Cultural Revolutions

Lying Under Oath

President Clinton lied under oath as well as on television: About that, few have disagreed. So why wasn't lying under oath simply regarded as perjury? Because weighty conservatives, famous feminists, and legal scholars, among others, have tended to excuse the President, claiming that he was just lying to conceal an affair. Said Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., "A gentleman always lies about sex."

This is a depressing line, quite aside from calling Mr. Clinton a gentleman—depressing because of what it omits, and because so many well-regarded people have used it on the public.

The President could hardly have lied about sex without affecting other people, and indeed he has repeatedly shown his willingness to discredit his accusers. Gennifer Flowers was vilified in the "mainstream press"; an immense political machine geared up to deal summarily with Paula Jones; the administration began handing out materials impeaching Kathleen Willey's credibility' immediately after her persuasive appearance on 60 Minutes; and the President himself, surrounded by his phalanx of advisors, aides, and a Secret Service detail, murmured that Monica Lewinsky was a "stalker."

That last one beats out even George Bush's claim—surrounded by his Secret Service agents—to have kicked Geraldine Ferraro's butt, winning the coveted "Not Errol Flynn" award. And yet...

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