Monday, January 05, 2009

From the Annals of Books No One Wants to Read

Despite evidence to the contrary, it's still not true that anyone can get a memoir published these days. After all, if you're a member of the outgoing Bush Administration, you might have some trouble selling your ghost-written rationalizations to a reputable publisher. Here are some titbits from recent news:

  • Former Attorney General Al "Berto" Gonzales is writing a "tell-all" memoir, although apparently nobody cares. As the Wall Street Journal notes:
    Mr. Gonzales, 53 years old, doesn't have a publisher for his book. He said he is writing it if only "for my sons, so at least they know the story."
    That's sad. But even sadder is the fact (which emerges in the same story) that Gonzales hasn't been able to get a job in legal practice since his scandal-plagued tenure at the DOJ. As HuffPo's Jason Linkins notes:
    And in America, when you cannot find a group of lawyers to stand by you, that's saying something. Even Rod Blagojevich has a lawyer, who thinks Blago is "fun."
    But Al, won't it just make your sons sadder to read your unpublished manuscript?

  • The Big Dog himself (and when Fosco says "big dog," he is talking about IQ) can't even find a publisher. According to a piece in the HuffPo:
    With the president reportedly interested in writing about his White House years, publishers have a suggestion:

    Take your time.

    "If I were advising President Bush, given how the public feels about him right now, I think patience would probably be something that I would encourage," says Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity for Alfred A. Knopf.
    And even publishers of conservative "books" have the same advice:
    "Certainly the longer he waits, the better," says Marji Ross, president and publisher of the conservative Regnery Publishing, which is more likely to take on anti-Obama books in the next few years than any praises of Bush.
    But what if Bush wrote his memoir as a YA book? And what if it turns out that Condi is secretly a vampire and that they are in love but can't ever have sex? Wouldn't that change things a little?

  • Strangely enough, even though Lori Laura Bush just signed a multimillion dollar deal for her memoir, even that manuscript isn't a hot commodity. As a recent "Talk of the Town" bit in The New Yorker notes:
    The reception to Mrs. Bush’s pitch has been mixed so far. “She was not forthcoming about anything that I would consider controversial,” the publisher who met with her said. “We questioned her rigorously, but it was one-word answers. I considered it the worst, or the most frustrating, meeting of its sort that I’ve ever had.” He added, “But she really couldn’t have been nicer.” He said that his company would not be making an offer on the book, which was expected to sell for a couple of million dollars.

    “I chose not to meet with her,” a publisher at another company said. “I got the impression that everyone was totally underwhelmed by her. That’s why there’s so little buzz.”

    Another publishing executive said that some of the editors who met Mrs. Bush were hoping to find “that she’s a closet Democrat, like in the Curtis Sittenfeld novel.” [...] When the publisher who went to the White House was asked what impression of Mrs. Bush’s politics he came away with, he sighed and said, “You got the sense she’s just like him.”
    Oooh. Bad news. Fosco can picture it now: a memoir made up entirely of casserole recipes and quilting patterns!
But what of the other Bushies? Well, there should be some interest in a Condoleezza Rice memoir, if only for the story of her childhood in the segregated South and any potential revelations about other lesbians in the Bush inner circle (Karl Rove perhaps?). And Dick Cheney's memoir (if it ever gets written) is sure to be like reading a book-length diatribe by Al Swearengen (with regular use of words like "cocksucker" to describe people like Harry Reid).

But you know what's funny? If any of these people wrote a genuine, non-deceptive, non-self-serving, real memoir that told the truth about this administration, it would be the bestselling book of the decade.


Anonymous said...

Laura Bush should've had her husband fool around with an intern and then commit perjury denying it. Worked for Hillary's book...

The BeeMaster

todd said...

This week one Setting the Record Straight:
Bill Clinton did not commit perjury as actually defined by law.

Perjury is not just lying under oath, or, perhaps more accurately, a misrepresentation made during sworn testimony. President Clinton may not have been as forthcoming as some would like during his testimony, he played word games, he tried to hide embarrassing facts from Paula Jones' lawyers, but this is accepted in a legal proceeding.

Perjury is a specific crime with specific elements that must be proven. [1] Perjury ocurs when a person takes an oath to tell the truth and then says something he knows to be false. An error in someone's testimony is not perjury. An incomplete answer is not perjury. It must be proven that someone intended to lie, rather than be mistaken or confused about the facts. The law requires that another witness or some other evidence support the accusation of lying under oath. Even after all that, not all lying under oath is perjury. The lie must be material. That is, important or relevant to the case at hand.

