How One Lawyer’s Mistake Changed History

I have always thought that if it were not for Clinton’s sex life, Al Gore would have won in 2000, Gore probably would not have invaded Iraq, the U.S. would probably have better environmental policy, and the world as we know it today would be different and likely better (I’m not the biggest Bush fan).  From time to time it strikes me (and I define “strike” as a “holy shit!” moment which raises the eye brows to their maximum height for a solid five seconds) how one person’s libido could be so geopolitically potent.  But apparently, though Clinton’s private behavior was scandalous, it was not potent enough on its own to change electoral history.  For that, credit goes to Clinton’s lawyer.

I was only 13 when the Lewinsky scandal story broke, so it has always been, as many news stories you hear when you are younger, a collection of unanalyzed facts in my head, such as the theory that bridges crossing water are maintained by government enslaved turtles which your brother pedantically explains to you when you are four years old which makes you inexplicably sad as as you drive over bridges as an adult.   Gleeful liberation comes from taking a half-second to discover these pockets of unanalyzed thoughts and, in many cases, going through the process of having an opinion, reversing it absolutely, being strangely ashamed of your former opinion, and doing it all so nearly simultaneously that you guffaw, give a high pitched “hee hee,” and sigh happily in rapid succession.

In recent years, I subjected the Clinton scandal to a half-second analysis which left me wondering, “Why in the world did a sitting president testify under oath about his sex life?”

So I was excited that while going through a 14 lecture series by Alan Dershowitz, called “Fundamental Cases of the 20th Century,” I heard the full story.  I would recommend the series.  He deals with all the major trials, as well as a number of trials in which he personally played a role, including the O.J. Simpson trial, the Mike Tyson rape trial, Claus von Bulow‘s alleged murder of his wife Sunny, and some others.  He’s articulate and not afraid to share his opinion when he can.  For instance, Dershowitz blames Clinton’s impeachment on Robert Bennett, Clinton’s lawyer, awarding him the coveted prize of having made the biggest legal mistake in the last century.

In short, Clinton was being sued by Paula Jones, a former State of Arkansas employee, for sexual harassment.  Clinton’s lawyer instructed Bill Clinton that he had to testify under oath about his sex life, and Clinton did as he was advised… and that was the ball game.  However, Clinton did not have to give that deposition.  He could have settled (he ultimately was forced to anyway).  He could have been charged with contempt of court.  He could have easily given a public statement saying that preparing to give a deposition takes too much time, and that he was willing to settle and move on in order to get on with the important business of the country.  In other words, though it would have been a little bumpy politically for a few days, not giving a deposition on his sex life would have worked.  Apparently it is really hard representing powerful people because you have to tell them things they do not want to hear such as, “you obviously can’t speak truthfully and acceptably about your sex life.”  So I suppose it was Bennet’s lack of cajones, rather than Clinton’s overabundance of them, that led the nation down this causal train.

Incidentally, years after the impeachment, Alan Dershowitz talked to Clinton about it at a party.  Clinton shared with him that Bennett never gave any option except testifying under oath about his sex life.

Since childhood, I had always assumed the president had got into trouble for lying just like 13 year old Jeremy might get into trouble for lying.  But apparently, lying does not automatically mean you are in trouble with the Feds.

GUFFAW, heehee (high pitched), sigh.

The end.

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About Jer Clifton

Look up, friend. The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone. View all posts by Jer Clifton

5 responses to “How One Lawyer’s Mistake Changed History

  • Nick D

    *Two lawyers.

    o.O

  • Dr. Christenbury

    Yes if algore was elected teh course of history would have been changed. we would have reached a less polluted world. and there is no one on this earth better than him who knows the crisis of global warming more hazardeous than iraq

  • whit

    I was quietly hoping that some other member of your readership would take up the cross of truth and rebuke your bombastically penned lies. But every one of them has apparently joined up with an unscrupulous band of dyslexic hyenas. So it falls to me to once more helm the flagship of truth. I stare steely-eyed at the horizon of wisdom, unabashed by your relentless tsunamis of vile vilelyness and fallacy. I’ll defend Lady Honesty’s honor with a sword of pure naked truth; truth at it’s most poignant; unadorned by flowery tongue, flying out at you from your computer screen like a thousand flaming arrows from the mouth of Madame Justice herself. Its only ornaments, like two jeweled earrings, dangle from the corners of each well-read arrowhead: Prudence, and a Roundhouse Face Kick to your balls.

    Ok, straight faced me here for a second; this is like the first post I truly, finally disagree with you on. (well, voting is still an unequivocal waist of time; when 40% of the population is the sample size, well, that’s sumptuous by any standard: call me when we’re at 8 and half percent.)

