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Washington Post, Wednesday, September 16, 1998; Page A17
On Sept. 11, as he awaited the release of a report that would, quite credibly, accuse him of perjury, abuse of office and obstructing justice, President Clinton, under cover of an apology, served notice that he was instructing his lawyers to "mount a vigorous defense, using all available appropriate arguments."
It is now clear what the president considers "appropriate": more lying. The euphemism is that the president's lawyers are engaging in "hairsplitting." No, they are engaging in lying, in perpetuating and elaborating Clinton's past lies, the lies he insists he regrets. In its depravity, in its cynicism, in its sneering disdain for the law and for truth, it is an astonishing thing to witness.
The central question in the Clinton-Lewinsky case is whether Clinton committed perjury in his Jan. 17 deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, and later in his Aug. 17 testimony to Starr's grand jury.
In the January deposition, Clinton flatly and repeatedly denied that he had any sort of sexual relations with Lewinsky. In his grand jury appearance, he admitted, vaguely, to an improper sexual relationship with Lewinsky, but continued to insist that he had not perjured himself in the January deposition. The president's lawyers pretend that Clinton's statements were not perjury because the sex acts that took place between the president and the intern (the latter performing oral sex upon the former) did not fit a tortured legal definition of sex that had been agreed upon by the court.
But here, so to speak, is the rub: Even under the definition of sex that provides Clinton with his tissue of cover, Clinton clearly did have sex with Lewinsky. The definition says that "a person engages in 'sexual relations' when the person knowingly engages in or causes contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh or buttocks of another person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person." Lewinsky told the grand jury that in her 10 sexual encounters with Clinton, the president did indeed knowingly engage in contact with her genitalia and breasts with intent to arouse or gratify.
Thus, Clinton's testimony in the Jones deposition was perjury even under the terms of the agreed-upon definition. And so was his testimony to the grand jury:
Q: "The question is, if Monica Lewinsky says that while you were in the Oval Office, you touched her breasts, would she be lying?"
A: "That is not my recollection. My recollection is that I did not have sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky . . . as I understood this term to be defined" (italics added).
Q: "Including touching her breast, kissing her breast, touching her genitalia?"
A: "That's correct" (italics added).
On Sunday, Clinton's lawyers defended this perjury by uttering false statements across three networks. On ABC's "This Week," Sam Donaldson reminded David Kendall of Clinton's grand jury statement denying that he had sexual relations with Lewinsky, as defined, "including touching her breasts . . . touching her genitalia."
"And you say that's not a lie," said Donaldson.
"That is not a lie," said Kendall. Oh yes, it is, and Kendall must know it is.
On "Meet the Press," Tim Russert put a question to Charles F. C. Ruff, White House counsel: "Did the president lie before the grand jury when he said he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky?"
Ruff: "Absolutely not. The president testified before the grand jury truthfully." Oh no, he did not, and Ruff must know he did not.
That Clinton, through his mouthpieces, continues to lie proves, finally, that he must be impeached. He must be impeached not merely because he is a pig and a cad and a selfish brute. He must be impeached not merely because he sexually exploited and then discarded an employee under his supervision, nor because he used government resources and personnel to facilitate and cover up his sorry little affair. He must be impeached not merely because he abused the office entrusted to him by the people.
He must be impeached because he shows an utter and absolute contempt for the truth and for the law he has twice sworn to uphold. He must be impeached because, in a judicial proceeding, he knowingly lied under oath with intent to deceive, because he was given a chance to correct that lie in a second judicial proceeding and he lied again, because he persists in lying even still. He must be impeached because, in his pathology, he does great and heartless violence to other people and to the nation, and because he has made it clear that he is perfectly prepared to do more violence. He must be impeached because to not impeach him is to declare that this is what we accept in a president. He must be impeached because we are a nation of laws, not liars.
Michael Kelly is the editor of