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Clarance Thomas lied during his confirmation hearings.
October 10, 2001 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Clarance Thomas lied during his confirmation hearings. Does it matter? Even though he was under oath at the time? Like Bill Clinton?
posted by Rastafari (59 comments total)

 
Sigh.
posted by luser at 6:32 AM on October 10, 2001


You meant "Author of unauthorized biography alleges that Clarance Thomas lied during his confirmation hearings," right?
posted by John Galt at 6:46 AM on October 10, 2001


Diogenes was run out of town for counterfeiting coins. Conscience is the small voice that says "someone might catch me". Integrity can only exist in a vacuum. Cynicism should be taught in kindergarten. Have a profitable day.
posted by Opus Dark at 7:01 AM on October 10, 2001


You meant "Author of unauthorized biography alleges that Clarance Thomas lied during his confirmation hearings," right?

Sounds like enough to nominate an independant counsel though, right?
posted by boaz at 7:03 AM on October 10, 2001


The article does say that the book is mostly sympathetic to Justice Thomas, which makes the allegation stick more in my mind. Then again, I'm pretty much willing to believe anything bad anyone says about Thomas, seeing as how he is pure pure evil.
posted by thewittyname at 7:06 AM on October 10, 2001


You meant "Author of unauthorized biography alleges that Clarance Thomas lied during his confirmation hearings," right?

You mean to tell me that Clarance Thomas wouldn't have authorized a biography that quoted his best friend/colleagues as saying yeah, we discussed abortion even though he swore before the Senate that he didn't? Whether of not the biography was authorized, how do you know the content isn't true? If it's not, wouldn't all those people quoted -- most of whom are Thomas confidants/supporters by the way -- have an actionable case against the author?
posted by Rastafari at 7:07 AM on October 10, 2001


What, exactly, was the question put to Thomas?

"Did you ever discuss RvW in yoyur role as public servant."

If he discussed RvW in a college ethics or polysci class, or in law school, that's significantly different from a conversatiion in the context of public service.
posted by yesster at 7:07 AM on October 10, 2001


You mean there is gambling at the Cafe Americain?
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:09 AM on October 10, 2001


It's like this Jornalist was stoned or something, she meanders all over the place... the last sentance is about how the previous marshal at the court once blanked during the cerimonial summons. There are three paragraphs about Pamila Talkin. It's intresting information, but not really that relevent.
posted by delmoi at 7:10 AM on October 10, 2001


If he discussed RvW in a college ethics or polysci class, or in law school, that's significantly different from a conversatiion in the context of public service.

Maybe, but in light of fairness, he should have disclosed it. I think the question was have you ever discussed it? And even if the question was directed at the comments in his capacity as a public official, he should have said, "Not in the capacity as a public official, but I may have discussed it with friends/colleagues." End of story. But what he did does indeed seem like he lied.
posted by Rastafari at 7:18 AM on October 10, 2001


Clinton lied under oath about an embarrassing private matter that had nothing to do with his public life. Thomas, if this biographer is to be believed, lied under oath about a public matter that has direct bearing on the Supreme Court job he was trying to get.

I don't expect the "liar liar pants on fire" crowd from impeachment to care about Thomas' laughable claim to be the only law school graduate in U.S. history who never discussed Roe v. Wade. However, they certainly should, since lying under oath is such a big deal that millions of dollars must be spent to investigate it.
posted by rcade at 7:42 AM on October 10, 2001


In my mind, the real question is; should we continue to subject supreme court nominees to these types of ideological litmus tests? From what I can see, they're essentially meaningless once the nominee is confirmed.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2001


Even if he DID tell the truth, did we really want someone who never thought about or had a personal opinion about one of the most important court decisions in our nation's history on our Supreme Court???
posted by dragline at 7:53 AM on October 10, 2001


From the confirmation hearings, Sept. 11, 1991:
SEN. LEAHY:
Have you ever had discussion of Roe versus Wade other than in this room? (Laughter.) In the 17 or 18 years it's been there?

