WP: COHEN: Leaks? What About The Truth?

Maher, Steve (SD-MS) SMAHER at GI.COM
Tue Feb 10 11:47:00 MST 1998

From: CAS mail list

Washington Post

Leaks? What About The Truth?

                  By Richard Cohen

                  Tuesday, February 10, 1998; Page A19

                  Hanging in my office, nicely
                  framed and of modest historical
                  interest, is a subpoena issued in
                  connection with the investigation of
                  one Spiro T. Agnew, vice president
                  of the United States, commanding
                  me to appear in court and say
                  whether the Justice Department
                  was leaking to -- among others --
                  me. Take my word for it:
                  Patriotism may be the last refuge of
                  a scoundrel, but yelling about leaks
                  is a close second.

                  Agnew, of course, was both playing
                  for time and trying to divert
                  attention. He had his reasons --
                  among them the fact that he was
                  guilty of multiple crimes. I don't
                  know if President Clinton is
                  similarly inconvenienced. I only
                  know that he has yet to come clean
                  about dear Monica Lewinsky, and
                  he is, a la Agnew, yelling about
                  grand jury leaks. What, though,
                  about the truth?

                  That he says he cannot mention,
                  because a grand jury investigation
                  is in progress. But what the White
                  House does not say is that the
                  president is free to talk. He can say
                  whatever he wants, including --
                  should it prove convenient -- the

                  But the president is doing nothing
                  of the sort. I am obliged to add at
                  this point that this means nothing. It
                  could be that the president is
                  innocent of all charges, including
                  perjury, suborning perjury,
                  obstruction of justice and -- no
                  small thing to me -- staring the
                  American people in the eye and
                  lying to them. This could all be one
                  dreadful mistake.

                  The president, though, is sure not
                  acting like it. Instead of simply
                  reciting the facts, he has launched a
                  political defense. Those of us who
                  went through Watergate and
                  Agnewgate are having distinct
                  feelings of deja vu. We have heard
                  this tinny protest about leaks
                  before. Leaks are not to be
                  condoned, but they are inevitable
                  and awfully hard to stop and,
                  anyway, are not exactly central to
                  the question of whether Bill
                  Clinton -- not to put too fine a
                  point on it -- is a liar.

                  The same could be said about
                  allegations of a right-wing
                  conspiracy. This charge was
                  initially made by Hillary Rodham
                  Clinton, and it is, on the face of it,
                  preposterous. Clinton has his
                  enemies and some of them, to my
                  mind, need to be medicated; they
                  are a rabid, drooling lot, willing to
                  see evil and vile behavior in
                  everything Clinton does. But
                  neither Monica Lewinsky nor the
                  press can be included in that group.
                  Clinton is in difficulty now not
                  because he has enemies but because
                  he has admirers.

                  For the moment, in fact, I don't
                  care about the origins of any of the
                  charges -- just whether they are
                  true. Specifically, did the president
                  lie while being deposed in the
                  Paula Jones matter? Did he and his
                  agents try to buy Lewinsky's silence
                  (or goodwill) by offering her jobs?
                  Did he or his agents coach her to
                  perjure herself, and did he do
                  something similar with Betty
                  Currie, his secretary? And, as long
                  as we're asking questions, did
                  Clinton sexually harass Kathleen
                  Willey, the one-time White House
                  volunteer who came to him seeking
                  a paying job?

                  For some time now, I have been
                  critical of Kenneth Starr and his
                  meandering investigation. What's
                  more, I have been defending
                  Clinton against charges that he was
                  everything from a mad womanizer
                  to a drug smuggler. So I don't like
                  the way Starr has handled himself,
                  and I loathe investigations that ask
                  people -- some of them mere
                  nobodies -- to reveal their most
                  intimate secrets. We all ought to be

                  But we have to be concerned, too,
                  about a White House that has
                  answered some grave charges about
                  its integrity by yelling about leaks
                  and claiming the American people
                  don't give a damn. None of this
                  amounts to a response, and anyway,
                  right or wrong is not determined by
                  plebiscite. If vast majorities of
                  Americans said Thomas Jefferson
                  was the first president, that would
                  not make it so.

                  The leaks in the current
                  investigation are not easily
                  dismissed. The reputations of
                  important people are at stake --
                  people who have yet to be indicted
                  and may never be. Starr would be
                  wise to put up one of those wartime
                  Loose Lips Sink Ships posters and
                  hope for the best.

                  But for all of that, the protest over
                  leaks has the smell of a diversion --
                  an attempt to duck the question by
                  impugning the questioner. Such a
                  tactic did not work for Agnew, and
                  it will not work for Clinton, either
                  -- although maybe not for the same
                  reason. Agnew was guilty. Clinton
                  may just be acting like he is.

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