June 26, 2004


I still find it fascinating that Roger Porter, George H.W. Bush's Assistant to the President for Domestic and Economic Policy, tried to recruit Bill Clinton to join the Republican Party in 1991:

Bob Somerby: David Maraniss : In the only conversation he had with Clinton in 1991, Porter said, he told Clinton that he ought to switch to the Republican party if he wanted to become president...

And I find it fascinating that--as best as I can put the story together--Porter believed back in 1991 that Clinton would have a good chance of winning the Republican nomination in 1996 and then the presidency. It does cast a very interesting light on the Republican spasms of Clinton-hatred.

Another thing I find fascinating about politics during the 1990s was that Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was unable to get Kenneth Starr to cool it with respect to Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich--then married to the second Mrs. Gingrich while meeting the third Mrs. Gingrich to be after her choir practices at the National Cathedral--was extremely vulnerable. And certainly from the Republican House perspective, Starr's pursuit of Clinton over Monica Lewinsky was one of the great own-goals of all time: after all, it ended the political careers of two Republican Speakers of the House of Representative--Newt Gingrich and Robert Livingstone. That's a very large amount of friendly fire.

Posted by DeLong at June 26, 2004 01:27 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

" Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was unable to get Kenneth Starr to cool it..."

Exactly how would a Speaker be able to influence an Independent Counsel?

But, as for who is lying, Porter or Clinton, I'll give odds that it's the same guy who has told everyone:

1. I have painful memories of black churches being burned in Arkansas during my childhood.

2. All I'm being asked about are a woman I didn't sleep with and a Draft I didn't dodge.

3. I remember the Iowa caucuses during my childhood.

4. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

5. It depends what the definition of "is" is.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 26, 2004 04:04 PM


Both parties appear to agree that a conversation occurred; they disagree on its content. But the disagreement isn't so great that it can't be reconciled. Clinton may have thought that Porter was conveying a threat, while Porter sincerely believed that he was merely offering friendly advice.

Porter may even have been innocently conveying a message which the Bush Administration, in the style of Tarquinius Superbus, fully intended as a threat, and which Clinton accurately perceived as such; while Porter himself did not grasp the implication.

Posted by: Keith Bloom on June 26, 2004 05:38 PM


More likely that Roger Porter realized it would be political career death to admit he ever entertained the notion, once he understood what was happening in the Republican Party.

Likewise, Gingrich, for all his posturing, is from the socially-liberal country-club wing, while Starr, despite his white collar, is one of the pro-life guns and Bibles guys. Oil and water actually never mix, except to make tax cuts for the country-clubbers.

One of the finest books of this political season has just been released: “What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America” by Thomas Frank (Metropolitan Books: Henry Holt). An indispensible dissection of the Republican Party--shows exactly what has happened.

Posted by: Lee A. on June 26, 2004 07:25 PM


I wonder if Mr. Sullivan is talking about the man who said:

10. "I have been very candid about my past." ...He was then in the middle of media firestorm that followed the revelation that he had once been arrested for drunken driving. Of course, this statement was untrue. He uttered it while he was trying to explain why he had not been "candid" about his arrest record.

6. "We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th." Bush said this in November 2002, as he appointed Henry Kissinger to be chairman of an independent 9/11 commission that Bush had orignially opposed. (Kissinger lasted two weeks in the job.) But Bush has not encouraged the uncovering of every detail. His administration did not turn over information to the congressional 9/11 inquiry about intelligence warnings the White House reviewed before 9/11.

4. "I first got to know Ken [Lay in 1994]." As the Enron scandal reached the White House in early 2002, Bush uttered this remark, claiming he had nothing to do with Lay until after winning the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. It was an apparent and clumsy effort to diminish his relationship with the now-disgraced Enron chief. But in1994, Lay and Enron had been leading contributors to Bush’s campaign. And Lay—long a patron of Bush’s father—had worked with Bush in political settings prior to 1994. In a pre-scandal interview, Lay noted he had been "very close to George W." for years before 1994.

3. "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." And, "[Saddam Hussein is] a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda."

2. "We found the weapons of mass destruction." Bush issued this triumphant remark in late May 2003, while being interviewed by a Polish television reporter. He was referring to two tractor-trailers obtained by U.S. forces in Iraq....Whichever side might be ultimately right about the trailers, this all-important piece of evidence was hotly contested. It was hardly solid enough to support Bush’s we-found-them declaration or to justify a war.


