No Way Out

by Patrick J. Buchanan – July 31, 1998

In August of the sixth year of his presidency, Richard Nixon resigned. In August of the sixth year of his presidency, Bill Clinton must contemplate the same end.

For if what Monica is telling Ken Starr is true — that she and the president had a sexual relationship and agreed to lie about it, under oath — how does Clinton survive?

Is perjury consistent with remaining Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States?

Clinton’s defenders have a new fallback position. “Lying about sex” in a civil trial is inconsequential, they say, and never prosecuted. But if that is true, why did Monica need immunity? What was Monica’s mother, Marcia Lewis, given immunity from?

If a 25-year-old ex-intern is at risk of prosecution and prison for “lying about sex” in a civil suit, does not the same law and risk apply to the 50-year-old president-lawyer who did the same thing?

Reporters say Clinton plans to tell Starr the identical story he told in his deposition in the Paula Jones suit, i.e., he never had sex with “that woman.” His lawyers had best sit Mr. Clinton down and explain: If he lies this time, he risks far more than his presidency; he risks a post-presidential trip to a federal prison farm.

Speaking of the president’s lawyers, everyone in the White House Counsel’s office who spoke with him about how to handle Monicagate, including Charles Ruff, can now expect subpoenas to address the grand jury. For if Bruce Lindsay, a Clinton confidante and White House counsel, does not have lawyer-client privilege in his conversations with the president, they surely do not. And a U.S. appellate court has said Bruce must talk.

A few of the president’s men yet insist he is telling the truth, and Monica and all the other women are lying about him. But if Clinton did not have a sexual relationship with Monica, he is the victim of a conspiracy more vast and vicious than any this city has ever seen. Why is he not screaming his innocence to the heavens?

Consider what we must believe, in order to believe Clinton has told the truth. We must believe that Monica, given total immunity from any prosecution, now plans to put herself in direct jeopardy of prison, by going into a grand jury and telling a stinking pack of lies about an innocent president. Included in that rotten pack of lies, she will confess to lewd and lascivious conduct — in which she never engaged. Why would a woman do this?

Clinton’s story no longer passes the laugh test.

This brings us to the course of action recommended by many of his supporters: Bring in Starr on August 17, tell the truth, whole and entire, admit to a sexual relationship with Monica, go on national TV to explain why he lied and apologize. Americans are a forgiving people; they will forgive him, and we can all “move on.”

The problem with Operation Candor is that if the president admits he committed perjury in his deposition for the Paula Jones case, Starr’s next question will be: “Did your lawyers know that you committed perjury, or did you lie to them, too?” If Clinton says the lawyers did not know, one may contradict him. If he says the lawyers did know, Bob Bennett et al. will be in the soup beside him.

Also, if Mr. Clinton admits he lied in his deposition, he puts himself at risk of a new suit by Paula charging him with a criminal tort in destroying her constitutional right to a fair trial by having committed perjury. Not only will Paula’s harassment suit be back on the docket, she will have a new charge against the president. The Rutherford boys will be back in business.

Indeed, if Clinton admits to lying about Monica under oath — he has already admitted he lied publicly in denying an affair with Gennifer Flowers — there will be a natural presumption on the part of the jurors in the Jones suit that he also lied about Paula. That could cost the Clintons a cool million dollars.

Should the president admit to having lied to the country, he would be admitting also to having exploited and made fools of his lawyers, aides and supporters, who have all been vouching for his truthfulness in the media for six months.

How do you lead people, after you’ve done that to them?

Unsolicited advice to Mr. Clinton: If the truth may kill your presidency, any perjury on Aug. 17 will surely do so — and it will be the beginning of criminal proceedings against you, if they are not already assured. Better to defy Starr’s subpoena, and even defy a Supreme Court order to testify. At least, then, you will be defending the presidency, and not just yourself.