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Clinton masters craft of lying

My criminal law professor, Woody Deem, taught me of the art of lying. He did so in order to teach me how to cross-examine witnesses on their statements. He used the following sentence: I didn't kill your dog. In this Clintonian era of smoke and mirrors and media idiocy, such a statement would be reported as a denial by Bill Clinton that he killed your dog whereupon Hillary Rodham Socks Clinton would appear on the Today show and expound upon dangerous right-wing conspiracies operating in secret since February 1992 through roving bands of mercenaries who kill the dogs of Democrats found to favor nationalized health care, child care subsidies, or helmets for skiing Kennedys.

However, when dealing with the Oval Office galoot and his denials, one must be careful with definitions and inflection:I didn't kill your dog. (Your dog is a goner, but I didn't do it.)

I didn't kill your dog. (Your dog is in bad shape, but alive.)

I didn't kill your dog. (I've killed many other dogs, but not yours.)

I didn't kill your dog. (However, your cat is a goner.)

Our Hefneresque president is a master of the artful phrase. When asked whether he had smoked marijuana, Clinton's initial answer was, "I did not break the laws of my country." The media called it a denial. What Bubba meant was that he was offshore when he donned a lab coat and "experiment-ed" but did not inhale.

When asked whether he had a 12-year affair with the voluptuous Gennifer Flowers, our insatiable commander-in-chief answered, "No." Many interpreted such to be a denial and promptly moved on to stories about Flowers, Jerry Falwell and Kenneth Starr masterminding a coup of Janet Reno and the FBI. Buddy's owner has now admitted to an affair with Flowers, the grand poobah of Republican conspirists, but explains his earlier statement was not a lie because his affair with this undercover operative disguised as a cabaret star was not precisely 12 years in duration.

In Clinton's current crisis, brought on apparently because he did more than hug Lewinsky and her beret, his words have reduced us to definitional questions that force us to send our children packing when the Today show covers the story. Clinton has said, with the great force and anger only a six-year conspiracy now enveloping the federal judiciary can produce, that he did not have a "sexual relationship with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." Cross-examination a la Woody Deem would ask, "How do you define sexual relationship?" The ever-optimistic New York Times characterizes the statement as a denial.

Clinton also proclaims that he has "never told anybody not to tell the truth." There is no denial there. Clinton could have said, "Deny, deny, deny," as he said to the calculating Flowers on tape. Or he could have said to Vernon Jordan, Washington's most beneficent human being who finds jobs for all felons, potential and otherwise, "Vernon, take care of this." His statement is accurate, and it is not a lie, but it is also not the truth.

This is a magical White House of illusions. There is the indignant appearance of denial, but there are no denials. Clinton has never faced cross-examination from the media or the public. The leader of the free world enjoys a graced life while accusers and members of his cabinet are toppled like blocks from a toddler's tower. Half-denials and twisted phrases work when it's Bubba vs. the Bimbo. Pin a label on them, issue carefully chosen and undefined words, and your crisis will pass.

The majority of the American public have fallen for the Bubster's line. But Woody Deem would have seen through it and reminded me, "False impressions are not denials, and half-truths are still lies."