Mr. Sullivan is also ignorant of the fact that, according to Professor Vernelia Randall of the University of Dayton, "In 1963, a church was reported to have been bombed in Pine Bluff, Arkansas." (http://academic.udayton.edu/race/06hrights/WaronTerrorism/churchburn01a.htm) preferring to rely on Republican tracts to stay misinformed. Racially motivated churhc burnings remain a problem in Arkansas (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=6th&navby=case&no=970178p)

Not that *any* of this has anything to do with the thread.

Posted by: Charles on June 26, 2004 07:32 PM


We really only have two certified presidential liars, Nixon and Clinton. Both were disbarred.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on June 26, 2004 07:44 PM


That Clinton lied about a personal indiscretion, a matter of no real significance, will of course, forever be overlooked by desperate Republicans.

Posted by: Dubblblind on June 26, 2004 08:06 PM


Despite which, the society does not seem to have developed a shortage of certified, non-presidential liars.

Posted by: Charles on June 26, 2004 08:08 PM


And those non-presidential liars include a whole bunch of lawyers.

Posted by: masaccio on June 27, 2004 05:53 AM


Does the fact that W is ineligible for disbarment somehow prove that he has told no lies in his official capacity? An odd implication, to say the least.

Posted by: JRoth on June 27, 2004 06:42 AM


Oh, and isn't it cute how Patrick pretends (pretends to believe?) that Kenneth Starr was an incorruptible, apolitical Independent Counsel? Thank you very much for a Sunday morning chuckle.

Posted by: JRoth on June 27, 2004 06:44 AM


"Not that *any* of this has anything to do with the thread."

Then why did you bring it up? Especially since what I said clearly did. To wit: the thread is about who is lying, Mr. Porter or Bill Clinton. W's veracity is irrelevant.

Whether or not Mr. Starr is "apolitical" is similarly a red herring. The claim was made that Newt Gingrich could have gotten Mr. Starr to "cool it". My question still stands; How?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 27, 2004 08:23 AM


"I'll give odds..."

I'll take those odds. Now who is the referee? And, what are the stakes?

Posted by: dennisS on June 27, 2004 08:52 AM


Well, for one thing by passing the word to Starr's enablers, such as in no particular order, Burton, Scaife, Schmidt, etc.

Posted by: Eli Rabett on June 27, 2004 09:32 AM


The idea that Ken Starr was in a cocoon, not subject to any congressional influence (including the cutting of funding for his investigation) is quite amazing. However, such was the tenacity of Starr that i doubt there was any stopping him; a man who thinks that legal proceedings are designed to elicit the "truth" and who so spectacularly, by his own account, misread the OIC responsibilities (putting the emphasis on the word "any" rather than the word that followed, which, iirc, was "credible"), was unlike to stop pushing on clinton, paula jones, and monica just because it would embarass gingrich.

As for A. Zarkov, no, every president has lied, and we can "certify" that to the bank. Someday, for instance, A., you might take a look at the LBJ transcripts, just as one small, random example.

As for Patrick, it takes a rather limited imagination to assume that one or the other must have "lied." In fact, it turns out that Patrick's original take on the situation - that Clinton fabricated it out of whole cloth - turns out to be disturbingly...untrue. There was clearly a conversation; that its two participants remember it in somewhat different ways is a commonplace revealed every single day in court (as well as in loads of studies). But no, Patrick thinks that Clinton must have "lied," whereas Ann Coulter commits "trivial inaccuracies." It's a wonderful world where Patrick lives, where his 5 points (such as they are, and they aren't much) prove that Clinton must be a lying bastard in his every word....

Posted by: howard on June 27, 2004 09:56 AM


Mr. Sullivan seizes upon instances of things Bill Clinton says as evidence of his untruthfulness. In reality, the number of lies told about Clinton are far, far more numerous and vile that *anything* Clinton ever said.

One example of how lies are used to attack Clinton's veracity was provided by Mr. Sullivan himself, who used as an instance of "lying" the point that Clinton remebered black churches burning during his childhood. I presented proof from a scholar that there a church in Pine Bluff was bombed in 1963. Someone interested in the truth would have at least paused in his diatribes after seeing his very first point shot down in flames. But nothing derails Mr. Sullivan or the people he draws his misinformation from.