A clarification of the legal definition of lying is also important.

Q: What color is white?
1: It's the color of apples
2: I think it's six o'clock
3: It's a reflection of all colors
4: It's the color of bunnies

Of these four answers, one is a lie, two is an evasion, three is a misleading answer and four is an incomplete answer.

Only answer one, the lie, is genuinely deceptive. All the others are technically true. The US Supreme Court has ruled that evasive answers are not perjury.

With this in mind there are four problems with the notion that President Clinton committed perjury.

1. Convincing evidence was never provided by the prosecuting attorney that it was Clinton's intention to lie, rather than he was mistaken, confused, or believed his interpretation of the court's definitions.

2. Many of the alleged perjury charges were immaterial to the case

3. Many of Clinton's answers were technically true.

4. Many have taken the position that where Clinton and Lewinsky's testimony differs it must be Clinton who is lying.

I could go on, pointing out how legal definitions differ from common definitions, and how both sides in the case agreed to those legal definitions. I could also rebut each of the specific perjury claims, but this edition of Setting the Record Straight is already running long, so I'll wrap things up here.

In the next installment of Setting the Record Straight I'll talk about how Al Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet, and even if he had why it would not have been a total distortion.

[1] I am not a lawyer, but I did drive by a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Anonymous said...

You have committed one of the classic blunders which the most famous is: never get involved in a land war in Asia. But only slightly less well-known is this: never get into a debate with The BeeMaster when the presidency is on the line!

My point, which still stands, is Mrs. Bush's memoir isn't as marketable as Senator Clinton's in virtue of her and her husband's personal life. Reading about what it's like to be married to a guy getting serviced by an intern in the oval office is a lot more interesting that learning Laura Bush is a chain smoker. (true, by the way)

In April 1999, about two months after being acquitted by the Senate, Clinton was cited by Federal District Judge Susan Webber Wright for CIVIL CONTEMPT OF COURT for his "WILLFUL FAILURE" to obey her repeated orders to testify truthfully in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. (emphasis mine)

Side note: Judge Wright was a student of Clinton's in a class on admiralty law while at the University of Arkansas law school; she later challenged him on her grade. The dispute occurred after Clinton lost her final paper then offered her only a B-. Ya gotta love that!

For this citation (the contempt of court thing, not the B-), Clinton was assessed a $90,000 fine, and the matter was referred to the Arkansas Supreme Court for disciplinary action.

Regarding Clinton's January 17, 1998, deposition where he was placed under oath, the judge wrote:

"Simply put, the president's deposition testimony regarding whether he had ever been alone with Ms.(Monica)Lewinsky was INTENTIONALLY FALSE, and his statements regarding whether he had ever engaged in sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky likewise were INTENTIONALLY FALSE..."(emphasis mine)

In January 2001, on the day before leaving office, Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license as part of an agreement with the independent counsel to end the investigation.

The independent counsel said: "HE (CLINTON) HAS ACKNOWLEDGED THAT SOME OF HIS ANSWERS WERE FALSE. He has agreed to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas bar license. And he has agreed not to seek attorney's fees in connection with this matter." (emphasis mine)

Clinton was subsequently suspended from the United States Supreme Court bar.

Clinton's "intentionally false" testimony WAS material to the Paul Jones case as her lawyers were showing the court a pattern of behavior by Clinton that involved his allegedly repeatedly becoming sexually involved with state or government employees.

Prior to the Violence Against Women Act, previous behavior, alleged or otherwise, was not material to sexual harassment cases. But VAWA changed that, specifically providing "...for identifying the pattern and history of abuse that indicates which party is the actual perpetrator of abuse."

VAWA came from Democrat's frustration over their failure to derail the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court and was signed into law by Clinton in 1993. You can't make this stuff up!

What's particularly rich is when the people who still want to crucify Clarence Thomas (not necessarily The Todd as I don't know) on the basis of a single woman's testimony are the same people willing to give a pass to Clinton and the mountain of evidence from MANY women that he is at best a serial harasser and at worst a serial rapist.

The Todd's legal point is taken that "perjury," "false," and "intentionally false" testimony are not always the same. But somehow amending my comment to:

"Laura Bush should've had her husband fool around with an intern and then willfully fail to obey orders to testify truthfully by providing intentionally false testimony, be found in contempt of court, fined $90,000, have his law license suspended as part of admitting some of his answers to questions material to the investigation were intentionally false and be also be suspended from the United States Supreme Court bar"

just isn't as pithy as I would have liked.

