Google+
Close
Portrait of The Artists; to Grope or Not to Grope; See No Evil


Text  


Jonah Goldberg

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTISTS
The argument broiling in the well of the Senate between the House and the White House (and one should not forget that it is the House of Representatives, not the Republican party, not the CCC, not Linda Tripp, not Ken Starr, but the most democratic institution in our system of government petitioning for justice from the Senate) is like a painting by Georges Seurat. Pointillism, you might recall from that class where you were doodling World War II air battles in your notebook, is the school of painting where tiny dots are arranged so that only by stepping away from the canvas can you get the big picture. The White House is arguing — like a docent in the Louvre — that the Senate should look at the dots really, really closely. This reddish-brown fleck? What’s that? Pheh! You want to remove the presidentbecause of this? I break wind in your general direction if you think this.

Advertisement
Meanwhile, the House Managers are saying, step back into the middle of the room. Look at the whole thing — oops wait for the Japanese tourists in their Yoko Ono mourning garb to walk by. Okay now, look. See the picture? The president has been lying. He has been mocking you with his lies and disgusting behavior. See over here, down in the corner? That’s where the presidentsays he was never alone with Monica Lewinsky. Over here, that’s where he says that even though the painting looks reminiscent of Titian’s “The Rape of Europa,” Clinton, in fact, is not touching her erotically at all — at least not for her gratification.

It’s actually a very interesting argument, but of course the person who says just look at the dots rather than the big picture is lying. To be fair, the people who want to ignore the dots invite devastating criticism, but they are at least being sincere. The main defense of the Clinton lawyers is that when he lied he was really only telling half-truths. Greg Craig built this mountain of Pointillist quibbles. The presidentin fact could have believed Lewinsky’s affidavit was true because they shared a special understanding of what the meaning of sexual relations is. Of course, he left out the fact that Lewinsky testified before the grand jury that in fact she knew the affidavit was a lie when she signed it.

To be honest, it takes too much energy to run through all of the lies and more dismaying half truths the White House defense employed. So instead let’s make barely relevant allusions to really great movies. There is a scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Peter O’Toole and Claude Raines, playing the agent from the British foreign office, are having a terrible argument (row, according to the Brits). If I recall correctly, Lawrence accuses Raines of being a liar. Raines replies “Yes, I am a liar but I told whole lies. You lied by telling half truths. When I lie I know where the truth is. When you lie, you’ve forgotten where you put it.” Such is the total defense of the White House. Charles Ruff says that on Sunday, January 18, the presidentwasn’t illegally coaching Betty Currie about whether he and Monica were alone. Ruff bases this on the fact that Clinton couldn’t know that Starr was investigating Clinton’s activity. Ruff does not mention that Clinton coached her again, along the same lines, after it became public that Starr was on the case. Mr. Ruff dismisses the late night call to Vernon Jordan because Jordan was on a plane and couldn’t have known about the judge’s ruling that Lewinsky was a witness. He overlooks the fact that Clinton had heard Lewinsky could be a potential witness days before. “Half truth is often a great lie” observed Benjamin Franklin. Sometimes the lie ain’t great, but it is dismaying.

TO GROPE OR NOT TO GROPE?
Look, nobody is psyched about the idea of Monica Lewinsky talking about how Clinton touched her like a blind man reads a book. But c’mon. Greg Craig says that the discrepancy about intimate contact is “Oath on Oath” and therefore irresolvable and cannot be the basis of a perjury charge. As I have argued endlessly in these pages, I think the idea that Clinton is telling the truth is in fact more disgusting than the lie. He invites an intern to pleasure him repeatedly and never, never ever, touches her? Please. But I don’t think it’s the truth. I think it is a lie and the idea that simply because it’s Oath on Oath means we can’t use common sense to decide who is lying is nuts. Before we do that, a quick aside: Where did “Oath on Oath” come from? I never heard the phrase before. I guess “He Said, She Said” raises too many feminist hackles and suggests that Monica might be lying — something the White House wants to avoid.

But okay, common sense and the Groper in Chief: Monica told about a dozen people pretty much the same thing about her trysts with the President. She said them contemporaneously. Now, she could be lying. This is what people said to me for months on all the talking-head shows. How do you know she wasn’t lying? Well, if the girl is going to lie about her sexual relationship with the president, wouldn’t she go all the way? I mean if you’re already making it up, why not go all the way? It’s like me lying about a fictional relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow but confessing that, yeah, she won’t let me go all the way — and I have to clean her bathtub, too.

If you’re Monica, why not paint a verbal picture that would go nicely on a bodice-ripper novel with Fabio as the President? No, instead Monica bragged to her friends about the fact that the president used her like Robert Downey Jr. in prison. She pretty much told everybody the same thing. A lot of heavy petting, and one-way oral sex. But just use common sense. Do you really believe that the president never touched her breasts?

SEE NO EVIL
Not since someone did something else really disingenuous has there been a position as disingenuous as the Harkin and Co. argument on witnesses. He calls the House case a pile of dung. His allies suggest that the President’s reputation has been sullied. But that the president doesn’t deserve to have his name cleared by resolving the issues. The White House has poked holes the “size of a barn door” in the House case. But Heaven forefend the idea that “triers of fact” be allowed to resolve conflicts in testimony. They argue that there is nothing to be gained by live presentations. Why then did Barbara Boxer cry when she heard Cheryl Mills’s oration? Would it not be as compelling in writing? But even more telling was Greg Craig’s repeated use of video testimony from the panel of experts who testified before the House Judiciary committee. Why play the tape? If live witnesses add nothing, surely there is no reason to play video of dry analytical testimony? Just read the quotes.

COMING ATTRACTIONS
The Devil is known as the Prince of Lies. Yesterday I said I was going to out myself as the anti-Christ. Unfortunately the monks I’ve employed to scour Vatican records to make my case have been dogging it. So, you’ll have to wait ‘til tomorrow, at least. Sorry, or maybe I’m not.

Also tomorrow: Why Bill Clinton’s Social Security plan is the worst thing since Caddyshack II.



Text