The Blue Dress
Lars Poulsen - 1998-09-14
we could finally read on the Internet that Monica wasn't bluffing:
She really had secured a memoir of "the Big Guy". But while this
may have been what most of the readers were looking for, there
was something much worse in there: A good case for perjury.
Most people seem to think that the Lewinsky affair was about sex,
but I disagree. While distasteful, the sex is Washington business
as usual. As long as there has been government in Washington, DC,
bright and beautiful women have been trekking there to have sex
with the powerful men, and many have indeed found it worth their
time and efforts. In this respect, Monica was quite successful,
but not unusual. And for all of that time, the company of these
women has been seen as one of the fringe benefits of a political
Up until the release of the report, I was supporting the president,
however much it made me cringe. Unlike Jessica Hahn, and maybe
Paula Jones, it seems fairly clear that Monica Lewinsky was
not a victim of sexual harassment, but a willing instigator.
Until I read about the cigar, I was willing to believe, that
Clinton - as the seasoned lawyer that he is - had managed to
trick the Grand Jury into accepting a definition of sexual
relations that would let him truthfully claim that he had not
had sexual relations with her (although she had with him).
"I did not inhale" at a lower level ... roughly 18 inches lower:
"But I did not ejaculate!" It was clear that he had blatantly
lied in his public statements, but there was still hope that he
had technically not commited perjury. Now that we have lost
that last hope, I can no longer support the president: He should
resign immediately, and if he will not do that, the Congress
should remove him through impeachment.
There are those who will say that he has suffered enough, and
we should forgive him and be done with it. They claim a variety
of reasons, each of which I shall try to address. But the core
of my argument is that if we allow perjury to go unpunished,
we will need to re-think a lot of our criminal procedure law,
and I do not think we can accept the consequences.
Here, then are some of the arguments raised in the president's
- He was entrapped by Kenneth Starr, and had no choice but
Mr Clinton was telling convenient "white lies", and not
expecting to be put under oath. When he was compelled to
testify under oath, he had several choices available:
- He could have "taken the fifth", i.e. refused to
testify "on the grounds that his answers might
incriminate him". Since Paula Jones was at the
time pressing sexual harassment charges against
him, this would have been an entirely appropriate
- He could have - through his lawyers - made a case
that he would refuse to testify about intimate
details, unless the secrecy of the proceeding
could be guaranteed. After some (probably weak)
assurance was given, he could have confessed
to the grand jury and continued to protest his
innocence in public.
- He could have come clean in public as in the jury.
With hindsight, it is clear that this would have
been the best choice, and if he had done that
in January, the case would have been over in March.
It would have been embarrasing, but he would have
been forgiven. And none of the details would ever
have had to come out.
- Everyone else would have taken the fifth, but that was
"politically unavailable" to the president
Those who make this argument seem to forget that taking
the fifth is almost always inconvenient for the
not-yet-indicted suspect-as-witness, because it usually
is tantamount to an admission of guilt. In fact, much
useful testimony is brought forth in criminal trials
solely because the threat of harsh punishment for perjury
compels the witness. I see no reason
why we should have different rules for presidents than
for the rest of us, so the consequence of this defense
amounts to an automatic exemption from perjury charges
in any situation where a witness is lying with the
intent of concealing his own culpable behaviour.
The effect of this would be to make most testimony
useless in cases with multiple defendants.
- The perjured testimony occurred in the prosecution of a
case that was subsequently dropped, and so the
perjured testimony is now moot.
Again, the general application of this principle would
leave our criminal courts in chaos.
- Allowing impeachment proceedings to go forward will
undermine the constitution and damage the office
of the Presidency.
That's what Nixon's supporters said; it was wrong then,
and I think it is wrong now. The damage was done not
by the impeachment process, but by the actions that made
it necessary. There have been many impeachments started,
but the unworthy ones tend to disappear quickly and quietly
in the dusty halls of the House committees.
- Too much time and money has been spent already, let's just
It is too late to pretend we do not know. Now that we
do now, we have to act according to that knowledge.
And at this point, the time and money spent from here
on out is in the President's hand.
- The matter is unrelated to the president's office and
work, therefore the impeachment process is overkill
It is my understanding that the impeachment process is the
only avenue for pressing criminal charges against a
sitting president. If a sitting president assaulted someone
after a night of drinking, that charge would also be
unrelated to his work in office, but we would nevertheless
expect to prosecute it.
I like Bill Clinton, and the only reason I did not vote for him
is that as a foreign national I cannot vote (without committing
perjury on my voter registration),
but I think his transgressions are bad enough
that he should hand the baton to Al Gore. Yes, I know there are
those who would impeach Gore for making personal telephone calls
during office hours, but I really do not expect the impeachment
articles on those charges to ever come before the House.
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