WASHINGTON -- Pondering the many scrapes with the law and with public convention that the Clintons have suffered over the past dozen years of the Clinton Glory, we can ascertain one weird quirk shared by both eminences that explains their unprecedented string of scandals. Having reviewed both their autobiographies now, I see this one weird quirk standing out ever more starkly. The Clintons land in the soup most frequently because they lie when they do not have to, and they tell a whopper when a little white lie would be perfectly understandable.
Whether this gratuitous mendacity is a profound moral defect I leave to the theologians; what is unconscionable and cruelly exploitive is that after being caught in their lies so many times they continue to manipulate the passions of the more gullible sort of Democrat who has joined the Clintons in transforming their soap opera into one of the Democratic Party's national issues. Rather than "move on," as the phrase had it back in 2000, the Clintons' exploited dupes now devote their time to the Clinton cult rather than to fighting for preferred Democratic policies and untainted Democratic candidates.
In their autobiographies the Clintons may have had to skirt the truth occasionally -- many life-long politicians do. But they often tell lies that did not have to be repeated, many of which have clearly been refuted by subsequent legal proceedings and by scholarly or journalistic research. In her autobiography, Living History, Hillary did not have to lie all over again about when she first heard of her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clearly she knew early on. Nor did she have to dismiss Gennifer Flowers' longstanding affair with her husband in Arkansas as a "whale of a tale." Her continuing lies about her role in firing White House travel agents are equally gratuitous and reckless. She had done nothing worth lying about in any of these instances.
In My Life Bill Clinton claims to be morally healed. He claims he is making a clean breast of things. But he goes on to insist that Independent Counsel Ken Starr was guilty of leaking information against him. In every alleged leak that has been investigated by the courts and by journalists Starr has been exonerated. Clinton's lies are easily refuted, but he doggedly tells them anyway. Starr cannot comment, but his aides ought to.
At times My Life is written at the level of John Birch Society propaganda, and I mean no discourtesy to the Society if it still exists. Clinton practices what the historian Richard Hofstadter called "the paranoid style in American politics." It used to be characteristic of the far right. Now it is practiced by adepts close to the center of the Democratic Party. That is not a sign of political vitality.
I cannot begin to expose all the lies -- many of them, as I say, gratuitous-- in this, the most trivial presidential memoir ever written; but I can expose those made about The American Spectator, a magazine the Clintons place at the center of their imagined "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy." On page 711 he states that the trial of his old business partners, the McDougals, was somehow prejudiced by "the money and support Hale [David Hale, chief witness against the McDougals] had been receiving from a clandestine effort" at The American Spectator. Clinton's Justice Department first brought this charge of "money and support" (that is, witness tampering) against us back in 1998, and the consequence was to put us almost out of business -- though ho, ho, ho, here we stand exonerated, Purple Hearts and all.
After a year of fully cooperating with the government inquiry, I could savor -- as can any fair-minded American -- the final judgment of the grand jury's investigation of the Spectator. Encapsulated in the Independent Counsel's press release, it reads:
"After conducting an independent investigation into allegations the David Hale may have received payments to influence his testimony in matters within the jurisdiction of the Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC), the Office of Special Review has concluded that 'many of the allegations, suggestions and insinuations regarding the tendering and receipt of things of value were shown to be unsubstantiated or, in some cases, untrue.'"
Further the Office of Special Review concluded that "In some instances, there is little if any credible evidence establishing that a particular thing of value was demanded, offered or received. In other instances, there is insufficient credible evidence to show that a thing of value was provided or received with criminal intent defined by any of the applicable statues."
Nonetheless despite this rigorous government investigation of the trumped-up charge, Clinton continues to lie that a witness received "money and support" from us. A paragraph later he lies that the magazine paid "a former state trooper $10,000 for the ridiculous yarn accusing me of drug smuggling." No Spectator article ever accused Clinton of drug smuggling. Clinton has made this claim before, but anyone with eyes to read back issues of the magazine will perceive the lie. Nor did the magazine pay a trooper for such an article. Clinton even continues to lie about the magazine's initial Troopergate articles (there were two) that outlined his misuse of state credit cards and state employees and chronicled sexual behavior by Clinton that was almost precisely repeated in the carefully documented Lewinsky scandal.
Lying about all this again is, to my mind, a bit weird, as is continuing to lie about women after promising to tell the whole truth. Clinton really only confesses in this supposedly candid memoir to an affair with Lewinsky, thus ignoring the dozen or so other women who reasonable people will recognize were wronged by him.
The Clintons have lowered the standards of what is expected of a public figure. In their treatment of journalists who attract their ire they have also heightened the dangers a president can present to the First Amendment -- though I take some delight in having successfully stared the rascals down.
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