JUDGE THOMAS:
Only, I guess, Senator, in the fact that, in the most general sense, that other individuals express concerns one way or the other and you listen and you try to be thoughtful. If you're asking me whether or not I've ever debated the contents of it, the answer to that is no, Senator.

SEN. LEAHY:
Have you ever, private gathering or otherwise, stated whether you felt that it was properly decided or not?

JUDGE THOMAS:
Senator, in trying to recall and reflect on that, I don't recollect commenting one way or the other. There were, again, debates about it in various places, but I generally did not participate. I don't remember or recall participating, Senator.

SEN. LEAHY:
So you don't ever recall stating whether you thought it was properly decided or not?

JUDGE THOMAS:
I can't recall saying one way or the other, Senator.

SEN. LEAHY:
Well, was it properly decided or not?

JUDGE THOMAS:
Senator, I think that that's where I just have to say what I've said before, that to comment on the holding in that case would compromise my ability to rule --

SEN. LEAHY:
May I ask you this -- have you made any decision in your mind whether you feel Roe versus Wade was properly decided, now without stating what that decision is?

JUDGE THOMAS:
I have not made, Senator, a decision one way or the other with respect to that important decision.

SEN. LEAHY:
When you came up for confirmation last time for the circuit court of appeals, did you consider your feelings on Roe versus Wade should you have been asked?

JUDGE THOMAS:
I have been not -- would I have considered, Senator, or did I consider?

SEN. LEAHY:
Did you consider?

JUDGE THOMAS:
No, Senator.

SEN. LEAHY:
So you have not -- you cannot recollect ever making -- taking a position, whether it's properly decided or not properly decided, and you do not have one here that you would share with us today?

JUDGE THOMAS:
I do not have a position to share with you here today on the proper -- whether or not that case was properly decided. And, Senator, I think that it's appropriate to just simply state that to -- that it is -- for a judge, that it's late in the day as a judge to begin to decide whether cases are rightly or wrongly decided when one's on the bench. I truly believe that doing that undermines your ability to rule on those cases.

SEN. LEAHY:
Well, with all due respect, Judge, I have some difficulty with your answer, that somehow this has been so far removed from your discussions or feelings during the years since it was decided while you were in law school. You've participated in a working group that criticized Roe. You cited Roe in a footnote to your article on the privileges or immunity clause. You've referred to Lewis Lehrman's article on the meaning of the right to life. You specifically referred to abortion in a column in the Chicago Defender. I cannot believe that all of this was done in a vacuum absent some very clear considerations of Roe versus Wade, and in fact, twice specifically citing Roe versus Wade.

JUDGE THOMAS:
Senator, your question to me was, did I debate the contents of Roe versus Wade, the outcome in Roe versus Wade, do I have this day an opinion, a personal opinion, on the outcome in Roe versus Wade, and my answer to you is that I do not.

SEN. LEAHY:
Notwithstanding the citing of it in the article on privileges and immunities, notwithstanding --

JUDGE THOMAS:
I don't --

SEN. LEAHY:
-- the working group that criticized Roe?

JUDGE THOMAS:
I'd like to have the cite to it.

SEN. LEAHY:
Fair enough.

JUDGE THOMAS:
Again, notwithstanding the citation, if there is one, I did not, and do not, have a position on the outcome. The -- with respect to the working group, Senator, as I have indicated, the working group did not include the drafting by that working group of the final report. My involvement in that working group was to submit a memorandum, a memorandum that I felt was an important one, on the issue of low-income families. And I thought that that was an important contribution and one that should have been a central part in the report. But with respect to the other comments, I was not -- I did not participate in those comments.
posted by rcade at 7:57 AM on October 10, 2001


the man has been (barely, O.K., 52-48) confirmed by the Senate, guys. since he's pretty young, he'll be there -- presumably -- for a very long time.
He's a hero? A legal genius? A man guilty of perjury and sexual harassment? The victim of a vast left-wing conspiracy?
A Thomas impeachment is not really a realistic scenario. So we can discuss his confirmation hearings until we're blue in the face, but it looks like the old "Who won Florida?" debate: pretty useless.
And anyway, a few democrats did vote for the man in the Senate -- if you don't like him you know the names of the people who put him where he is now. Democrats could have Borked him, if they really wanted to.
posted by matteo at 8:00 AM on October 10, 2001


