“If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy. Yikes.”
—Prof. Orin Kerr on The Volokh Conspiracy.
I thought more highly of Prof. Kerr, who belongs to the left end of the group of provocative libertarian legal scholars who make up the commentariat on the erudite blog, recently annexed by the Washington Post, than to believe him capable of abusing his authority with this kind of hackery. He is endorsing the deceitful “logic” of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.
Well no, Professor, I guess you don’t understand history properly, or government, or ethics for that matter. Clinton was not impeached for lying about a sexual affair, though that was the tactical spin placed on the impeachment by Clinton’s defenders.
Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a sexual affair under oath, before a judge, in court, an act that would get you, as well as any other lawyer, disbarred. If you don’t obey the law enough to be a lawyer, you don’t respect the law enough to be trusted to defend the laws of the land as President of the United States. He was also impeached for lying to a grand jury, another crime, and using his high office, his appointees and his staff to cover up his lies, which is obstruction of justice.
He was also impeached because he was President of the United States, the role model and exemplar for good citizenship, lawfulness and good behavior for the entire nation, and because the relationship in question occurred during his tenure in office, during the working day, and with a low-level employee in violation of the principles under lying the sexual harassment law he had signed into law himself.
None of this was true of Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, and Dennis Hastert, the three GOP Speakers Kerr is referring to.
Marianne Ginther, Gingrich’s second, now ex-, wife, was not a staff member or employee, and Newt never discussed, or lied about, the relationship in court, or to the news media, while he was Speaker. That affair was, I would argue, strong evidence of Gingrich’s dubious character, but it was not relevant to his duties or obligations as Speaker. He could not, would not and should not have been impeached or indicted for his conduct in that affair.
Bob Livingston’s affair or affairs, which came to light in part because of Flynt’s cynical offer of a reward in order to intimidate members of Congress, apparently occurred long before he was Speaker, and perhaps before he was even in Congress. He was foolish to resign during the impeachment process. Livingston never lied, under oath or to the FBI, or to the press, or to the American people (“I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky…”), about the affair in question.
Hastert ‘s current alleged criminal conduct, if indeed criminal it was, occurred as a private citizen after he was Speaker, regarding unproven criminal conduct he may have engaged in decades before he became Speaker. He also was not President of the United States.
Of course, Kerr’s statement can be read a lot of different ways, which is one of the things wrong with it. He’s a law professor; he’s supposed to use words with precision.
Is he saying, by “Yikes,” “Boy, we sure are electing a lot of slimy leaders in America!”? If so, I wouldn’t argue with that general, ridiculously general, proposition. Is Kerr’s meaning, “Wow, these Republicans were really courageous, doing their duty by impeaching the President for official misconduct and crimes while knowing their private life was vulnerable to attack!” ? I doubt that, but it’s a plausible interpretation, and more legitimate than what I think most people will take Kerr to mean. Similarly, he might be slyly noting that Newt Gingrich’s political career is over, Bob Livingston has vanished, and Dennis Hastert is facing jail, while Bill Clinton, whose official conduct was worse than any of theirs, is still lionized by Democrats and poised to move back into the White House. Regarding that, Yikes is an understatement. But it’s safe to assume Kerr doesn’t mean that either.
No, Kerr’s likely intent is to advance the false equivalence that has been part of Clinton spin since we learned Monica Lewinsky’s name, and to bolster the false Democratic attacks on Republicans for hypocrisy (at least in regard to Hastert) He is also, perhaps, abusing his authority to relieve Hillary Clinton from proper accountability for lying on her husband’s behalf, thus clearing the path for the most corrupt and untrustworthy Presidential candidate in American history to become President of the United States.