Saturday, July 07, 2007

The father-son conversation

A family melodrama in two acts

I scrupulously avoid raising political topics in conversations with my father. He doesn't listen anyway, so it's a waste of breath. (I dare say he would say exactly the same thing about me.) Dad, however, can go only so long before he feels obligated to take a poke or two at me. He likes to mix it up, if only a little. The following dialogs are pasted-up snippets of multiple sniping episodes, and therefore fictional mostly in the way I hid the splices.

Act I: January 2001

“If perjury isn't a high crime or misdemeanor, I don't know what is.”

“Clinton has not been convicted of perjury, Dad, even though they tried their best to entrap him.”

“Well, he certainly lied about his relationship with Monica! That's a crime!”

“No, Dad. Fooling around with Monica may have been stupid, but it's not a crime. Lying about it isn't a crime either, although the president can parse it out like the lawyer he is and claim it wasn't even a lie. His accusers can't make it stick that he lied under oath, although they constantly repeat the charge.”

“But he admitted to perjury!”

“No, Dad. Clinton copped a kind of plea bargain on his way out the door and the independent counsel accepted it because he knew he couldn't win a court case.”

“That means he admitted he was guilty of perjury!”

“Guess again, Dad. He cut a deal that meant no further prosecution (I'd say persecution) of him in return for his admission of giving ‘misleading testimony’ in the Paula Jones investigation. Clinton did not admit to perjury, was not prosecuted for perjury, and did not even get indicted for perjury. Whine about it all you like, but Clinton is not guilty of perjury.”

“He should have been convicted because he lied about having sex with Lewinsky.”

“I'm not sure even you really believe that, Dad.”

“Don't go telling me what I believe! He said he did not have sex with ‘that woman, Miss Lewinsky,’ but he did. He's guilty as sin!”

“You may be getting sin and crime mixed up again, Dad. Would you agree that a girl doesn't lose her virginity until she has sex?”

“You're a little old to be asking that question, aren't you? Of course she doesn't lose her virginity without sex.”

“Does a girl lose her virginity if she gives her boyfriend a blowjob?”

“That's a mortal sin outside of marriage.”

“Again, Dad, we weren't talking about sin. We were talking about losing one's virginity by oral sex.”

“Okay, she's technically still a virgin, but she's on the road to hell if she does that sort of thing.”

“So you agree that oral sex isn't really sex?”

“I didn't say that!”

“Not in so many words, but you're agreeing with President Clinton—and a majority of the U.S. teenage population—when you acknowledge that blowjobs aren't really sex, at least not sex in the sense of anything that costs someone her virginity. When Clinton said he didn't have sex, he carefully avoided saying he didn't get a blowjob from her.”

“That's just disgusting bobbing and weaving with lawyer-talk.”

“While I think your choice of words may be unfortunate, Dad, perjury is all about a very specific legal definition of making false statements under oath. If Ken Starr and his staff were too stupid (or prissy) to pin down the definition of sex when they were interrogating the president, they richly deserve to be laughed out of court when they blubber and moan about how he committed perjury when he denied having sex with Lewinsky. They're stupid, Clinton's clever, they lost. I say ha ha on those blue noses.”

Act II: July 2007

“I don't see how they can convict someone for lying about a nonexistent crime. If there's no underlying crime, how can there be perjury about it?”

“Gee, Dad, I thought you were a big fan of perjury convictions, both real and imagined.”

“This Scooter Libby conviction is definitely imagined. They made it all up because he couldn't remember details about a crime that never happened.”

“Oh, there was a crime, all right, Dad. The special prosecutor said he couldn't pursue the original crime because of Libby's lies and misrepresentations during testimony. I seem to recall that lying under oath is the textbook definition of perjury. Don't you think perjury is a crime anymore?”

“I still don't think a perjury charge is fair over something as insignificant as confusing testimony over a non-crime.”

“If the CIA thought Valerie Plame was a covert agent, then Valerie Plame was a covert agent. That makes ‘outing’ her a federal crime—an especially bad one during an era of terrorism because she was working on tracking weapons of mass destruction. A crime was committed and Libby worked his ass off to cover it up.”

“It's still not fair because Libby was singled out.”

“I'd be perfectly happy to see other Bush administration officials tried and convicted. We can always hope. The case of Libby, however, is not ambiguous. He did the crime, so he should do the time.”

“Your big hero Clinton didn't do any time! He got off scot-free!”

“Losing your license to practice law isn't exactly ‘scot free,’ Dad. But if your new standard is based on triviality, then Clinton's prosecution and impeachment were ridiculous over-reactions to an insignificant consensual affair. The business of his fooling around is a domestic matter, by which I mean it's between him and his wife. I'm sure Hillary—one of the scariest people in the world according to your wingnut buddies—can figure out a way to see to his punishment. For the nation as a whole, though, it's practically meaningless.”

“How can you say that? He defiled the Oval Office!”

“Funny you should say that. Been listening to Rush too much? Bill and Monica didn't have their fun and games in the Oval Office. The testimony showed it was in a small side room used by the president as a study. For some strange reason, no reporter or accuser found it necessary to point this out during the impeachment flap. They always said, ‘Oval Office, Oval Office, Oval Office’! Then George W. Bush turned that study into a trophy room, using it to mount one of Saddam's guns on a plaque as a memento of his great success as a war leader. Suddenly everyone was mentioning that the room was also the Clinton-Lewinsky venue. Funny, that.”

“See! At least President Bush was using the room for something honorable, commemorating his victory over terrorism.”

“I'm sorry I brought it up, but I guess it's good that Bush celebrated victory before people found out it was a quagmire instead. Later would have been too late.”

Dad turned up the volume on the television.


Mr. Lucchese said...

Hilarious! I find myself acting out roughly this dialog a lot lately.

ScarabusRedivivus said...

Funny, but also informative. I learned some stuff. Good on ya!

Anonymous said...

As much as I hate texting acronyms: OMG!!! It's like you were writing about ME and MY father! I can't stand to be at his house when he has his "daytime radio" on. It positively reeks of disinformation, false talking points, and red herrings. I feel for you. There's another soul with my I hate it, but misery loves company. Good article.

Monado said...

So why isn't Libby being punished for his perjury and treason? l