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Jewish World Review / August 7, 1998 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell A flying walrus in Washington?

IT IS TRULY A TRIUMPH of hope over experience when various members of both political parties are calling for Bill Clinton to come out with a full and honest statement to the American people about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Asking Clinton to make an honest statement about anything is like asking a walrus to fly. It is an interesting idea but not very likely.

Long before anyone ever heard of Monica Lewinsky, the president's own supporters in the media, as well as in politics, repeatedly asked him to make a "full disclosure" about this or that questionable episode, so as to "get this all behind us" and turn to "the real issues." Bill Clinton remains president precisely because he did not follow their advice.

Clinton is a master of stalling and letting facts come out in isolated bits and pieces, so that few members of the general public have the time to put it all together and connect the dots. Being shameless helps. With a straight face, he can tell us how anxious he is to get the story out and get this all over with, while he drags everything through the courts, knowing full well that his claims of "privilege" are going nowhere with the judges.

The whole point of these claims is not to win in court. The point is to use up more time with appeals after they lose. The old Army game is hurry up and wait. The Clinton game is stall and complain about how long the investigation is taking.

Much of the speculation about how the president is going to handle his August 17th testimony assumes that he is in big trouble. But shamelessness may well rescue him once again.

A clue to his game plan may be Clinton's insistence on having a lawyer present when he testifies, even though no one else has had a lawyer present while testifying before this grand jury. Since Clinton is a graduate of the Yale law school, there would automatically be a lawyer present, even if he testified alone.

It may not be a question of having a lawyer present but of having a scapegoat present -- someone who can raise objections to questions, allowing Clinton not to answer without taking the legal or political responsibility for refusing to answer. This kind of stall could produce another series of legal appeals. The point would not be to win these appeals but take up enough time to drag the process out past the November elections.

Democrats running for office do not want this case blown wide open before the voters go to the polls. Another stall would solve that problem.

Eventually, of course, the legal issues would be resolved, perhaps sometime next year, and leave Clinton with three choices: He could admit that he committed perjury in the past when he denied under oath that he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. He could commit perjury again by denying it again in the face of growing evidence to the contrary. Or he could stonewall and risk contempt of court.

These would be very scary choices for you or me, but not for a sitting president with high popularity in the polls. Committing perjury is one thing; being indicted for it is another.

There is a serious legal question whether a sitting president can be indicted at all. As for impeachment, are the Republicans going to impeach him over something that has been successfully misrepresented to the public as "the president's private sex life"?

Even if the House of Representatives were to impeach, would the Senate convict Clinton and force him out of office? Very low odds. Like being struck by lightning.

The only high-risk strategy would be coming right out and telling the whole truth on August 17th: "Yes, Mr. Starr, I lied. I obstructed justice. I tampered with witnesses ... " Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Media pundits tell us that, even if Clinton escapes impeachment, he will be a "crippled" president politically going through the motions of serving out the remainder of his term but lacking the moral authority or public support to get his agenda enacted or leave his "legacy."

Not necessarily. The public forgets -- and many are already dying to forget this sleazy soap opera about Monica Lewinsky. Clinton's most urgent agenda is to remain in office and he will probably achieve that. His spin machine can always concoct a "legacy." Embarrassment? Not if you are shameless.

8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.