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Jewish World Review Feb. 23, 1999/ 6 Adar, 5759

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg It never ends:
Here comes the judge

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) SUSAN WEBBER WRIGHT REMEMBERED. She's the federal judge who presided over Paula Jones' case, and who didn't seem overly sensitive at the time to Ms. Jones' claim that she had suffered an outrage -- which is a legal wrong in Arkansas. But now Her Honor has gotten serious about the outrageous way William Jefferson Clinton treated her court in that case. Judge Wright has put the lawyers on notice that she will be entertaining briefs on whether Bill Clinton's decidedly fishy testimony in Jones v. Clinton amounted to contempt of her court.

Anybody who watched the video can reach his own conclusion about that question. It may all depend on how much respect you have for now antedated values like the sanctity of oaths, the integrity of justice and the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Judge Wright
Certainly, perjury and obstruction of justice no longer seem as serious, now that the Senate of the United States has devalued those charges. Statesmen like Robert Byrd, the "Conscience of the Senate,'' seem able to dismiss such things, at least if they're committed by a president of the United States. With a conscience like Senator Byrd's, American society needs no laxity.

The American people were promised closure, but it never ends, does it? Some judge in Little Rock had to notice what was going on in her courtroom, didn't she? It's as if Richard Nixon had somehow managed to stay in office back in 1974, only to be hounded by John J. Sirica, another judge who had some strong feelings about tainted testimony.

Judge Wright has offered to recuse herself, so some other jurist may be called on to consider the constitutional questions that Bill Clinton's actions have raised once again. Like all his other rebuffed claims, this one could linger for some time before it reaches the Supreme Court and the lawbooks, and once again manages to leave the presidency tarnished and diminished.

If this judge pursues her interest in mere abstractions like truth and justice, instead of Moving On, the only predictable outcome of the resulting constitutional complications will be the demonization of Susan Webber Wright a la Ken Starr.

We'd be surprised if Sidney Blumenthal doesn't start compiling a dossier on Her Honor any day now -- if he doesn't already have a thick one in his database. Who knows, soon The Hon. Susan Webber Wright, whom we in Arkansas had come to know and respect, if not always agree with, may emerge as just another sinister cog in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy out to get this poor, persecuted president, this knight sans peur et sans reproche. Why doth the clintonoids rage? Because each time this thing is supposed to be over, it isn't. Because it never ends. Because it is the nature of deceit, of injustice, of lies and their progeny, that they keep bearing poisonous fruit.

What must be the reaction in the White House to this latest little eruption? Calm, we would guess. Something along the lines of What th' Heck, We've Been Through a Lot Worse. It's just something else to leave to the lawyers. After all, it could be months or years before this thing winds up or down through the courts. And who knows, maybe the judge will not find the president in contempt once she has read the briefs and reconsidered. Perhaps if somebody nice like former Senator David Pryor could take her aside for a nice, private chat in chambers, the way he did on Susan McDougal's behalf. ...

Meanwhile, the trick is to avoid the subject, compartmentalize, keep this sort of thing in a box and the president on the road. Mexico sounds nice this time of year, or has the president just been there? It doesn't matter. Keep crafting those speeches that don't say anything in particular at length, being sure to avoid the usual forbidden words: truth, justice, character, integrity ... the list keeps getting longer, like Pinocchio's nose.

Maybe, just as a test run, the White House speechwriters could wait till this blows over and quietly insert one or two of those words in a text for delivery on some not very noticeable occasion, and see if anybody winces. For the moment, emphasize polls, not perjury. By all means.

There are times when one wonders if a heartless History's treatment of Bill Clinton will differ materially from the one John Ehrlichman recommended for poor Pat Gray, the hapless head of the FBI who was getting in the Nixon Gang's way. Mr. Ehrlichman's advice: Just leave him "twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.''

Once upon a time, Haldeman to Ehrlichman to Dean was as effective a combination in the great American game as Tinker to Evers to Chance, but eventually the truth took a bad bounce and outed. As truth will. And when that happens, not all the king's Blumenthals and all the king's Carvilles can put the lie back together again.

The now late Mr. Ehrlichman eventually felt History's hand, but he emerged from prison a lot better man than when he entered, and went on to a life of candor, reflection, good causes and even some art -- once he tried writing fiction advertised as such. (Have you ever noticed how prison improves some people?)

Lest we forget, John Ehrlichman was some other things besides a henchman -- from Eagle Scout to decorated World War II aviator. He spent only 18 months locked up. It took his boss, who was supposedly pardoned, some 20 years in private isolation to laboriously reconstruct himself as an Elder Statesman, and even then the taint lingered.

Why do some things never seem to end? Because nothing is settled till it's settled right. Because injustice sticks in the craw of the American eagle. That's why closure eludes us even now.

It occurs, as doubtless it will occur again and again in the months and years ahead, that the Senate of the United States may not have done Bill Clinton -- or the people of the United States --- any great favor.


2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99:Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99:Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99:Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99:Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate