Yes, I know that Slate is a left-wing commie rag, but this is an interesting story.
The Mitchell report doesn't quite name President Bush as a party to the steroid scandal, but the trail of evidence runs alarmingly close to his skybox. Guilt by association is not the same as actual guilt. But if friends don't let friends do performance-enhancing drugs, the former Texas Rangers owner has a few too many buddies on Mitchell's list.
Before the Mitchell report, two of the biggest steroid suspects were ex-Rangers from the Bush years, Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro lied to Congress about it under oath. While most baseball players steer clear of politics, Palmeiro gave Bush's 2004 campaign the maximum of $4,000.
Mitchell added some new names to Bush's friends list. Roger Clemens is a longtime Bushie. A Clemens profile last year in USA Today said "he has a standing invitation to dine at the White House." Clemens is so close to the Bushes, he built a horseshoe pit at his house for George H.W. Bush. Andy Pettitte, who has now admitted using human growth hormone, once joined Clemens in a video tribute called "Happy 80th Birthday, 41."
The Bush campaign called top fund-raisers "Rangers," but contributors included Mets, Orioles, and Yankees as well. John Giambi—the proud father of Jason and Jeremy, who've both admitted using steroids—was an early supporter of Bush's 2000 campaign. The Mitchell report reproduces two checks Mo Vaughn wrote Radomski for $5,400. Last year, Vaughn gave $5,000 to a conservative PAC that has given to the Bush campaign.
Jose Canseco claims the Mitchell report is incomplete because it left out Alex Rodriguez. While A-Rod denies using steroids, he did give Bush $2,000. By contrast, Hank Aaron, who played his entire career without an asterisk, has contributed to staunch opponents of Bush like Max Cleland and Hillary Clinton.
But the most damning evidence of Bush's complicity in baseball's era of denial is his own role in the trade that helped start it all. In the summer of '92, Bush was desperate to get the Rangers into the playoffs for the first time in the 30-year history of the franchise. He had his eye on Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire's gargantuan Bash Brother with the Oakland A's, who had led the majors in home runs the year before.
Meanwhile, out in Oakland, A's manager Tony LaRussa and coach Dave McKay were already convinced Canseco was taking steroids. According to the Mitchell report, A's general manager (and later MLB exec) Sandy Alderson considered testing him. While Alderson claims that Canseco's trade to Texas was "not out of any concern relating to his alleged involvement with steroids," the evidence in the Mitchell report hints otherwise.
The great unanswered question is one Mitchell doesn't ask: If it's possible the A's knew enough to trade Canseco because of steroids, did Bush go after Canseco for the same reason? He already had three players who would turn up in the Mitchell report for later allegations of drug use—Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, and Kevin Brown. Without drug testing in place, it was almost impossible to get caught, and baseball was years from cracking down. To a highly competitive, power-hitter-hungry baseball executive like Bush, Canseco might have seemed a risk worth taking.
Here's what Bush told the New York Times at the time about why he traded for Jose Canseco:
"We needed to change the chemistry. …"