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Jewish World Review/ September 23, 1998/3 Tishrei, 5759

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez Believable and truthful are two different things

FOR A MOMENT, as I watched President Clinton's videotaped testimony on Monday, I thought he might actually be telling the truth when he said he didn't lie in his original deposition in the Paula Jones case and didn't encourage anyone else to lie either. He seemed so darned earnest.

Maybe he believed everything he was saying. Oral sex isn't sex. He couldn't remember being alone with Monica Lewinsky. He was only trying to refresh his memory when he told Betty Currie that Monica and he "were never really alone, right? Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?" Everything in the president's demeanor, captured on the videotape, suggested candor. He wasn't sullen or particularly evasive. He gave long-winded answers, with far more detail than you'd expect from a witness who has something to hide. In sum, the president was believable --- which may be all that matters to the American public.

But being believable and being truthful are two different things. Bill Clinton has mastered the art of believability, which is what makes him such a dangerous liar. Those to whom he's lied most frequently and directly -- the press, Democrats in Congress, his own staff and Cabinet -- have become expert at trying to read between Bill Clinton's lines to discern the nuance in his answers to simple questions. They've learned through bitter experience that the president can never be trusted to tell the plain truth, so they must maintain constant vigilance to his every word. With Bill Clinton, it's not only what is said that is important but what is unsaid.

Most people, however, have neither the time nor the inclination to spend analyzing Bill Clinton's every phrase and gesture. They're looking only for the general meaning and broad message. When Bill Clinton says he had an "inappropriate" relationship with Monica Lewinsky, they hear an admission that he had sex with her. As far as they're concerned, that settles the issue of whether Bill Clinton committed perjury in his grand jury testimony on Aug. 17. In their minds, he didn't -- which is why they oppose impeachment. Nothing President Clinton said in the videotape released Monday is likely to change that popular opinion.

So, what next? Democrats will point to opinion polls to argue that it's time to move on. But it's unlikely Republicans will heed their advice because they believe -- with good cause -- that the president not only perjured himself both in the Jones' deposition and in his grand jury testimony but encouraged others to lie as well. No matter how much the Democrats want this matter to go away, it won't. The House Judiciary Committee will conduct hearings and report articles of impeachment, and the Republican-controlled House will vote for impeachment. But unless public opinion polls begin to shift quickly and dramatically, the Senate will not muster the two-thirds vote necessary to remove the president.

In a narrow sense, Bill Clinton seems to have won his battle to remain president, but neither he nor the Democrats should take much solace in this victory. The president has destroyed his own image and lost any hope of accomplishing his legislative agenda in the remainder of his presidency. And the Democratic Party will lose even more for having won the fight to keep their president in office. Bill Clinton will be the Democrats' albatross not only in congressional elections this November but in the next presidential election, too.

And the Republicans could well win for losing their fight to oust Bill Clinton. So long as they conduct themselves judiciously during an impeachment inquiry, Republicans will benefit by having a disgraced Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. He will be a constant reminder to voters that Democrats can't be fully trusted. Come 2000, Republicans will be far better poised to retake the presidency and expand their majority in Congress.


9/16/98: Time for a new Amendment!
9/08/98: When silence is truly golden
8/25/98: Bears and blunders
8/25/98: Only consistency about Prez's anti-terrorism policy: its inconsistency
8/18/98: Is our 'broken-compass' beyond fixing?
8/11/98: Reno's risk
8/04/98: When Truth is of the highest odor
7/28/98: No way to protect ourselvesagainst a nut's wrath
7/22/98: These 'choice' advocates are being demonzied ... by the Left.
7/15/98: Will 'neonaticide' become the new buzzword?
7/07/98: Urge to mega-merge, stopped in time
6/30/98: Why take responsibility if
somebody else will pay?
6/23/98: Blinded by the red, or is it the green?
6/17/98: Flotsam in the wake of romance
6/10/98: We have a ways to go in the bilingual war
6/3/98: Tyson's triumph over tragedy
5/28/98: Why Univision's Perenchio is out to hurt his fellow Hispanics
5/20/98: Sometimes Buba actually tells the truth ... as he sees it
5/12/98: Chill-out on the chihuahua and ... Seinfeld
5/8/98: The revolution is just about over
4/28/98: Let's face it: both parties are full of hypocrites
4/21/98: Legislating equality
4/14/98: One down, many to go
4/7/98: Mexican mayhem?
3/31/98: Of death and details
3/25/98: Americans are unaware of NATO expansion
3/18/98: Intellectual-ghettoes in the name of diversity
3/11/98: Be careful what you wish for ...
3/4/98: The Press' Learning-disability
2/25/98: 50 States Are Enough!
2/18/98: Casey at the Mat
2/11/98: The legal profession's Final Solution
2/4/98: Faith and the movies
1/28/98: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Politics Vs. Principle
1/21/98: Movement on the Abortion Front
1/14/98: Clones, Courts, and Contradictions
1/7/98: Child custody or child endangerment?
12/31/97: Jerry Seinfeld, All-American
12/24/97: Affirmative alternatives: New initiatives for equal opportunity are out there
12/17/97: Opening a window of opportunity (a way out of bilingual education for California's Hispanic kids)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.