A defining moment in Bill Clinton’s presidency occurred in 2007 when he told a grand jury (with respect to Monica Lewinsky) “there’s nothing going on between us.” How so, “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement…..Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky I would have said no, and it would be completely true. I did not have sex with that women.” It worked.
These remarks, in much shorter form, remind me of the old Walter Matthau movie “California Suite” when Elaine May find’s a blonde asleep on their hotel room bed. Walter’s treasured response “what women” denial convinced her no one was ever in the room, no less the bed. It worked.
Similar semantics are back in play today with convicted Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell now asking the Supreme Court to adopt a particular idea of what politics is, and what appropriate political conduct is.
As the justices prepare to hear McDonnell’s appeal, lawmakers, activists and advocates from across the spectrum have rallied to the former Republican governor’s defense, warning that federal prosecutors are wielding outsize control over the political system and seeking to criminalize the kind of routine meetings and perks that have long been arranged for donors i.e. “ordinary politics.”
The optics of McDonnell’s case that contrast $175,000 in luxury gifts to a complimentary lunch, is surreal. Equally surreal, both Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. consider current federal corruption laws so vague that they might be unconstitutional. If there was ever a generality, that has to be it.
Downstream we can look for a possible ripple affect with the surrender dates of both Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver already delayed until a decision is reached by the court.
The ultimate “get out of jail” card has been played, and in my opinion, justice is not being served. We know what inappropriate political conduct ‘is’, we just can’t shake it from their vocabulary. You be the judge.