Concerning the Arkansas disbarment proceedings against Bill Clinton,
"the president's credentials as an attorney are under challenge because
he decided, after careful planning, to testify falsely."
Believe it or not, those are not my words, but those of the venerable
friend of Bill, the New York Times. Even the Old Gray Lady didn't buy
into Clinton's preposterous claim that his deceptive testimony in the
Jones case was "legally accurate." Nor did Judge Wright who found
Clinton in contempt of court for "giving false, misleading and evasive
answers that were designed to obstruct the judicial process."
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Not to worry. Clinton still has his defenders. One of them, Gene
Lyons, explains why Clinton was justified in defrauding the court. "If
legally bound to tell the truth, most people would accept the argument
that Clinton had a moral right to hide his sin. (A morally defensible
lie? Sure. 'Is your Daddy home, little girl? Or are you here all
But Clinton will not stoop to defend himself. No, sir. He told NBC's
Tom Brokaw, "I will not personally involve myself in any of this until
I'm no longer president. It's not right. The only reason I agreed even
to appeal it is that my lawyers looked at all the precedents and they
said there's no way in the world, if they just treat you like everybody
else has been treated, that this is even close to that kind of case."
Intending no disrespect, do you not see the irony screaming out at us
here? While placing himself above the law he pretends to be the white
knight riding in to rescue the system. He is telling us that if he were
only looking at this from his own personal perspective he wouldn't
bother contesting the disbarment recommendation. How quaint.
Let me see if I can cut through the Clintonese and put this in
layman's terms: Anyone, including a federal judge, who dares to charge
Clinton with misconduct, is threatening our constitutional system. I'm
not being facetious. Isn't that exactly what he was saying when he
argued that by defending himself against impeachment he was defending
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And isn't that the very sort of unbounded hubris he was displaying
when he also told Tom Brokaw, "So the precedents contradict this
decision, and ultimately, the decision has to be made by a judge. And so
we're going to give the judge a chance to do what we believe is right,
and I think that's the right thing to do"? Bill Clinton, on his regal
throne, high above the reaches of the law, is going to give the lowly
judge a chance not to cross him.
That's precisely the contemptuous attitude he exhibited throughout
the Jones case and the impeachment proceedings. Do you not remember his
mocking derision before the grand jury? He could barely contain his
sneer when he said, "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."
I will concede the nearly unbelievable possibility that Clinton still
may be fooling some of his holdout Kool-Aid drinking loyalists when he
says that he won't be defending himself. But we students of Clinton know
that just as with Waco and Elian he is calling all of the shots, right
down to the molecular level. He has to defend himself because despite
what he and his buds are telling us, the humiliating disbarment
recommendation did not come from a partisan panel, but a judicial
tribunal. Unlike he has done with impeachment, he cannot paint this as
simply a matter of politics.
And one thing that Clinton is arguing, through his dutiful
surrogates, is that the court should consider his 20 years of public
service in mitigation of the charges against him. That might work --
except for one thing. In my limited experience as a criminal lawyer, I
can tell you that judges are not generally inclined toward leniency
unless the defendant is genuinely contrite about his wrongdoing.
Regardless of the court's ultimate decision in this matter, Clinton is
hardly a candidate for leniency. He is not a person who is humbly
placing himself at the mercy of the court, but a person, who through his
every defiant word and action tells us he is above the law. We'll just
have to wait and see if he's right.