Archive for November, 2005

Clinton, Libby, and Perjury

Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

(Alternate title: “Behold the Clinton Legacy.”)

There is an interesting bit of hypocrisy going on lately — interesting because it is a simultaneous mirror-image on either side of the political fence, and both sides are almost precisely equally wrong.

Back in the 90s, President Clinton was questioned under oath before Congress in proceedings relating to a criminal investigation. He lied. The government prosecuted, and ultimately impeached him, for lying, even though what he was lying about was basically insignificant. If he had told the truth, he would have only had to weather a fairly minor sex scandal, but in the process of covering the minor acandal, he committed a bigger crime and got himself in a lot of trouble. The Republicans, properly, pursued this breach of the law. The Democrats gathered in Clinton’s defense, saying in essence that since the underlying crime being investigated was insignificant (e.g. it was “just about sex”), the lying under oath was insignificant.

Jump forward several years. In an investigation over what ultimately turned out to be an insignificant non-crime, Scooter Libby reportedly lied in testimony under oath. The Democrats are screaming for blood, and the Republicans are rallying around their man. In most of the articles by conservatives I’ve read regarding the case, I’ve repeatedly heard the argument that since the underlying investigation regarded something that was not actually a crime (the naming of Valery Plame as a CIA agent), lying about it was no big deal.

In other words, conservatives are using precisely the same argument for Libby that Democrats used to defend Clinton. Pundits of both parties are being entirely hypocritical, and both are in the wrong. If Democrats really believed what they argued in the Clinton case, they would be making the same argument regarding Libby, and the whole thing would be a non-story. Ditto the Republicans, except of course they would now aggressively be pursuing Libby.

Legally speaking, Clinton was wrong, and Libby, if he did what he is accused of doing, was also wrong. Both actions are crimes that undermine out system of justice, and both warrant punishment. (I have no opinion at this point as to whether or not Libby is guilty.)

Anyway, what brought this up is that almost all the blogs I’ve read by conservatives argue that no crime was commited, and I have a problem with that arguement. The fact that it is so widespread is troublesome as well.

Finally, yesterday I found one blog that is on the right track: Cold Fury. Today I found one other post over at Cerberus Blog. Both are pretty good reads, but I especially recommend the second. One quote hammers it home:

[I]t is an arrow straight at the heart of some things that are a wrong with American society and politics. A self-serving liar is no longer seen as a despicable sociopath, but rather as someone who is â??playing the gameâ?.

Amen, brother. Behold the Clinton Legacy.