Thanks, rcade. That certainly clears up the question put to him (and his evasive answer). Don't you agree, yesster?
posted by Rastafari at 8:02 AM on October 10, 2001


Do you remember the content and the agreed general characterisation of every conversation that you have, offhand, with friends while sitting around in their offices or your living rooms? A couple of years ago, I may have discussed my theories regarding Slobodan Milosevic with my friend Cherie, with whom I have political-type discussions from time to time. I may not have. I don't remember, she may remember in graphic detail. If you asked me today, I'd say that I didn't. I'd say so under oath because I have no substantive memory of having such a conversation, and certainly not in any context which has any bearing on anything.

But ten years from now, when questioned by a journalist, Cherie may say "Oh, sure, we talked about Milosevic and Dreama advocated boiling in oil." Would she be right, would I have been wrong? Without any corroborating evidence, who could know? She could be confusing my comments with those of another friend. She could be remembering my comments about her philandering ex-husband as being about Milosevic. (We refer to both of them as "Slob" after all.) Does this make her a liar? Does this make me a liar? Or does the passage of time make the entire reporting unreliable enough to warrant nothing much beyond a passing nod -- especially when the question at issue has absolutely no bearing on the capability of the answerer's ability or worthiness to perform the job for which they were being questioned.
posted by Dreama at 8:10 AM on October 10, 2001


My heart fills with joy thinking about the sheer beauty of sacre_bleu's comment. Seriously. That was great.

In other news...Thomas is an utter twit. Holding the fact that he and I are ideologically opposed aside for the moment, he has been, to be kind, a quiet embarrassment to the tradition of the court. This fool is routinely mocked and socially spurned by the other justices (who, believe it or not, tend to hang out with each other, ignoring party lines).

His lying in such a transparent manner is simply another nail in his credibility coffin. Unfortunately, since he's appointed for life, it may be a while before we have the privilege of seeing him occupy said coffin.

I know that I didn't provide links to back up my assertions about the Justice's social lives. I have none. I do, however, have inside information on this particular issue. I wouldn't lie to ya'll.
posted by Optamystic at 8:20 AM on October 10, 2001


ah, yes, Dreama, but is discussing Milosovic part of your job? and surely, even 10 years from now you might still have a general opinion about M's actions - whether they were correct or not.

to say, "I have no opinion" (and have never had) about one of the most well-known supreme court decisions of our time - not just from an ideological point of view, but also from a judicial point of view (maybe they came to the right decision for the wrong reasons, or vice versa) - well, frankly, I find that either

(a) silly, or
(b) disturbing.

"oh, and when other people talked about it, I just sat back & listened."

wtf?
posted by epersonae at 8:25 AM on October 10, 2001


absolutely no bearing on the capability of the answerer's ability or worthiness to perform the job for which they were being questioned

you know, i personally don't think that clinton having an affair had any bearing whatsoever on his ability to perform his job as president. (husband and dad yes, but POTUS, no.)

but of course the impeachment gang obviously felt very different.
posted by saralovering at 8:25 AM on October 10, 2001


um, Optamystic? pls. check your tags!
posted by epersonae at 8:25 AM on October 10, 2001


Dreama,

Do you really believe that Thomas had absolutely no, none, zip, nada, recollection about having any comments/discussions/debate about a subject he feels so strongly about that he voted to overturn it? Is that really possible?
posted by Rastafari at 8:28 AM on October 10, 2001


What epersonae said. (what I meant to say, but he said it better.)
posted by Rastafari at 8:32 AM on October 10, 2001


A Thomas impeachment is not really a realistic scenario.

