, others close to the Rangers organization during the Bush years of 1989 to 1994 claimed it was inconceivable that Bush was unaware of the problem:

Sports columnist Skip Bayless - who was previously a sports journalist in Dallas - said on ESPN that the Bonds situation is difficult for Bush to discuss because he looked the other way on steroids use as manager of the Rangers:
"I was there in Texas during those years, and I knew the President when he was owner of the Rangers. And I heard all the whispers around the locker room and the clubhouse...I think he looked the other way. I'm sure George heard them also and looked the other way."

President Bush, of course, is doing what comes naturally - playing dumb. In February 2005, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, "If there was [steroid use], he was not aware of it at the time." Today, his successor Dana Perino echoed that line:

"The president said he thought long and hard about it. He just does not recall hearing or seeing it."

The release of the Mitchell report is doubly-ironic for George W. Bush. The President was not merely close to many of the black sheep identified by Mitchell's inquiry. During the very week the report was released, political pundits focused on the teenage drug use of Barack Obama, while largely ignoring Bush's confession of alcoholism that lasted into his 40's. (Bush, of course, paid no price for his 1999 formulaic claim that he had not used cocaine or other illegal drugs during the previous 25 years). With no sense of irony, Bush said today:

"I just urge our -- those in the public spotlight, particularly athletes, to understand that when they violate their bodies, they're sending a terrible signal to America's young."

Especially, that is, when they lie about it.

2 comments on “Bush Plays Dumb on Mitchell Report, Own MLB Steroid Role”

  1. "He just does not recall hearing or seeing it."
    I too zeroed in on that quote immediately, since I just recently heard Ms. Pinocchio -- er, um ... Perino! -- issue the same lame excuse for Bush on another matter entirely. He simply "didn't recall"!
    The sheer volume of lies spewed by this White House has apparently FAR exceeded Dumbya's miniscule ability to keep track of them. As a result, he's now manifesting (albeit via proxy) a severe case of "Reagan Amnesia". (Of course, it remains to be seen whether that's actually "by design".) 😉
    Jon: Excellent piece, as usual.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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