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Caveat lector

30 November 1998

Life in this celebrity press corps: It’s always better four days later...

Synopsis: One paper’s resident panel of poobahs produced a big turkey just four days too late.

Not again, Mr. President
Editorial, USA Today, 11/30/98

Capital Roundup
Paul Lewitt, USA Today, 11/30/98

The whistling analysts returned refreshed, back from their Thanksgiving rambles, when this rant by the Wilson Boulevard crewe foreshadowed the miseries to come. The editors reviewed the Vile One’s reply to those 81 questions the House had sent him, and though they admitted the questions were “fatuous” and “partisan,” and “beneath the dignity of [his] office,” the nabobs couldn’t hide their pique about the president’s “lawyerly” answers.

In fact, so put-upon was the nattering class, they were actually willing to answer for Clinton! Here’s the way the Helpful Harries kicked off their review of Vile’s work:

USA TODAY (opening paragraph): Do you admit or deny that you are the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America?
       That was the first of 81 questions posed by Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee to President Clinton...The question invited one of two correct answers. The first was “Yes, I am.” The second was: “That question is beneath the dignity of this office and yours, and I need not answer it. Next.”

But Clinton had given a different answer. So, given the rigid grading scheme at the House Color Built, by the time the prez had answered one question, his chance to get a perfect score was already over and done.

For the record, here’s the answer that Clinton had given, the one that drove the brain trust half-wild:

CLINTON: The President is frequently referred to as the chief law enforcement officer, although nothing in the Constitution specifically designates the President as such. Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution states that “[t]he executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America,” and the law-enforcement function is a component of the executive power.

And do you know what? Maybe we’ve gone incredibly soft. But as stupid answers to stupid questions go, we thought it was perfectly adequate.

But one thing the editors did make quite clear: nothing’s going to be OK until this impeachment thing’s finally over. For, in groaning loudly and rolling their eyes at the president’s inexplicably “lawyerly” answers, the editors had reverted to an old pundit theme--pretending they just didn’t understand the mess that Vile Clinton was in. It had been months before when we first pointed out the fatuous theme of the post-August 17 week. Remember? How every pundit with a column to write and nothing to say suggested that Clinton should have Just Let It All Hang Out when he’d gone before the grand jury? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/20/98.) The fact that Clinton had a maniacal prosecutor waiting to indict him wasn’t permitted to seem to have entered their heads; and now, months later, the editors pretended they couldn’t imagine why Vile’s answers were crafted with care:

USA TODAY: Time and again, Clinton resorted to the same legal babble that previously produced such answers as: “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ means.”

Well--that hadn’t been the exact quote, of course. But, close enough for the nattering class!

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of news from the paper’s page 10A--right there in the very same paper where the editors couldn’t begin to dream why the president might be a little bit “lawyerly:”

USA TODAY: A federal grand jury is about to indict Julie Hiatt Steele, who contradicted accusations that President Clinton groped White House volunteer Kathleen Willey in the Oval Office in 1993, Time reports.

Coming from USA Today, the statement is typically inaccurate and artless--Steele never testified to what Clinton had or hadn’t done. But, as the Crackpot Crewe from the Starr Brigade enforce their will on Those Who Dispute Them, isn’t it stunning that the editors can’t begin to figure why Clinton might not Let It All Just Hang On Out?

Yep--it’s all impeachment, all the time, we had to advise the returning analysts. No answer or behavior, no matter how trivial or obvious, will be good enough until this whole thing is done.

Just natterin’: Here’s what The Brilliance Committee had to say about Vile Bill’s obligations:

USA TODAY: He has an obligation to answer questions--even fatuous, partisan ones like these--openly, if only to hasten the day when this grubby little window-fogger of a scandal is laid to rest.

Amazing, isn’t it? Would it ever occur to The Insight Tribunal to complain about “fatuous” questions in an impeachment proceeding? Why should a president have an obligation to answer such questions at all? Meanwhile, if The Quorum of Savants really believe that answering these questions “openly” would speed the end of this scandal--well, do we really have to come up with a clever remark about nonsense as arrant as that?

Meanwhile, here is what The Panel of Poobahs said about one Clinton answer. In it, Vile responded to questions about whether he’d ever coached Mo-mo to lie about their smooching:

USA TODAY: In response to questions about whether he and Lewinsky discussed ways to cover-up [sic] their trysts, he answered in part: “I testified that Ms. Lewinsky and I ‘may have talked about what to do in a nonlegal context at some point in the past, but I have no specific memory of that conversation.’...” That’s about as selective as it gets.

Here at THE HOWLER, we have no way of knowing whether Clinton recalls just what he told her. But in the part of his answer that the eds omit, he stressed that the conversation in question happened before there was a legal case in which Mo might be a witness. It was a perfectly obvious point to make, given the charges which Vile is facing. But again: nothing will silence the nattering classes, until this impeachment is done.