Its Not a
Lie Unless I Say It Is
The man who said the meaning of the word "is is open to question now insists that a lie is only a lie if he says it is.
In his up-to-now secret plea to an Arkansas Supreme Court committee in which he sought to avoid disbarment for giving false testimony, President Clinton makes the astonishing claim that his testimony was "not false as he defines the term.
Clintons apparent assumption of ultimate lexicographic authority giving him the right to define the meanings of words at his sole discretion came in a document submitted by his attorneys to the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct and kept secret until the Southeastern Legal Foundation made its response to Clintons 80-page filing public, thereby revealing the gist of Clintons pleading.
In a press conference yesterday, Foundation President Matthew J. Glavin characterized the president's 85-page response, submitted on April 21, as "a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible."
"[The president] acknowledged in his response that he misled the nation, his family, his friends and indeed the court. The president then spent 50 pages in his response ... trying to argue that he did not commit a crime," Glavin said.
According to Glavin, Clinton's filing disputes the need for disbarment and "suggests that a sanction no harsher and perhaps more lenient than a letter of reprimand would be appropriate."
By asking for nothing more than "a mere reprimand," Clinton "ignores the plain language of the ... most obvious, analogous case of presidential misconduct, that of Richard Nixon" who, the Foundation notes, was disbarred in New York despite the absence of criminal conviction or impeachment conviction. Nixon resigned before the Senate could hold an impeachment trial, thereby avoiding being convicted. In being pardoned by President Ford, he also avoided the possibility of a criminal conviction.
In its rebuttal, the Foundation argued that Clinton's admissions during his impeachment provided enough evidence that he misled courts in the Lewinsky matter to warrant revocation of his law license.
"The president is no ordinary Arkansas lawyer. Rather, he is the president of the United States of America and, as such, is held to the model rules requiring the higher ethical standard for attorneys who hold public office, even those who may become litigants or defendants," the Foundations response said.
Citing the fact that U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright had fined the president for contempt for giving false testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in the Paula Jones case, the Foundation used the judges 1999 findings when she mentioned 10 alleged lies by the president that "no reasonable person would seriously dispute," as well as Clinton's own admission he misled people during the Lewinsky affair.
"First, the president frankly admits the conduct at issue. Second, the allegations are findings of fact by a federal judge in a fully and fairly contested litigation as well as by the Congress in impeachment proceedings," the Foundations response said.
Describing Clinton's filing as a document in which "President Clinton spends the bulk of his 80-page brief attempting to show that his testimony was not 'false' as he defines that term," the Foundation said that the American Bar Association rules for professional conduct "proscribe misleading conduct" as the standard and do not even use the words "false testimony."
"While it is true, as the president asserts in his response, that 'charges of false testimony under oath with possibly penal consequences are a serious matter,' the matter before this committee does not deal with perjury by litigants as that term is used in criminal law but rather misconduct within the applicable standards for lawyers," the group argued.
The Foundation response also cited the president's legal filings from the impeachment trial as evidence he has already admitted to misleading Congress.
"What the president did was wrong. ... The simple moral truth [is] that his behavior in this matter was wrong. ... He misled his wife, his friends, and our nation about the nature of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky," the filing said, quoting one of the president's impeachment filings.
In revealing to the American people how Clinton defends his conduct, Clintons lawyer David Kendall said the Foundation is just picking on the president.
The Foundation sparked the Arkansas Supreme Court committees investigation by filing a complaint in September 1998 demanding that the president be disbarred from practicing law for lying under oath and obstructing justice about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky during the Paula Jones suit.
Judge Susan Webber Wright charged the president with two counts of civil contempt and fined him $90,000 but left open the possibility that the president could face criminal charges filed by the Independent Counsel's office after he leaves office.