Really matteo, I'm not trying to impeach him, just make those Clinton-bashing Republicans squirm a little. Since all those usual suspects are completely absent from this thread, I'm guessing that's not even going to work.

Ooooh, here's our first candidate. A couple of quick points on your argument, Dreama.
  • Thomas didn't claim that he didn't speak with particular people about RvW; he claimed that he didn't speak about it with anyone at all. That's a Grand Canyon worth of difference right there.
  • Second, it's not one person, it's three separate people; Generally, if it's 3-to-1, that old my-word-vs-theirs gambit doesn't fly.
  • Thomas claimed that he had not made a decision on RvW's worthiness, while one of the witnesses claimed that he had. While this is a 1-on-1 scenario, this is not something that Thomas can conveniently claim to have forgotten.
  • He was nominated by President Bush partly because of his views; it's only makes sense that he should be confirmed partly based on his views too.
  • I don't really mind his presence on the court that much; hell, we could've gotten Ken Starr.
posted by boaz at 8:35 AM on October 10, 2001


Do you remember the content and the agreed general characterisation of every conversation that you have, offhand, with friends while sitting around in their offices or your living rooms?

No, but if I was a judge, I would remember if I had ever made my opinion known on one of the most significant Supreme Court cases in history. I agree with the senators who voted against Thomas because they did not believe him when he stated he never debated the contents or outcome of Roe v. Wade.
posted by rcade at 8:35 AM on October 10, 2001


Person involved in politics lies about something.

Next up on the news, the sun will be coming up tomorrow.
posted by byort at 8:53 AM on October 10, 2001


I don't really mind his presence on the court that much; hell, we could've gotten Ken Starr.
Well, you just wait. The man's still young. I mean, who knows?
posted by matteo at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2001


I heartily second byort's clarion call for increased apathy and complacency. Huzzah!
posted by Skot at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2001


Person involved in politics lies about something.

Persons in the Judicial branch, IMHO, are not politicians. He would be a politician if he campaigned for the post, and the public had to vote for him. There is a difference between regular politicians and judges, especially SCOTUS judges, don't you think?.
posted by Rastafari at 8:59 AM on October 10, 2001


Uh, did anyone really doubt that he lied about all sorts of things in his confirmation hearings?
posted by bob bisquick at 9:03 AM on October 10, 2001


Uh, did anyone really doubt that he lied about all sorts of things in his confirmation hearings?

You mean besides those senators who voted to confirm him?
posted by Rastafari at 9:06 AM on October 10, 2001


To me, this whole thing goes under the heading of "ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer."

Of course Thomas had a strong opinion about Roe v Wade. Of course he wasn't going to admit that he had this opinion. Of course the senator asking the questions knew that Thomas had an opinion, wasn't going to express it, didn't blame him for not expressing it, but was nonetheless asking it anyway in order to make him look bad.

The real problem here is the unrealistic idea that any candidate to be a supreme court justice hasn't already formed opinions on the cases that they already know they will be arguing if they get the appointment. Of course, if we maintain this ridiculous standard, people are going to lie, and they should.
posted by bingo at 9:12 AM on October 10, 2001


It's like this Jornalist was stoned or something, she meanders all over the place...

Actually, the stoned journalists are in Jalalabad.
posted by crabwalk at 9:21 AM on October 10, 2001


Apathy and complacency? How about truthfulness? How about every politician gets treated equally when they lie (for good or for bad)? How about having the nerve people possess to defend Bill Clinton when Clarence Thomas did something similar OR vice-versa?

I know, I know...the conservatives will respond on how this is entirely different from what Clinton did, and Thomas was justified in lying in response to such a ridiculous question.

The liberals will respond, talking about how Clinton got in trouble for lying, and Thomas should get some of the same medicine, because he is of an inverse political stance.

Meanwhile, politicians on both sides show signs of morality and immorality...those examples define your political stance.

