Many have asked Bill Clinton to resign as president, but when I call
for his resignation, it’s personal. You see, Bill and Hillary were
classmates of mine at Yale Law School in the early ’70s. I used to have
tremendous respect for Bill and Hillary. In fact, Bill’s campaign even
called me when the Gennifer Flowers story broke and asked me to speak
out in defense of his morals. They knew that I had testified for
Clarence Thomas a half year earlier and obviously felt that my support
I must confess that I made a big mistake. I thought that I could
trust Bill Clinton to tell to truth about something as important as
marital fidelity. I didn’t think that he would use a classmate and lie
to America. I was wrong on all counts.
In the spring of 1992, I told the Texas press that “there is no way
Bill Clinton would violate his marriage with Hillary for something like
Gennifer Flowers. Hillary is a wonderful, bright, sensitive woman;
Gennifer is a bar singer. I know Hillary and Bill and I just don’t
believe Gennifer Flowers’ claims. Anyway, no reputable newspaper has
followed up on this story and I am not ready to let the Star decide who
America can vote for.”
At the time I spoke, both Bill and Hillary knew that he had “sexual
relations” with Ms. Flowers. Both knew that they were using one of their
“friends” in the most venal and exploitative way. They apparently
believed that if they lied loud enough and long enough, they could turn
night into day. What’s ironic is that if they had settled with Paula
Jones in 1992, they just might have gotten away with it.
Bill Clinton never met his natural father. His mother played the
horses on Sunday after church and his stepfather was an alcoholic. Some
have suggested that Bill’s background made him predisposed to not tell
the truth. I didn’t attend Georgetown with Bill, but I know that the
Jesuits didn’t teach him that lying under oath and adultery was OK.
I want to use this last column of 1998 to talk about what Bill
learned, or should have learned, when he was at Yale.
Yale Law School holds a very special place in American history. It
and Harvard have been ranked as the best law schools in America for
decades. Yale’s small size and low student-to-teacher ratio results in a
very unusual and intense learning environment. Yale’s law faculty stress
a strong awareness of and commitment to doing the right thing for the
right reason even when no one is watching. Integrity, decency and honor
are key parts of what it means to be a Yale Law grad.
The Yale Law School that Hillary, Bill and I attended was struggling
to educate lawyers at a time when a political revolution was rocking
America. The bombing of Cambodia and Laos resulted in massive student
protests across America. Students died at Kent State University in Ohio
and Jackson State University in Mississippi. They were trying Black
Panthers for murder in New Haven and someone even tried to burn down
part of the law library.
In the midst of this chaos, Professor Johnstone talked to us about
the meaning of being a Yale Law student. It was a message that all of
us, including Bill and Hillary, got in many forms during our three years
at Yale. Here is what the good professor said:
- Gentlemen and ladies, some of you have asked why we don’t give
you letter grades or issue class rankings. We don’t do this at Yale
because you are the cream of the crop and one doesn’t try to separate
cream. They accepted every one of you who applied to Harvard Law School,
but since Harvard’s first year class is three times larger than ours,
Yale rejected most of the people who now attend Harvard. You are,
therefore, the best law students in the world.
Don’t take any of this personally. The easy part is over; you’ve been
accepted. You now must accept your fate as a Yale Law student. For it is
your fate to have a major impact on the world of the law. Some of you
will become judges, some will become senior partners of the most
powerful law firms in the world, others will become politicians. This
will happen not because you necessarily deserve it. This will happen
because that is what people who graduate from Yale Law School do. It is
your fate. If you don’t believe me, look at the pictures on the walls of
this Law School.
Grades are not important anymore. What is important is that someone’s
life will be in your hands when you become a lawyer. If you do a good
job, you may save someone’s life or property. If you do a poor job, your
client may die or lose all of their money. Your job at Yale is to work
harder than you ever have in your life, because when you graduate, no
one will care about your grades. All they will care about is what you do
for or to your clients.
The job of the faculty is to help you think about what the law should
be, not what it is. Any law school can teach you about what’s written in
the law books. We have a good library and assume that you can read. No,
our job is to teach you how to make the law work better. Our job is to
make sure that when you graduate and start running this country, you
won’t screw things up.
I graduated from Yale in 1972 and Bill and Hillary graduated in
1973. In 1974, Gerald Ford, a Yale Law School grad, became president of
the United States. In 1980, Pat Robertson, a Yale Law School grad, ran
for president. In 1992 Jerry Brown, Paul Tsongas and Bill Clinton
battled for the Democratic Party’s nomination. All of them were Yale Law
School graduates. They were fighting for the right to face George Bush,
a Yale College graduate.
Near the end of our stay at Yale, Professor Chirelstein gave us a
very pragmatic “sermon” about why it didn’t make sense to lie. Here’s
what he said:
- Ladies and gentlemen, I want to talk to you today about why you
should always tell the truth. I don’t know what your religious or moral
convictions are, and quite frankly, I don’t care. I would hope that your
beliefs are such that you would never want to lie. However, I want to
talk about why you shouldn’t lie even if you believe in nothing.
When you tell the truth to somebody, everyone stays on the same page.
When you tell someone a lie, you create three “realities.” The first, of
course, is the truth, that which really happened. The second is the lie,
the “reality” that the person you lied to now believes is the truth. The
third “reality” is a world that only you can see. It is the world where
your lie has modified the truth and how that modification affects the
person you lied to.
Think about it. You tell someone a lie Tuesday and by Friday, many
events that are out of your control have intersected with you and the
person you lied to. Each of you interprets these new events through your
view of the “truth” or “reality.” Each time an event occurs where your
lie plays a role in the other person’s view of “reality,” that event
creates three new lines of “reality.” The first is the growing world of
your lie, which is their only reality. The second is the growing world
of the truth. The third is the growing world of the marriage of the lie
and the truth. As you can see, very quickly, one little “white lie”
generates an almost impossible set of combinations and permutations. And
that’s just with one lie!
Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know about you, but I have a hard
enough time trying to remember what actually happened without making my
life more difficult by having to remember three realities for every
event. So again, I would hope that you would tell the truth because it’s
the right and moral thing to do. But, at the minimum, why don’t you tell
the truth because it’s also the easiest thing to do.
Now I don’t know if Bill heard what I have shared with you word
for word. But, I do know that these messages were repeated frequently at
Yale. They made an impression on me, Clarence Thomas and a whole host of
Yale Law grads. Somehow, Bill didn’t get it.
Years from now, many will look back at Bill’s presidency as one of
God’s ironic gifts to the world. Since Bill and many of his supporters
are immoral, people all over the world have been forced to ask hard
questions about what is right. Parents have been forced to explain to
their children why adultery is not O.K. and lying has real and serious
At his core, Bill Clinton and his supporters want us to accept him as
a monarch who is above the law. But God is now, has always been and
always will be the only true King. God’s rules are clear about what Bill
has done. Simply said, it’s wrong to cheat on your wife, use your
friends and lie to the world. Everything has consequences. Even, Bill,