    Friend, spinning back Father Time’s wheel to slander poor Mr. Bennett is lewd and unfair. And the fact that your denigrations are now using the DeLorean to slum-about in the 90’s makes me wonder what other schemes of antiquated barbarism is brewing in that skull of yours; use up all my minutes on a ‘quick’ phone call perhaps, even though I asked if you could please wait until nine? Maybe steal my hacky-sack, or scratch my Mary J Blige CD? Whatever your tactics and motives, what your dubious revisionist history seems to be plainly forgetting is how awesome the 90’s were. A couple hundred thousand Bosnians we’re being ethnically cleansed in the Balkans, and when Bill Clinton fired a few missiles to intervene every Republican simultaneously rolled their eyes and said: “You are just trying to distract us for what really matters: Blowjobs.”
    Yes, the 90’s, our priorities were weirdly awesome, and it was the heyday of the Empire, but with a dearth of reality television and no Facebook, one was highly limited in who’s sex life you could legally keep tabs on. Outside the presidency all we had was the cast of The Real World. So when Paula Jones and Monica made the headlines the public’s teeth deeply sunk into Slick Willies silver tongued backside. My point is simple, (but I’m still going to take a long time saying it) Bill Clinton was already tried and hung in the court of public opinion before his impeachment. For the people who cared and would not vote for Al Gore because of Clinton’s degenerate behavior – that ship had sailed before Bill warranted his disbar. Sure, without poor Mr. Bennett’s bad judgment he wouldn’t have gotten impeached, but your average citizen doesn’t even know Bill Clinton was impeached because they don’t know what impeachment really means and even if they did, they’d say it was because he cigar-banged a chick in the oval office, not because of lying under oath.
    Republicans were just as bloodthirsty then, and they weren’t about to see this issue be dropped so flippantly as you seem to suggest: “a little bump politically for a few days.”
    Imagine if Obama was being accused of sexual misconduct, do you think that that would just go away if he he’d work out a settlement? In fact not getting impeached would have kept the issue even more alive and in the headlines, digging him an even deeper hole. If the affair hadn’t gone to trial perhaps there would have been even more lingering outrage about his infidelity. Remember – Newt was in full Grand Inquisitor regalia at this time, flexing the full strength of his moral dexterity, raining down righteous censure upon Bill while at the same time weighing the merits of an open marriage.
    If anything, rather then been being neutral, the impeachment might have been a net short term positive for Clinton; giving the whole affair it’s proper resolution: capping a fairly decent presidency in a coat of a sheepish and embarrassed shrug; for scandalizing the office of the presidency, and besmirching the good name of lady interns for the next 40 to 60 years.
    In the world of law Clinton’s lie might have been quite an anomaly and opulent failure, but in the realm of public opinion it meant and changed nothing.
    Pinning global warming and a 100,000 plus dead Iraqi’s on poor Mr. Bennett is facetious speculation at best and unequivocally not an “Oh Shit,” moment. And anyone who’d find this “How one Lawyer’s Mistake Changed History” post profound I’d have to wonder whether or not their soul is nothing more then a sinkhole of 3rd world vice.

    On top of that, to add insult to injury: even if we take your idea as accurate (which it is not) the notion that the world would be better is still a simple one. The current Syrian crises might be an after thought compared to the blood bath that may have spilled out after an Iraqi Arab Spring under Saddam Hussein; who also wouldn’t be sitting idly by if Iran was considering nuclear power or weapons. Add in our pugnacious drinking buddy Israel, and suddenly our world is in kinda crappy shape for the non-Barack Obama president we’d have. (maybe we’d have McCain, and I like him, but imagine what he might have considered in this scenario?) Perhaps this Commander and Chief would, in his quieter hours, wish that there had been a cowboy president that had gotten rid of Hussein earlier. Either way, this sort of conjecture is best kept off of this adventurous yellow rag you call a blog, and only brought out at bars or in living rooms with hookahs, with plenty of Merlot, good laughs, good friends and hearty foes. (No dialogue of the merits of the Iraq war should every be discussed though without everyone in attendance being on the same page in regards to the war being sold to the American people with ultra sketchy miss-truths, [I’m a tad ambivalent to call them lies, but close] and was then prosecuted super fricking poorly. Mr. Rumsfeld is an assclown that couldn’t teach a trained monkey how to shit monkey shit.) (that monkey joke was poached from a Reno 911 episode, but it totally applies to dick-hole Donald.)
    Wow this was ramblely.
    I apologize for nothing.

    • Jer

      wow…for the love of brevity ; )

      In short, my “few days” remark might have been overstated, but my point still stands. If there would not have been any laws broken there would have been no trial, no impeachment, and no Ken Starr report. Even if your average citizen didn’t know about those things or what impeachment really is, he/she would still have been affected by the months and months that this dragged on.

      So, for the love of brevity, it would have still be an issue, of course, but it would have been a much shorter issue and there would have been no trial or hearings. (though I am excited that we found things to disagree about…though I wish it was on a topic that I cared more about and/or knew more about, btw, what is your source of information on this time period? I don’t remember you following the news in 9th grade when this was going on.)

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