If political figures (and judges, who are not political, apparently) were looked at objectively, people would see that they're pretty much cut from the same cloth. There's good and bad on each side, people. It's tiring to hear the same people praising Clinton rip on Thomas. Let's hear the same defenses..."it's his personal life; if it's not bothering anyone, leave him alone." (Of course, now the argument will commence that a law discussion ties in directly to Thomas' position, whereas Clinton's oral sex escapades are not actually in his job description...AARRGH!)

I'm done ranting now...just a little tired of the wide paintbrushes that paint the pictures of Conservative and Liberal.
posted by byort at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2001


Hear, Hear! byort, here, here....
posted by thekorruptor at 9:47 AM on October 10, 2001


Here, Here byort...
Your one tired truism didn't take, so you posted twenty together and called it a rant. A couple of questions:
  • What would you suggest that equal punishment for all lying politicians be?
  • And why just politicians? Why not an equal punishment for everyone caught lying?
  • Do you really believe this thread is about "Conservatives" and "Liberals" instead of Thomas and Clinton? Who's really wielding the wide paintbrush here?
If you don't want to discuss this, fine. There are ~10000 threads on Metafilter; find one you do.
posted by boaz at 10:14 AM on October 10, 2001


Sheesh, just responding to someone that responded to me in order to clarify my comments. Could you please post the definition of a rant so that I can follow these rules in the future?
posted by byort at 10:28 AM on October 10, 2001


Sheesh, just responding to someone that responded to me in order to clarify my comments. Could you please post the definition of a rant so that I can follow these rules in the future?

Definition of rant. A post can be both a rant and a collection of tired truisms; we have undeniable proof of that.
posted by boaz at 10:41 AM on October 10, 2001


Now I'm confused...I don't expect everyone to agree, but urging people to look at events objectively does not sound like a "tired truism". If you'd prefer, I could tow the pure liberal or conservative line with the best of them. My comments were striking out against the people that say one thing for a Democrat, and can support the opposite for a Republican candidate.

My motto is "case by case" basis...if a political figure is found to be lying, all the circumstances must be taken into account before judgement/actions should be made. "Equality" in my statement above refers to the mindset of the American people...why is a lie OK for one party, but horrible for another?

The very nature of the post compares Thomas (a known Republican) to Clinton (a known Democrat). I'm just stating my opinion on general attitudes without calling anyone out. I believe that Metafilter supports that, or am I wrong?
posted by byort at 11:18 AM on October 10, 2001


black robe and swill
i believe Anita Hill
judge will rot in hell
it's the song i hate
it's the song i hate

--Sonic Youth, Youth Against Fascism
posted by MegoSteve at 11:46 AM on October 10, 2001


but urging people to look at events objectively does not sound like a "tired truism".

Just to clear things up, I'll list your tired truisms here:
  • How about every politician gets treated equally when they lie (for good or for bad)?
  • Meanwhile, politicians on both sides show signs of morality and immorality
  • There's good and bad on each side, people.
  • If political figures... were looked at objectively, people would see that they're pretty much cut from the same cloth.
  • a little tired of the wide paintbrushes that paint the pictures of Conservative and Liberal.
Not quite 20, but you made a valiant try.

My motto is "case by case" basis...

Yet the very examples you decry in your post are comparing and contrasting the two cases. Looking at something on a 'case by case basis' is the exact opposite of 'every politician gets treated equally when they lie'.

why is a lie OK for one party, but horrible for another?

When you can name the democratic politician (or even the liberal poster in this thread) calling for Thomas's impeachment, I'll agree. Till then the hypocrisy's all on one side of that fence.

My comments were striking out against the people that say one thing for a Democrat, and can support the opposite for a Republican candidate.

Has the House voted to impeach Thomas yet? Will they? Didn't think so.

The very nature of the post compares Thomas (a known Republican) to Clinton (a known Democrat).

A Republican/A Democrat. Not Republican/Democrat.

