It Depends on What the Meaning of 'True' Is
Republicans were apoplectic regarding Bill Clinton's equivocation
about the word 'is' during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And, I
must say, they had a point. It was time for Clinton to come clean,
and his continued attempts to dance around his transgressions
only made matters worse.
is interesting, however, to compare their fury over Clinton's
manipulations of the truth with their silence about, or even defense
of, very similar maneuvering on the part of the Bush administration.
What's more, Clinton was doing his minuet around events that,
while sleazy and showing poor judgment, were quite peripheral
to key affairs of state. But the Bush administration is performing
the same set of steps to a tune that led the country into war,
a matter of life-and-death, not stains on a blue dress.
an aside, I think it is interesting to note public reaction to
the two scandals. Democrats often said, during the Clinton scandal,
that polls showed the American people did not care about a politician's
private life. I think they now ought to admit that the current
affair shows that the American people don't care about anything
a politician does, so long as it doesn't endanger one of their
Condoleezza Rice's recent
remarks about President Bush's claim, in his State of the
Union address, that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger.
It turned out that the assertion rested on forged documents, and,
further, that it was known within the CIA and the administration
that the documents were unreliable well before Bush's speech was
doesn't deny these facts. Instead, she "defends" Bush by trying
to demonstrate that he was carefully covering his butt by phrasing
his claim in a very particular way. To quote the International
a part of his State of the Union speech designed to portray Iraq
as posing an urgent and immediate security threat, Bush said that
'the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently
sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.' 'The statement
that he made was indeed accurate,' Rice said on the Fox News Sunday
television program. 'The British government did say that.'"
questionable as Rice's tack is as a defense of Bush, it doesn't
even really work on its own terms. Bush did not say, "The
British government has said that Saddam Hussein recently
sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." He said
they had learned it. That implies that it is true, and
that the speaker is attesting to its veracity. We might say, for
instance, say "Timmy said 2 + 2 = 5, but since then he
has learned that 2 + 2 = 4."
short, this defense is no more robust than was Clinton's puzzling
over the meaning of the word 'is.'
consider this comment, from the same article: "Bush insisted Saturday
that Tenet retained his confidence and urged the country to move
on to other matters."
now it's time to "move on," is it? When did I last hear a president
telling the country "it's time to move on"?
plea strikes me as similar to a murder suspect who has had his
alibi blown. "OK," he tells the police, "so I wasn't at
that party at the time of the murder. Now that we know that, isn't
it time to move on?"
one in the US government has been punished or forced to resign
over a lie that helped lead to the death of thousands of US and
Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians. So, as the details of the lie
begin to come to light, why, exactly, is it time to "move on"
to other matters? Why shouldn't we, instead, "move on" to the
2003 Gene Callahan
Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives