Club holding Clinton in contempt is growing

April 15, 1999|By Maureen Dowd

AS THOUGH our president didn't have enough to worry about, with the confusion on Kosovo policy and the collapse of the China World Trade Organization deal, now he must finally face the music on being contumacious about his concupiscence.

After years of slipping and sliding around, President Clinton was finally pinioned by his former law student, Judge Susan Webber Wright.

In a scalding ruling that was far more gratifying than the partisan House impeachment hearings, and far more appropriate than a congressional censure, Judge Wright plainly rebuked Mr. Clinton for what he was plainly guilty of: lying through his teeth. "Simply put," the judge said, citing Mr. Clinton for civil contempt in the Paula Jones lawsuit, the president's testimony was "intentionally false."

Altered truth

She upbraided him not on his tacky sexcapades with the pizza girl, but on his real offense, his lifelong habit of customizing, altering, evading or dribbling out the truth to maintain political viability. It is unappetizing when he does it in political venues; but in a legal venue, with the judge sitting right in front of him, it was literally and legally contemptible.

"It simply is not acceptable to employ deceptions and falsehoods in an attempt to obstruct the judicial process," she wrote, "understandable as his aggravation with the plaintiff's lawsuit may have been."

Since Hillary Clinton never gave us "closure" by braining the big boy with a frying pan, it was delicious to see another brainy lawyer ding him with a 32-page order and fine. The judge dryly mocked Mr. Clinton's tortured definition of his tryst.

"It appears the president is asserting that Ms. Lewinsky could be having sex with him while, at the same time, he was not having sex with her," she wrote.

Little Rock justice

The president and the prosecutor who have spent years locked in a warped embrace were still hopelessly entangled this week. On the same afternoon that Mr. Clinton got slapped by a Little Rock judge for obstructing justice, independent counsel Kenneth Starr got slapped by a Little Rock jury for using an obstruction-of-justice charge to unfairly bludgeon the president and his old business partner.

After years of a runaway investigation and abusive tactics, Mr. Starr was finally pinioned by Susan McDougal. Mr. Starr's former prisoner -- who still has her own home page on the Web with that fetching picture in manacles and miniskirt -- showed once again that it is long past the time for the special prosecutor to pack up and get out of town.

In the same Little Rock federal courthouse where Judge Wright issued her ruling, Ms. McDougal had just triumphed with what her attorney, Mark Geragos, called "a Ken Starr defense." The woman Mr. Starr let languish in solitary confinement -- she called herself "a political prisoner" -- turned the tables and put the prosecutor, or "the sleazy toad," as she likes to call him, on trial in her trial.

Her case was simple: Mr. Starr was out to get the president, so determined, in fact, that he was pressuring her to tell lies about the Clintons. Thus she did not need to answer the sleazy toad's questions.

"Clearly, the message here was that Ken Starr has run out his time," said a happy Mr. Geragos.

This whole farce is so over. But the now-comical characters keep rushing back onto the stage. This week, Susan, Bill, Ken, Web and Paula were all in the headlines.

Mr. Starr was back before Congress testifying yesterday at a hearing on whether the Independent Counsel Act should be renewed. He has long opposed the law on constitutional grounds, but has turned himself into the poster boy for its excesses. After spending four and a half years rooting around in the president's life, Mr. Starr told us it's time for the independent counsel law to expire.

In the immortal words that Ms. Lewinsky spoke to her gal-pal Linda Tripp after Mr. Starr's agents swooped down on her, "Thanks a lot." Couldn't he have shared these insights about getting rid of himself $50 million ago?

Meanwhile, in this endless dance of the macabre, another congressional committee evaluating whether to preserve or kill the special prosecutor law wants to hear from none other than Ms. McDougal.

It should be so over. But it so isn't.

Maureen Dowd is a New York Times columnist.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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