I'm just stating my opinion on general attitudes without calling anyone out. I believe that Metafilter supports that, or am I wrong?

I'm confused; is there some post on MetaTalk trying to get you banned or to delete your posts?
posted by boaz at 11:57 AM on October 10, 2001


I'm at a loss on what else to say...my comments are not directed at the politicians, but the posts that are stridently left or right in political stance in this and many other threads. I'm just tired of people having blinders on if it's someone of their political affiliation. That's all. I've come nowhere close to talking about what the government should do in this case. That's not my intent. It's just a widespread concern that I wanted to talk about. I'm not partial to Thomas or Clinton...I just felt it had to be said. I think it's logical for people to be judged by actions instead of political affiliation. Where do you happen to stand on this, boaz? (I'm assuming it's the opposite of where I stand. :) )
posted by byort at 12:30 PM on October 10, 2001


(Of course, now the argument will commence that a law discussion ties in directly to Thomas' position, whereas Clinton's oral sex escapades are not actually in his job description...AARRGH!)

a law discussion ties in directly to Thomas' position, whereas Clinton's oral sex escapades are not actually in his job description...
posted by jpoulos at 12:30 PM on October 10, 2001


my comments are not directed at the politicians, but the posts that are stridently left or right in political stance in this and many other threads

<sarcasm>We can't go holding our elected officials to the same level of conduct as metafilter posters for god sakes.</sarcasm>
Why are you lecturing us on this? We don't work for you; your congressman does. And he's the one who will make the 'stridently partisan' decision to let Thomas off the hook or not.

I've come nowhere close to talking about what the government should do in this case.

I am working under the assumption that you feel they should do the same thing as before to be fair and avoid that awful partisanship.

I just felt it had to be said. I think it's logical for people to be judged by actions instead of political affiliation. Where do you happen to stand on this, boaz? (I'm assuming it's the opposite of where I stand. :) )

Over here in the real world, you will witness that political affiliation will cause a divergence in the treatment of these two cases of (possible) perjury. If you feel like discussing (or denying) that, I'm game; if not, then you are the one supporting partisanship, not me.
posted by boaz at 1:08 PM on October 10, 2001


Sounds like enough to nominate an independant counsel though, right?

Go right ahead. Spend twice as much on an independent counsel for this as was spent on Clinton. You will not get the outcome you seek, but I promise not to complain about the money.
posted by aaron at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2001



Go right ahead. Spend twice as much on an independent counsel for this as was spent on Clinton. You will not get the outcome you seek, but I promise not to complain about the money.

I gotta learn to use that <sarcasm> tag more liberally (NPI). To tell you the truth Aaron, you couldn't be more wrong; there's not even going to be an independant counsel. The law allowing one to be appointed expired over 2 years ago and is unlikely to be reinstated in the near future.

In fact, the fact that Republicans control the House of Representatives and the White House (and by proxy, the Justice Department) pretty much ensures that no investigation of any sort will take place. After all, you pull partisan hatchet jobs on political enemies, not political allies.
posted by boaz at 6:04 PM on October 10, 2001


But I agree...$43 million dollars is chump change, even compared to a season of E.R.
posted by boaz at 6:05 PM on October 10, 2001


How about a compromise? Clinton leaves the presidency, never to return. Thomas leaves the bench, never to return. I for one would be happy to never see either of them again.

Of course, the scary thing is that Thomas was confirmed because he lied. If he`d said he thought it was a stupid decision, even based on on Constitutional grounds (as opposed to moral grounds), he never would have been confirmed. This leads me to 2 conclusions:

1. The Senate really does consider positions on individual issues as opposed to legal aptitude in confirming nominees.

2. People would rather be pandered to ("No, I never thought about that issue that I so obviously have deep feelings about") than work to make their world better.
posted by chiheisen at 10:15 PM on October 10, 2001


How about a compromise? Clinton leaves the presidency, never to return. Thomas leaves the bench, never to return. I for one would be happy to never see either of them again.

Ah yes, a nice 'objective' viewpoint. A better idea would be for all the Clinton-haters who were going on about 'the equal rule of law' and 'it's not the sex; it's the lying' to give us an embarrassed cough and then let's move on.

1. The Senate really does consider positions on individual issues as opposed to legal aptitude in confirming nominees.

Gee, next you'll tell me that the President considers positions on individual issues as opposed to legal aptitude in choosing nominees.

2. People would rather be pandered to ("No, I never thought about that issue that I so obviously have deep feelings about") than work to make their world better.

It wasn't pandering so much as it was lying and evading. And Sen. Leahy seemed annoyed rather than pleased by it.
posted by boaz at 6:06 AM on October 11, 2001


It wasn't pandering so much as it was lying and evading.

Evading, yes. But there's no appearant proof of dishonesty here. There is a difference, even if most of society doesn't understand that difference. Instead, American's tend to paint one as the other when it suits their political preference.
posted by gd779 at 9:10 AM on October 11, 2001


apparent. eh.
posted by gd779 at 9:11 AM on October 11, 2001


There's blatant dishonesty in Thomas' statement:

Senator, your question to me was, did I debate the contents of Roe versus Wade, the outcome in Roe versus Wade, do I have this day an opinion, a personal opinion, on the outcome in Roe versus Wade, and my answer to you is that I do not.

He lied to win Senate approval. Ashcroft did too. Does it matter? It would certainly be nice to have the appointees to high government office tell the truth, rather than deliberately misleading the Senate because they think any past political opinion they ever voiced is a liability.
posted by rcade at 9:18 AM on October 11, 2001


Evading, yes. But there's no apparent proof of dishonesty here.

Other than the three eyewitness accounts alleged in the linked story.

There is a difference, even if most of society doesn't understand that difference.

That's why I used both words with an 'and' between them. Clinton was pretty evasive when he was questioned about Lewinsky, but that doesn't mean he didn't lie as well. The definition of perjury is a good starting point for deciding the relative legal merits of their positions. Do you think Thomas committed perjury?

Instead, American's tend to paint one as the other when it suits their political preference.

Or vice versa.
posted by boaz at 9:37 AM on October 11, 2001


Or vice versa.

Agreed. Actually, that's what I was trying to imply. It wasn't intended to be directed at you, though I can see now why you might think that it was.

do I have this day an opinion, a personal opinion, on the outcome in Roe versus Wade, and my answer to you is that I do not.

You can't get inside his head and say that's not true. After all, what is your definition of "personal opinion"? I consider myself an ethical person, and I can imagine myself being grilled in front of Congress and thinking "I have a legal opinion, but I'm capable of objectively setting aside my feelings. Therefore, I have no meaningful personal opinion". I speak from experience when I say that that's exactly the way lawyers are trained to think.

did I debate the contents of Roe versus Wade, the outcome in Roe versus Wade

Okay, we have 3 unconfirmed statements regarding three, I believe, unrelated conversations. You have an unauthorized biographer who wants to sell books, and you have 3 human beings who say, years later, that Thomas did discuss and 1 (himself) who says he didn't. From that, can you really say, beyond all doubt, that there was dishonesty here? Human beings are unreliable and prone to error. Were these people pressured? Was their memory faulty? Was Thomas' memory faulty? Or, as I think is likely, was Thomas again hair-splitting under the pressure of a Congressional grilling?

For the record: Though the standard is higher for Clinton than Thomas (due to the nature of their respective jobs), my personal distaste for Clinton was never related to his legal maneuvering.
posted by gd779 at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2001


From that, can you really say, beyond all doubt, that there was dishonesty here?

The standard for legal recourse is 'beyond a reasonable doubt'; the reason for this, perfectly illustrated by your usage, is that 'beyond all doubt' is an unattainable standard. I believe lawyers are trained to use that statement when defending reasonably guilty clients.

