THE MASTER LIAR STUMBLES
By JOHN PODHORETZ
BILL Clinton, who told MTV viewers in 1992 that
he had believed Anita Hill's account of her relationship with Clarence
Thomas, changed his tune during his videotaped appearance before the grand
"This reminds me, to some extent, of
the hearings when Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill were both testifying under
oath. Now, in some rational way, they could not have both been telling
the truth, since they had directly different accounts of a shared set of
facts," the president said. "When I heard both of them testify ... I believed
that they both thought they were telling the truth."
Now, that's a very revealing remark,
because what happened in the Thomas-Hill hearing was exactly the opposite
of what the president said. Seven years ago, Clarence Thomas sat there
on national television and denied every single allegation made against
him by Anita Hill. He did not allow any middle ground. According to Thomas,
Hill was a liar. You either believed him or you believed her. One of them
was telling the truth; one of them was a perjurer.
Clarence Thomas didn't try to argue
over the meaning of the words "is" and "alone," as Bill Clinton did. He
didn't say that oral sex wasn't sex, as Bill Clinton did. He didn't say
that Anita Hill had sex with him but he didn't have sex with Anita Hill
on 10 separate occasions, as Bill Clinton said of Monica Lewinsky.
Clarence Thomas didn't say he understood
how Anita Hill might have thought his actions constituted sexual harassment.
He said she was a liar.
And she was.
Bill Clinton can't say that Monica
Lewinsky is a liar, because she's not - or at least she ceased being as
bad a liar when she recanted her false affidavit in the Paula Jones case.
But the president decided to remain a liar, perhaps because being a liar
is one of his defining characteristics. So what he says is this instead:
There is no truth. There are no facts. When two people give varying accounts,
what you have is a "mysterious area." And besides, maybe what he means
by the word "is" doesn't correspond to your definition of the word "is."
And who's to say whether "alone" means "alone"?
But even those post-modern deconstructionist
assertions were lies because he clearly knows what the truth is and just
won't say. Otherwise, why would he have refused to answer all those questions
that called into dispute his assertion that whatever transpired between
him and Monica Lewinsky did not constitute sexual relations as he understood
A dozen times, Clinton would not respond
to specific inquiries made of him by Kenneth Starr's lawyers and grand
jurors. If you or I did that, we would go to jail. Susan McDougal spent
18 months in jail for precisely that. Unlike Susan McDougal, the president
had a perfectly acceptable way not to answer. All he had to do was assert
his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Ah, but doing that would have been
a fulfillment of the president's obligation to uphold the Constitution,
and he's way beyond that now. What fun would it be to invoke the Fifth
Amendment when he could simply "refer" to his opening "statement" that
he had had "inappropriate intimate contact" with Lewinsky?
Never mind that nobody else in the
history of the country has been able to avoid jail by the use of the phrase
"inappropriate intimate contact." Bill Clinton is a person of privilege,
and he believes that he deserves any and every privilege he can assert.
He's already wasted the country's time with "Secret Service privilege"
- also known as the "Hey, don't you be telling my old girlfriend that I've
got Eleanor Mondale in here' privilege.'" And don't forget the "if Bruce
Lindsey ever tells the truth under oath he and I are going to jail for
a hundred years so he'd better get some kind of privilege' privilege."
But his own private Fifth Amendment?
Now that was a gutsy play.
It has long been said that the president
is a good liar because he believes the lies he tells. (He knew more about
farming than any president before him, in case you haven't heard.) But
the man on that videotape was lying consciously, deliberately, purposefully
- hell, he even looked like he was enjoying it.
Sometimes, though, even liars get confused
and say something they can't possibly mean. Clinton did that at the conclusion
of his peroration on the Thomas-Hill matter.
"Fortunately, or maybe you think unfortunately,"
he said, "there was no special prosecutor to try to go after one or the
other of them, to take sides and try to prove one was a liar. And so Judge
Thomas was able to go on and serve on the Supreme Court."
Yes, that was Bill Clinton saying it
was "fortunate" that Clarence Thomas made it onto the Supreme Court. It
was the one true thing he said during all four hours of his grand-jury
testimony, and he didn't even believe it.