Comment Of The Day
But, sometimes not every day. Check the archives.

Thursday and Friday, September 17 and 18, 1998

The President Going Down #8
(The Fine Art of Weaseling. Actual transcripts.)

Question: Do you mean today that because you were not engaging in sexual activity with Ms. Lewinsky during the deposition that the statement of Mr. Bennett might be literally true?
Answer: It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the -- if he -- if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not -- that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now if someone had asked me on that day, Are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.
Question: (Somewhat exasperated) OK, If Monica Lewinsky says that while you were in the Oval Office area you touched her genitalia, would you say she was lying? And that calls for a yes or no...
Answer: I will revert to my former statement on that.... If the deponent is the person who has oral sex performed on him, then the contact is with -- not with anything on that list, but with the lips of another person. It seems to be self-evident that that's what it is....Let me remind you, sir, I read this carefully.
Question: So, you didn't do any of these things with Monica Lewinsky?
Answer: You are free to infer that my testimony is that I did not have sexual relations, as I understood this term to be defined.
Question: If she says that you kissed her breasts, would she be lying?
Answer: I'm going to revert to my former statement.

In trying to understand the questioning and the answering, I have returned to reality confused and somewhat dazed at his incredible perseverance and willingness to delve into the semantically absurd at levels heretofore not experienced. I have seen prisoners of war evade and dodge answers, in English and in Vietnamese, I have watched children avoid things and try to obfuscate their way out, and I have been there when politicians lie outright and bold-faced. But I have never, ever seen anything like this. This guy totally believes that he is telling the "truth" (the technical truth) and that he is answering all of the questions honestly. They will never convict him. Bill Clinton has brought the fine art of weaseling to a whole new level. He has raised the bar on testimony. He has brought a new weapon to the witness box: the answer cloak. No matter what you ask him, remember time is constantly passing by so in fact there is no "true" answer in the present tense that is scientifically and actually, technically honest, he can get out of answering you with a response that moves things along. He is the black hole of interrogation. No matter what you ask him you get no helpful information. Everything you throw at him, disappears without effect. If we were all time-travelers, he would be just a few seconds ahead of us all, in a world of his own, defining every word differently, albeit accurately by his measures, speaking with words that confuse those of us who think he's really here. It's as though he lives in the future, just seconds ahead, and we are all in the past, just seconds behind, and all definitions are different, but they sound the same. There is a constant element of miscommuncation that leaves us in the dust that obscures exactly who this guy is.

Oh, and that interrupting tirade during the six hours of questioning on video tape that everyone wants you to see? He will say that it proves his point: no matter how many times he answered the questions accurately and honestly they kept bringing up irrelevant and salaciously distracting elements that were way out of sequence and had no business coming up at the points in the questioning in which they did. He will say it proves that they were on a witch hunt to discredit him and not at all interested in the real factfinding. And, in a sense, of course, he is right.

And, that sense will hold up. Because it is true. "Is" meaning "is," not "was" or "will be."

By the way, if you ask me if I "wrote" this Comment of the Day, I could answer yes or no, and it would it equally true either way. If you wanted to know if, while I was typing this Comment, my fingers were touching the keyboard, I could easily answer "no," or that it is impossible for me to remember. Which when you think about the semantics (all those fingers intermittently touching, not touching, touching again) how could I possibly know what my fingers were actually doing every millisecond? And then if you persistently asked me if the words, as they ultimately appeared, were my responsibility I could say unequivocally, "Absolutely not. I did not have epistemological relations with that computer." And, then if you maddeningly (and NOW you're playing my game) persisted and asked me if someone who has been proven to have been in the room with me, and who saw me type every word, said that I was, in fact, the one who typed this comment, I could without prejudice and without perjury state, "I'm going to revert to my former statement." Or I could just say, "No," because the act of typing is easily seen as a mechanical function, resulting from exterior action, and in truth I didn't actually "type," the words, although I may have "caused" the words to be typed (but you didn't ask me that.) And then if you asked, "Then you are saying that she is lying?" I could say, "How could I know if she is lying (present tense) or not? All I know is that if the deponent is the person encountering the keys in such a purely visual way as to obserce the actual conversion thoughts into laser strikes on a piece of paper or the actual internal digital formulae and caluculations in a computer that result in images viewed in various distortions, and it is impossible to know in any exact way how whatever was described was seen, then it's clear to me and should be self evident to you, that that is not anything that I can accurately answer in the affirmative or even have first hand knowledge about. And remember, sir, I have read this carefully."

Wow. He is incredible. Read the transcripts. Perhaps it's a good thing, perhaps it's a bad thing, but it remains a very true thing: you just can't get the truth out of people if they don't want you to. After all the microchips, all the self-help books, and psychotherapy, and political correctness, people can still run and hide and there's... nothing we can do.

See you next time.

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