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Jewish World Review May 30, 2000 / 25 Iyar, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Bubba's escape hatches -- PRESIDENT CLINTON believes that truth deferred is truth avoided. He has raised up that hoary shield of the tax lawyer to every downswing of the executioner's ax.

Charged with evading the Vietnam draft, he has publicly forgotten even getting the notice. Asked in Arkansas if he'd used drugs, he claimed to have never broken the law. Asked about Paula Jones, he denied ever being alone in a "hotel" with her. Asked about Monica, he said he didn't "recall" being alone with her, and specifically did not "believe" he was ever alone with her in that now-notorious West Wing back room.

This has been the Clinton story, as familiar now to friend as to foe. Caught, he has been the ready architect of denials, each designed with its escape hatch.

He did not deny being drafted, only that he could not recall the event. He did not deny using drugs, only of breaking U.S. laws. No one said he and Paula Jones were the only people in that entire Little Rock hotel building that day in 1991 when he had her to his room. No one can say the president did not lose all memory of those back-hall trysts with Monica.

A shrewd political bookkeeper, Clinton has saved his greatest asset, the presidency, deferring payment for these deceits.

Last Monday, the payment came due. The disciplinary committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court called Clinton's false testimony about Monica Lewinsky a case of "serious misconduct" and initiated disbarment proceedings.

Q: At any time were you and Monica Lewinsky alone in the hallway between the Oval Office and this kitchen area?

A: I don't believe so, unless we were walking back to the back dining room with the pizzas. I just... I don't remember. I don't believe we were alone in the hallway, no.

Clinton must now defend the truth of that statement and, along with it, his law license, to an Arkansas county circuit judge.

What judgment that jurist will render is impossible to predict. It was another Arkansas judge, Susan Webber Wright, who lit the fuse for eventual disbarment last year. She fined Clinton $90,000 for contempt of court for what she ruled to be his "intentionally false" testimony in that January 1998 deposition, then referred the matter to the Arkansas bar committee.

All this is a result of Clinton's having denied his relationship with Lewinsky to lawyers for Jones. They were trying to show a pattern of on-the-job misconduct with women. Clinton, for a variety of understandable reasons, refused to come clean. He not only denied getting together with Lewinsky but also denied having had the opportunity.

Thomas Jefferson once observed that the whole art of politics is the art of telling the truth.

In mustering his defense, Clinton practiced this art at a dazzling level of excellence. He will go down in the history books as a president who was impeached, perhaps even disbarred, but ended his eight years in office walking on water.

"When I'm not president anymore, I'll be happy to defend myself," he said Monday, defiantly demanding yet another stay of execution, displaying perhaps a final time his galling precept that truth deferred is truth avoided.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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05/19/00: Bubba's legacy involves AIDS
05/16/00: Dubyah's outlook for 'playoffs' remains perilous
05/11/00: Giuliani's travels
05/09/00: A Yale degree, a Bob Jones education
05/03/00: Show of force!
05/01/00: Abortion polls don't reflect reality
04/28/00: Bill Russell and American racism
04/24/00: Vietnam 25 -- The good, bad and ugly
04/19/00: Nader's threat to Gore in California
04/17/00: Berkeley politician visits with Elian's father
04/14/00: Clinton and the Castro curse
04/11/00: Men who saved Elián from the sea
04/06/00: Caine should coach politicians
04/03/00: No. 2 spots: Woman-to-woman?
03/29/00: Gray for veep and Gore might coast to victory
03/27/00: The secret life of a CIA wife
03/22/00: 'We're suckers for underdogs'
03/20/00: Bush's California dream vs. reality
03/06/00: Scary Gore vs. hopeful Bush
03/06/00: McCain's appeal to 'Reagan Democrats'
03/01/00: John McCain fits a hero's profile
02/28/00: Grading the American presidents
02/25/00: Clinton remains No. 1 issue
02/23/00: Will Ross Perot aid POW McCain?
02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State — Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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