A Pox on the President

A Pox on the President

A Pox on the President

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Dec. 14 1998 8:37 PM

A Pox on the President

Chatterbox has thus far held three opinions about Flytrap:

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  1. From late January until word leaked out about Clinton's grand jury testimony in August, Chatterbox thought: Hmm. Sounds bad. Let's find out more.
  2. From late August until Election Day, Chatterbox thought: Clinton should resign because a.) He probably committed a felony and b.) Otherwise a plague of locusts will descend upon the Democratic Party. Chatterbox also toyed with favoring impeachment, provided the process could be quick and clean (which of course it can't).
  3. After Election Day, Chatterbox duly noted that the American people wanted Washington to move on, and concluded that this would perhaps be best, even though Clinton had still probably committed a felony. (Chatterbox also observed that a plague of locusts had not descended upon the Democratic party, though he hasn't ruled out the long-term possibility of same.)

Now Chatterbox is feeling sorely tempted to adopt a fourth and final opinion about Flytrap: Impeach! The process still isn't going to be quick and clean, and the public still opposes it. Those remain powerful reasons not to impeach, and in calmer moments, Chatterbox recognizes that. But when Chatterbox opened his newspapers this morning and read that Clinton had yesterday flatly stated, "I did not commit perjury," Chatterbox thought: I can't take it any more! Get him out of there! I don't care how much agony it puts the country through, just get rid of him!

It's possible when Clinton said, "I did not commit perjury," he meant, "Sure, I lied under oath, in both a civil and criminal proceeding, but that does not constitute perjury." Clinton's defenders, including his own lawyers, have argued that "lying under oath" does not necessarily equal "perjury." Barney Frank, whom Chatterbox briefly suspected was sliding into the hard-core Anthony Lewis "he didn't lie under oath" camp, has since stated that he thinks Clinton lied under oath but didn't commit perjury. Why doesn't Clinton himself exploit this legalistic distinction by fessing up to the lying but disputing the perjury? Wouldn't such a modified limited hangout make Republican moderates feel that impeaching him would just be kicking a guy when he's down? Mightn't it therefore tilt the balance against impeachment on the House floor? But Clinton won't do it. Why not? Because, Chatterbox assumes, deep down even Clinton suspects that the distinction between "lying under oath" and "perjury" is a phony one.

--Timothy Noah