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Jewish World Review Feb. 11, 2000 / 5 Adar 1, 5760

Nat Hentoff

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You bet we should
disbar Bubba -- ON JAN. 26, William Jefferson Clinton talked about his legacy on the Public Broadcasting System's "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer." The host said diffidently that he was "compelled" to ask the president about the unpleasantness concerning his having been impeached.

"I believe I defended the Constitution and the presidency against a serious threat," said Clinton -- more than implying that his travail was caused by a right-wing conspiracy.

Lehrer failed to ask this most shameless of all our presidents to respond to the fact that he is the first American in history to be held in contempt by a federal district judge.

Judge Susan Webber Wright from Arkansas said that Clinton's unabashed lying in his deposition in the Paula Jones case violated "this court's orders by giving false, misleading and evasive answers that were designed to obstruct the judicial process.... He has engaged in... conduct that undermines the integrity of the judicial system."

Moreover, Richard Posner, Chief Judge of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, says of this "defender of the Constitution" in his book, "An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton" (Harvard University Press, 1999):

"Clinton engaged in a pattern of criminal behavior and obsessive public lying, the tendency of which was to disparage, undermine, and even subvert the judicial system of the United States, the American ideology of the rule of law, and the role and office of the President."

Posner also cites Clinton's "obstruction of justice... which includes perjury, when committed in either a civil or criminal proceeding." Do you remember all those legal experts on cable television -- and of course, the president's then White House counsel, Charles Ruff -- who assured us that the president had been TRUTHFUL in his grand jury testimony?

On this presidential record that should clearly have led the Senate to convict Clinton -- if that body had enough profiles of courage and dedication to the Constitution -- it is not surprising that the Supreme Court of Arkansas has ordered its bar ethics committee to get going on a complaint by the Southeastern Legal Foundation that Clinton be disbarred.

Said Matthew Glavin, president of that organization, to the Washington Times: "He lied and he obstructed the judicial process and was held in contempt for this."

Why has it taken 16 months since the complaint was filed (Sept. 15, 1998) for the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility to act on these charges? This is not an ordinary lawyer. This is the chief executor of the laws of the United States!

On Jan. 27 of this year, the Supreme Court of Arkansas finally emphasized that "our procedures mandate that the (ethics) committee accept and treat as a formal complaint any writing signed by a judge of a court of record. Thus, a judge's complaint requires little or no action by the executive director or the committee before the committee must begin its procedures in notifying (Mr. Clinton) of the charges... so the attorney (Mr. Clinton) can explain or refute them."

According to the Washington Times, the procedure is that if the president does not explain or refute those charges within 30 days, the director of the ethics committee has to issue ballots to the committee members who will vote, and who are empowered to punish Clinton.

The day the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered its ethics committee to start moving, Frank Murray of the Washington Times reported: "White House spokesman James Kennedy refused again to say whether such charges ever were forwarded to the president and answered by him. `We've never chosen to comment. We're just not commenting one way or another,' Kennedy said."

This president, who keeps repeating in public that he was defending the Constitution and the rule of law during his impeachment, refuses to tell the citizenry why he shouldn't be disbarred.

Presumably, we should simply have faith in his dedication to the Constitution. Just as -- at the beginning of this reign -- he asked us to believe that he would have the most ethical administration in American history. "It's hard for me to think about all that stuff," Clinton said to Jim Lehrer about the impeachment. And many Americans seem to think it happened long ago.

But they will surely be reminded during the present presidential campaign.

JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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12/28/99: Drug tests that tear families apart
12/20/99: Get ready for decisive ruling on school vouchers for religious schools
12/13/99: Guess who is taking the lead in anti-slavery movement? Hint: It ain't Rev. Jesse
12/06/99: When we refuse to buy the 'otherly-challenged' excuse
11/29/99: Expelling 'Huck Finn'
11/22/99: Pleading the First
11/16/99: Goal of diversity needs rethinking?
11/08/99: Prosecution in darkness
11/02/99: The accuracy that's owed to readers
10/26/99: Disappeared Americans
10/18/99: The blue wall of silence
10/11/99: Bill Bradley's speech tax
10/04/99: 'Technicalities' that keep us free
09/27/99: Our 'Americanism'-ignorant generation
09/20/99: ACLU better clean up its act
09/13/99: A professor of infanticide at Princeton
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08/23/99: Lawyerly ethics
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07/26/99: Lady Hillary and the press

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