Jewish World Review March 26, 1999 /9 Nissan 5759
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Down that crooked line of reasoning lie all kinds of questions. For example:
Does this mean the president now admits he lied about Monica, and didn't just "mislead'' the country for eight months? Does it mean he lied under oath in both civil and criminal proceedings, too? Or is that a question he's still leaving to his lawyers, like any inquiries about Juanita Broaddrick? Can he still be compartmentalizing his lies and truths, and how can he tell the difference?
Does a lie repeated month after month, and told and embellished to all associates in sight so they can broadcast it far and wide, count as only one lie or as many? So when Bill Clinton says he's told only one lie, is he lying? Can he be lying about lying? And in his case, who can care any more? This president could wish us Good Morning, and we'd check our watch.
Besides, it's not really how many times Bill Clinton has lied that has cost him his credibility, but the way he tells the truth -- so qualified, so cagey, so full of trapdoors and clinton clauses, till his politics are neither true nor false, just clintonesque.
An honest, straightforward lie would be a step up for this president. It could be unmasked, admitted, disowned, repented for. But careful, calculating, technically non-perjurious dissembling ... how do you clean that up?
And is truthfulness really a matter of balancing falsehoods against accuracies, and seeing which comes out ahead, like counting assets and liabilities?
Could a lifelong liar tell just one truth and save his soul? For isn't the chance of redemption eternal?
And could telling a lie be the finest thing someone who's always been honest and trustworthy do? ( "Nein, mein Herr,'' said the old woman who was hiding the American fliers in her attic, "I haven't seen any strangers in the village.`)
So is that all Bill Clinton's great Apologia pro su Vida, his philosophical inquiry into the nature of truth, going to amount to --a bean count? But truthfulness isn't some kind of mechanical balance sheet. It's not so much the words we say, but the meaning we convey. It's a matter of good faith. It's what we are, habitually. And everyone knows what this president is, habitually.
Talk about discretion: Bill Clinton had his vice president do the honors at a White House Conference on domestic violence. Good move.
Al Gore was able to give his speech, as he always does, with a straight face, including this timely passage: "Physical brutality at the hands of a partner or spouse is not simply love gone wrong, or someone needing to blow off steam at the end of the day. It is criminal assault, pure and simple. We don't do anybody any favors, least of all abusers, when we ignore it.''
No need to go into detail; the vice president didn't mention Juanita Broaddrick.
The best part of Hillary Clinton's speech at the United Nations didn't make the AP story. "It is no longer acceptable,'' said the first lady, "to say that the abuse and mistreatment of women is cultural. It should be called what it is -- criminal.'' She didn't mention Juanita Broaddrick, either.
By now, Mrs. Broaddrick may be the most immediately thought of but never mentioned figure in any speech on women's rights by spokesmen for this administration.
Here's the latest from our fearless attorney general: "Scrap independent counsel law, Reno urges'' said the headline atop Page 5A of the paper the other day. Gosh, some of us thought she'd already done that.
Welcome back, Mike Espy! Yes, the former secretary of agriculture is back with the federal government. He seems to have passed this administration's high ethical test: He's been acquitted.
Mr. Espy's taking those gifts may have led to his resignation as secretary of agriculture, but now that it's been established that he was only being sleazy, not criminal, he's been appointed senior adviser to the Department of Energy -- though without pay. One wonders just what Mike Espy can be advising the Energy Department about, how to accept gifts without breaking the law?.
There is apparently no basis for the speculation that Webb Hubbell should also be back in the administration any day now -- advising Janet Reno. That's ridiculous. After the crackerjack job she's done investigating Chinagate, our attorney general scarcely needs advice about how to ignore the law.
Kenneth Starr is the informal defendant in more than one official proceeding by now. Mark Geragos, Susan McDougal's defender, has put the independent counsel on trial here in Little Rock, and now Mr. Starr is being investigated by our ever alert Justice Department, too.
Janet Reno may have proven the sleepiest of watchdogs when it comes to campaign contributions from our Chinese comrades, but now she's nipping at the independent counsel's heels -- like Fearless Fosdick plugging every cop in sight in his single-minded devotion to the law.
Is this administration's pursuit of Ken Starr politically motivated? How could anyone think such a thing! To quote Eric Holder, the still unconfirmed deputy attorney general, "That is a bunch of crap. That's c-r-a-p.''
Mr. Holder's spelling is impeccable. Indeed, it may be the only impeccable thing about
this administration. Which of course is the most ethical in American history. Bill Clinton
03/24/99: Once more into the quagmire