Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Perjury, Serious or Trivial?

I don't get it. We on the left during the Clinton years argued that perjury was a serious, but not impeachable offense, and today argue that perjury is a serious, but not impeachable offense. That seems fairly consistent to me. And just to back up that Democrats did see it as serious but not impeachable, I point you to this the resolution to censure Clinton indicating that the Democrats felt that his conduct was 1) serious and 2) not impeachable.

The Republicans, however, argued when Clinton was president, that perjury was a most serious offense easily meeting the "high crimes" standard that the constitution places on impeaching a president. Yet now that the Republican George Bush is in office and it is his aids that are facing trouble the Republican party argues that perjury is trivial. That seems to me to be an enormous distinction and there I see dishonesty.

While the above is quite sufficient to show that the Republican position on the seriousness of perjury is completely free of anything resembling a standard, it should also be noted that not all acts of perjury are equally serious. The degree to which it harms the investigation and the seriousness of the underlying crime are also important. Two comentors over at Kevin Drum's site have recently done a great job of summarizing that distinction between now and then.

conspiracy is nuts wrote:

Well, I would say that "we" argued that perjury was generally a serious offense, that Clinton didn't commit perjury, that if he did testify falsely in some technical sense it was not an impeachable offense because it was in connection with a frivolous, meritless lawsuit and in answer to questions that were beyond the scope of that lawsuit (and therefore should never have been permitted, not to mention that Clinton was invited by the Republican judge hearing the case to "fudge" on his answers) and concerning immaterial, irrelevant, and trivial factual matters unrelated to the case - in other words, it was not in response to an underlying crime or to civil liability, but was solely done for and in response to purely political reasons, not criminal or tortious reasons.

I would further argue that any false testimony that Clinton gave had no relevance to or impact regarding the duties of the president, the United States government, national security, the defamation of government employees or even private citizens, or a decision to go to war.

Finally, I would argue that if Clinton committed an impeachable offense, then so did the judge presiding over the case, the judges that appointed Starr, Starr, at least some of Starr's staff, and Sen. Jesse Helms; that Paula Jones and her attorneys should have been sanctioned for her frivolous suit; that Paula Jones apparently false affidavit should have been investigated and perjury charges pursued against her and suborning perjury charges against her attorneys; and that the woman who reported Whitewater should have been tried for perjury, rather than given a lucrative job in the Bush 43 administration, to name a few instances of "justice" that the conservatives have failed to pursue or pompously opine about with the same vigor.

and cmdicely wrote:
Well, I argued that perjury could be a impeachable if it pertained to a matter of governance for which there was no adequate corrective remedy at law, which was not the case in a matter of lying in a civil sexual harrasment lawsuit. OTOH, I would argue that perjury could be impeachable if, for example, it were conducted by a civil officer of the United States to conceal his own malfeasance in office or that of another public employee, in a matter which involved the misuse of sensitive information access to which was gained as a result of public office, and which was used specifically to retaliate against a US citizen for exercising Constitutional right to dissent and to propagandize the American people and the Congress to continue to support a particular policy course.

Impeachment is necessary to prevent government office from being abused in ways for which the legal process (civil and criminal) provides no appropriate and effective remedy.

All of the points made in these quotes support the Democrats position in both cases, and indicate the criminal hypocrisy of the Republican position.

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