WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 - With a decision expected this week on possible indictments in the C.I.A. leak case, allies of the White House suggested Sunday that they intended to pursue a strategy of attacking any criminal charges as a disagreement over legal technicalities or the product of an overzealous prosecutor. ...Funny. Back when President Bill Clinton was impeached on what many people claimed was "some perjury technicality" meant to show that the Republicans' seven years of investigation were not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars -- about $60 million -- Kay Bailey Hutchinson had a much different view. In her mind back then, perjury was a serious, serious problem:
On Sunday, Republicans appeared to be preparing to blunt the impact of any charges. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, speaking on the NBC news program "Meet the Press," compared the leak investigation with the case of Martha Stewart and her stock sale, "where they couldn't find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn't a crime."
Ms. Hutchison said she hoped "that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."
Lying is a moral wrong. Perjury is a lie told under oath that is legally wrong. To be illegal, the lie must be willfully told, must be believed to be untrue, and must relate to a material matter. Title 18, Section 1621 and 1623, U.S. Code.So, perjury is a serious matter when the lies are about a blow job, but not that important when the lies are about outing a covert CIA operative and damaging our national security capabilities.
If President Washington, as a child, had cut down a cherry tree and lied about it, he would be guilty of 'lying,' but would not be guilty of 'perjury.'
If, on the other hand, President Washington, as an adult, had been warned not to cut down a cherry tree, but he cut it down anyway, with the tree falling on a man and severely injuring or killing him, with President Washington stating later under oath that it was not he who cut down the tree, that would be 'perjury.' Because it was a material fact in determining the circumstances of the man's injury or death.
Some would argue that the President in the second example should not be impeached because the whole thing is about a cherry tree, and lies about cherry trees, even under oath, though despicable, do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution. I disagree.
The perjury committed in the second example was an attempt to impede, frustrate, and obstruct the judicial system in determining how the man was injured or killed, when, and by whose hand, in order to escape personal responsibility under the law, either civil or criminal. Such would be an impeachable offense. To say otherwise would be to severely lower the moral and legal standards of accountability that are imposed on ordinary citizens every day. The same standard should be imposed on our leaders.
Nearly every child in America believes that President Washington, as a child himself, did in fact cut down the cherry tree and admitted to his father that he did it, saying simply: 'I cannot tell a lie.'
I will not compromise this simple but high moral principle in order to avoid serious consequences to a successor President who may choose to ignore it.
If only the President had followed the simple, high moral principle handed to us by our Nation's first leader as a child and had said early in this episode 'I cannot tell a lie,' we would not be here today. We would not be sitting in judgment of a President. We would not be invoking those provisions of the Constitution that have only been applied once before in our Nation's history.
But we should all be thankful that our Constitution is there, and we should take pride in our right and duty to enforce it. A hundred years from now, when history looks back to this moment, we can hope for a conclusion that our Constitution has been applied fairly and survives, that we have come to principled judgments about matters of national importance, and that the rule of law in American has been sustained.