EVERY WHICH WAY YOU WANT…With the verdict in the Libby trial due any day now, some of us here at the Monthly got to thinking. Many leading conservatives have downplayed the importance of the entire Plame-Wilson affair from the start. And once it became clear that the only prosecution in the case would be for perjury and obstruction of justice during the investigation–rather than for the original crime of leaking Plame’s name–some became downright dismissive of the entire enterprise. Giving faulty information to a prosecutor, it seems, just isn’t that big a deal in the conservative world.
But what were those same conservatives saying about a different perjury case, when the target was not a top aide to Dick Cheney, but a Democratic president, and the underlying substance of the case was, by any measure, somewhat less earth-shaking? Here, thanks to Monthly interns Nick Baumann and Oliver Haydock, are some choice examples of what we might call the evolving conservative line on perjury:
GOP Rep. Lindsey Graham (now Senator) on Clinton, 1998: “I believe it is a crime–it’s a high crime that should subject any president for removal.” Graham also served as one of the GOP’s managers of the impeachment case.
And on Libby, 2006: “When it came to the grand jury, he gave false testimony allegedly about his interaction. But the underlying charge that started this investigation never materialized. So you have to put it in that perspective…It’s a bad story but it’s a different story than the way it started.”
Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes on Clinton, 1998: “It’s going to be hard not to impeach the president for prejury.”
And on Libby, 2006: “Fitzgerald should terminate his probe immediately. A correction–perhaps the longest and most overdue in the history of journalism–is in order.”
GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, on Clinton, 1998: “Something needs to be said that is a clear message that our rule of law is intact and the standards for perjury and obstruction of justice are not gray.”
And on Libby, 2005: “I certainly hope that, if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollar.”
(Thanks to The New Republic‘s Jon Chait for this one. [subscription required])
GOP Sen. Don Nickles on Clinton, 1998: “In my opinion, President Clinton is guilty of perjury. He is guilty of obstruction of justice.”
Nickles now serves on the Libby Defense Board.