Chatterbox continues to see found verse wherever he reads Flytrap commentary. Quoth Anthony Lewis in yesterday’s New York Times:

Did the president or Ms. Lewinsky
In fact
Commit perjury
When they swore they
Not had
“Sexual relations”?
A complicated legal concept
Among other things
Proof of deliberate falsehood.
In a conversation with Linda Tripp
Unrelated to any
Of prosecution
Ms. Lewinsky had
“Having sex”
“Having intercourse”–
Not oral sex.

Now some might say that Chatterbox is beginning to sound like Ophelia in the fourth act of Hamlethey-nonnying and strewing flowers and in general allowing the madness engulfing Elsinore to turn her into a complete nutcase–and therefore is in no position to question the sanity of others. But Chatterbox thinks he’s really more like Hamlet, i.e., behaving a little weird in response to weird events but basically keeping his eye on the ball. In this case, the ball is that Clinton lied under oath, and Chatterbox is appalled to see what may be the beginning of a trend in which Clinton partisans try to convince themselves that Clinton didn’t lie under oath so they can feel better about letting him get away with it. (Chatterbox notes with alarm that Barney Frank is quoted in today’s New York Times saying, “There is no way that anyone has been able to prove the president committed perjury.” The quote appears in an article by David Rosenbaum that rather devastatingly reviews the perjury evidence.)


Chatterbox is going to be generous and yield a number of points to Clinton’s defenders. You can argue that Clinton’s lies under oath do not constitute an impeachable offense. You can argue that they fail to meet the legal definition of perjury for technical reasons having to do with the dismissal of the Paula Jones case and the admittedly fishy way that Ken Starr set his perjury trap. You can argue that as a practical matter civil perjury isn’t usually prosecuted. You can argue that the Jones lawyers flubbed it by allowing a definition of sexual contact that doesn’t cover oral sex. (From Clinton’s grand jury testimony: “If the deponent is the person who has oral sex performed on him, then the contact is … not with anything on that list but with the lips of another person.”) Chatterbox doesn’t actually buy all these arguments, but collectively they engender sufficient doubt that Chatterbox refers to Clinton’s alleged crime as “probable perjury” rather than “certain perjury.”


But he still lied under oath, damn it, and Chatterbox will not tolerate being gaslighted about this. Lewinsky told the grand jury that Clinton touched her breasts (rather a lot, in fact), and performed oral sex on her. 


[Correction, Dec. 12: Whoops, Lewinsky said Clinton stimulated her in the genital area, but not with his mouth. Chatterbox apologizes for the error and the need for a sexually explicit correction. The error is immaterial to the perjury argument made here. See “Oral Arguments.”]

Clinton told the grand jury he did not:

A: You are free to infer that my testimony is that I did not have sexual relations, as I understood this term to be defined.

Q: Including touching her breast, kissing her breast, touching her genitalia?


A: That’s correct.

Is it possible Lewinsky is lying about the extent of their sexual contact? Well, yes, but she seems to lack a motive, and Chatterbox has yet to see anyone but Clinton attempt to make this argument. Is it possible Clinton doesn’t remember? Well, no, Chatterbox doesn’t really believe it’s possible for a man to kiss a woman’s breast and then forget about it. (Call me a hopeless romantic.)

So: Forgive and forget if we must. But let’s have no more of this “Clinton didn’t lie under oath” nonsense.

–Timothy Noah