In the next installment of "Setting the Record Straight" The New York Times explains how the allegation that Governor Sarah Palin once said Africa was a country is a HOAX:

The BeeMaster
Platinum Level Priority Club with InterContinental Hotels Group (which includes Holiday Inn Express)

todd said...

Truly you have a dizzying intellect.

As I understand it there are five points from President Clinton's testimony in the Paula Jones deposition on January 17, 1998 and the Ken Starr Grand Jury hearing on August 17, 1998 that are commonly claimed to be perjury.

1. "Sexual relations"

Paula Jones' attorneys asked President Clinton, during a deposition, whether he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Prior to the questioning, Jones' lawyers produced this legal definition of sexual relations:

"For the purposes of this deposition, a person engages in sexual relations when the person knowingly engages in or causes:

1. Contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person;
2. Contact between any part of the person's body or an object and the genitals or anus of another person; or
3. Contact between the genitals or anus of the person and any part of another person's body.

Contact means intentional touching, either directly or through clothing."

A lengthy debate between to the two teams of lawyers ensued. Judge Susan Webber Wright eliminated points 2 and 3 were thrown out as too broad: Anyone accidently brushing up against another person could be accused of having "sex." Note that point 3 would have clearly included oral sex performed on Clinton.

Clinton was then asked if he had sex with Ms. Lewinsky. His answer would be defined by the remaining legal definition.

The definition, however, contained ambiguities. Who are the "persons" mentioned in the definition? Clinton interpreted it this way:

"For the purposes of this deposition, a person [the deponent, in this case, Clinton] engages in sexual relations when the person [Clinton] knowingly engages in or causes:

1. Contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person [that is, any other person, in this case, Monica Lewinsky] with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person [Lewinsky];

Contact means intentional touching, either directly or through clothing."

Given this interpretation the definition clearly does not include oral sex performed on Clinton. The mouth is not listed among the body parts in point 1. Further, a man receiving oral sex is generally considered to be receiving pleasure rather than giving it, and so the "to arouse or gratify the sexual desire" of Ms. Lewinsky portion of the definition is not met.

Some would argue that Clinton's interpretation of the definition is wrong, but it is reasonable at most and arguable at least. Even if Clinton did misinterpret the most obvious meaning, it would be up to prosecutors to prove he intended to lie about it rather than he was mistaken, something which is frankly impossible to prove. Jones' lawyers could have eliminated any confusing by wording the definition in a less ambiguous way. They could also have asked follow up questions, as they were invited to by Clinton's lawyers, but they chose not to.

The "cigar incident" also fails the definition, as "contact" is defined as touching, either direct or through clothing.

The one other element of this answer is whether Clinton was "hands off" during the contact. Ms. Lewinsky's testimony would say no.

There are several defense approaches: Lewinsky may have exaggerated her testimony. Another possibility, implied by Clinton, is that he did not touch her with "an intent to arouse or gratify." Any touching was for his pleasure, not hers, which would make his answers still legally accurate. This might make him sexually selfish, but that is not illegal. To prove perjury, a prosecutor must somehow enter Clinton’s head and prove that he did not intend to sexually gratify Ms. Lewinsky. Which, of course, is clearly impossible. Clinton may have even made a mistake by interpreting the definition too narrowly, but that is not the same thing as lying.
The bottom line is that the definition crafted by the Jones’ lawyers was deeply flawed, and it allowed Clinton to make legally accurate answers in spite of what actually happened.

Wow, that's a lot of words. If anyone wishes I can do the same thing for the other four points, but this is already longer than any single blog comment should be.

The point is that if I, a non-lawyer, can with 5 minutes worth of internet research poke this many holes in any attempt at prosecuting President Clinton for perjury, there's just not really a strong enough case for it ever to go to a trial.

As for Clarence Thomas, there are several factors at play. The lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court should have the threshold for appointment set as high as possible. But beyond all that, and putting aside any ideological differences I have with Justice Thomas, I remain sharply critical of his reticence to ever ask questions during oral argument. I do not believe one can be a truly effective jurist without doing so.

I have iocane powder available if we need it for the next step.

Anonymous said...

Ha! You said "poke this many holes..."

The BeeMaster