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.