President Clinton’s denial of perjury is, as has been much noted, a reach. It pretends that sexual contact by Clinton never happened, despite the overwhelming evidence Starr has gathered, and it relies on a fog of legalisms to make lies seem like ambiguities.
There is also a semantic absurdity to Clinton’s denial. Clinton’s principal defense against the Starr report is that it is only about sex. In the first paragraph of the latest presidential rebuttal, for example, David Kendall and Co. write: “It is plain that ‘sex’ is precisely what this four-and-a-half year investigation has boiled down to.”
But it is a bit strange for Clinton’s lawyers to be complaining that there is too much sex in the report when the crux of his perjury denial is that no sex occurred. Clinton insisted in testimony that sex does not exist without sexual intercourse, and “he stated that ‘most ordinary Americans’ would embrace this distinction.” So by the Clinton standard, there is no sex at all in the report.