You have an unauthorized biographer who wants to sell books, and you have 3 human beings who say, years later, that Thomas did discuss and 1 (himself) who says he didn't.

All of the sources are friendly to Thomas, and the book is said to be a sympathetic portrait; it's not a smear job if that's what you're suggesting.
As I've said before, 3-to-1 is not the place to try out a my-word-against-yours defense. If there had been 3 witnesses claiming sexual harassment, obviously on different occasions, there's no way he would have been confirmed.

Or, as I think is likely, was Thomas again hair-splitting under the pressure of a Congressional grilling?

I asked you this once, and you ignored it, so let me repeat: Given the definition of perjury, do you believe that Thomas committed perjury?
All your talk about hair-splitting, evasiveness, etc. is interesting, but the salient question is the commission of a crime.

Though the standard is higher for Clinton than Thomas (due to the nature of their respective jobs),

Keeping in mind that Clinton is already out of his job (with a Constitutional ban on returning) while Thomas could conceivably have >40 years left, I'm dubious of this assertion.
posted by boaz at 10:43 AM on October 11, 2001


I asked you this once, and you ignored it, so let me repeat: Given the definition of perjury, do you believe that Thomas committed perjury?
All your talk about hair-splitting, evasiveness, etc. is interesting, but the salient question is the commission of a crime.


Yeah, okay. I didn't mean to ignore it, I'm just more interested in the ethics of the man than the legal implications. But since you asked... I don't know. I suppose that I could track my argument through by pointing out that one element of perjury is intentional falsity; therefore, lack of intent to deceive (as opposed to mislead or evade) is a defense to perjury. According law.com, prosecutions for perjury are rare for precisely that reason; the defendant is exonerated simply by successfully claiming mistake or misunderstanding of the question.

But, again, is that what we really care about? At it's bottom, is our concern that Thomas violated the letter of the law? Or is it more of an ethical question?
posted by gd779 at 11:15 AM on October 11, 2001


it's not a smear job if that's what you're suggesting.

I don't imagine that it was. I'm just saying that, sympathetic or not, the biographer has an incentive to sell books, and human affairs can be sort of messy and unclear, especially after the passage of time. Memories, motivations, perceptions, they all seem different under the pressure of one moment than they might later. Combine that with a little hair-splitting definition on Thomas' part, and a slight change in the recalled content of a conversation that took place years ago can radically alter the truth of Thomas' claims.
posted by gd779 at 11:22 AM on October 11, 2001


Thanks boaz. Keep up the good dialogue.
posted by nofundy at 11:33 AM on October 11, 2001


According law.com, prosecutions for perjury are rare for precisely that reason; the defendant is exonerated simply by successfully claiming mistake or misunderstanding of the question.

That's where that 'beyond a reasonable doubt' phrase comes in handy. You are talking in hypotheticals, but is it a reasonable belief that Thomas lacked intent to deceive or misunderstood the question; he basically repeated the entire question before answering it.

But, again, is that what we really care about? At it's bottom, is our concern that Thomas violated the letter of the law? Or is it more of an ethical question?

Well, the reason for Clinton's impeachment was that he broke the law, not for any particular ethical lapse (INTSITP); so, I think it is a perfectly fair ethical question to consider why there is not a similar reaction to the same law being broken. It's not Thomas's ethics I am questioning, but the ethics of the Republicans who went on a crusade in one case and will (I guarantee it) remain entirely silent (or in denial) in the current one. Thomas's legal status is entirely relevant in that context.

Combine that with a little hair-splitting definition on Thomas' part, and a slight change in the recalled content of a conversation that took place years ago can radically alter the truth of Thomas' claims.

Yes, but how many conversations can you realistically change your recollections of? I do not pretend to know the quality of Thomas' memory, but can one realistically forget even that they had an opinion, and on one of the top 10 cases of the twentieth-century no less? That falls well outside the bounds of reasonable doubt.
posted by boaz at 11:53 AM on October 11, 2001


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