As for why I raised Mr. Bush's record of lying, it was simply a device to expose the hypocrisy involved in the attacks on Clinton. An honest person would pause and say, "Yes, those are instances of lying which are serious and disturbing." They did not disturb Mr. Zharkov, who is apparently only interested if the lying is "certified" by a scrupulously neutral body such as an opposition Congress. And Mr. Sullivan doesn't notice Bush's lies at all.

Such hypocrisy is massive and shameless.

Posted by: Charles on June 27, 2004 10:12 AM


Patrick is using poor logic. Some statements by President Clinton are not true. Therefore, all statements by President Clinton are not true.

In using the record to judge the veracity of this or any other situation, we find that Clinton was much more honest and forthright about his policies and politics than he was deceptive. Truthful statements from Mr Clinton far outnumber the few lies that Patrick presents. In fact, the GOP hated Clinton most when he told the truth. Hate Clinton all you want, Clinton believed his policies and defended them. Clinton did not pull the dishonest bait and switch we have had for the past 3 years.

In judging the veracity of Porter, or rather the press version of Porter, we find conflicting statements that A) the conversation took place but what was said is misrepresented and B) the conversation did not take place. By Porter's early statements, the phone call occurred. OK so Porter does not remember the conversation the same way as Clinton. What does Porter claim to have said instead to a then obscure governor of a small insignificant southern state? What exactly is it Clinton wrote that Porter finds untruthful?

I can imagine that Porter was asked to call Clinton and find out his political intentions. I can also imagine that Porter was angry the story went public and does not agree with the way it is told. To say that one side is lying begs the question of which parts of the conversation are in dispute. From what I have read, I have no idea of what the objections of Porter are.

Posted by: bakho on June 27, 2004 01:13 PM


Read Blumenthal. Newt had a scenario where Clinton would be impeached and resign. Gore would pardon Clinton, Gore would be impeached and Newt (next in line) would be president. Newt thought the Lewinski scandal would help the GOP gain seats in 98. Newt ordered the "What will we tell the children ads". The effect was to annoy the Democratic base into turning out in droves and turn off the GOP base. Newt left office not because of some scandal, but because the GOP lost seats in the 98 elections. Like all good hypocrits, the personal morality issues Newt applied to Clinton he failed to apply to himself.

The Republicans didn't think they would get caught because they felt they could control the press. They did not count on Larry Flynt making enormous profits exposing GOP hypocrisy.

Posted by: bakho on June 27, 2004 08:59 PM


Save your breath, bakho. Roaches always run when someone turns on the light.

Posted by: Charles on June 28, 2004 10:31 PM


Brad, I really don't see it as that big an own-goal. There's Gingrich and Livingston on the one hand, and there's Bush in the White House on the other. Overall, I chalk it up as a W for the Pubbies.

Iraq is of course the greatest own-goal in the post-WWII era - for the country in the War on Terror and in a number of other ways, and probably for Bush and the GOP this fall.

In the WoT, it was an own goal beginning in early 2002 when the Bushies diverted key Special Forces units from Afghanistan to begin scouting out the territory for the Iraq war-to-be. And of course Iraq has continued to suck up the lion's share of the resources - military, monetary, and the sheer time and attention of the top decision-makers - that we've sent to that part of the world.

It's been an own goal in that it's opened up a previously unavailable recruiting field for al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers. It's simultaneously opened up a new, easy-access location for them to attack Americans and those in the Middle East who work with them. And of course, it's been a propaganda poster for those elements in more ways than I can list here, from Abu Ghraib to Fallujah to Najaf, to the reality that we're overmatched in the present conflict. We can beat the Mahdi Army or the Fallujah insurgents militarily, but only by forgetting that this was supposed to be about hearts and minds.

And of course it's been an own goal in that, after over 1000 Coalition dead (including contractors), tens of thousands injured, Lord knows how many Iraqis dead, and a couple hundred billion spent, we've got nothing to show for it, and we might wind up with a Middle East that's far more unstable and dangerous, both for us and for the Arab-on-the-street, than it was with Saddam running Iraq.

And of course, it's an own goal in having screwed up our relations with numerous other countries, in having demonstrably undermined our commitment to democracy by putting all sorts of other goals ahead of it (see Krugman's column this morning), and who knows what else. I can't possibly be comprehensive here.

Iraq is the biggest own-goal of my lifetime, hands down.

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