Via Political Wire, here's the brilliant legal mind of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in action:
"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 dollars."
-- Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), on Meet the Press, minimizing lying under oath as a "technicality."
Lying is a moral wrong. Perjury is a lie told under oath that is legally wrong. To be illegal, the lie must be willfully told, must be believed to be untrue, and must relate to a material matter. Title 18, Section 1621 and 1623, U.S. Code.
If President Washington, as a child, had cut down a cherry tree and lied about it, he would be guilty of `lying,' but would not be guilty of `perjury.'
If, on the other hand, President Washington, as an adult, had been warned not to cut down a cherry tree, but he cut it down anyway, with the tree falling on a man and severely injuring or killing him, with President Washington stating later under oath that it was not he who cut down the tree, that would be `perjury.' Because it was a material fact in determining the circumstances of the man's injury or death.
Some would argue that the President in the second example should not be impeached because the whole thing is about a cherry tree, and lies about cherry trees, even under oath, though despicable, do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution. I disagree.
The perjury committed in the second example was an attempt to impede, frustrate, and obstruct the judicial system in determining how the man was injured or killed, when, and by whose hand, in order to escape personal responsibility under the law, either civil or criminal. Such would be an impeachable offense. To say otherwise would be to severely lower the moral and legal standards of accountability that are imposed on ordinary citizens every day. The same standard should be imposed on our leaders.
Nearly every child in America believes that President Washington, as a child himself, did in fact cut down the cherry tree and admitted to his father that he did it, saying simply: `I cannot tell a lie.'
I will not compromise this simple but high moral principle in order to avoid serious consequences to a successor President who may choose to ignore it.
-- Excerpted from the statement by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) during the Senate's closed deliberations on the articles of impeachment against President Clinton, published in the Congressional Record for Friday, February 12, 1999.
Barbara Radnofsky has a suggestion for KBH, from a press release I received this morning:
No elected official should tolerate or excuse perjury. I call on Kay Bailey Hutchison to renounce perjury. She should resign if she tolerates it.
UPDATE: Just out of curiosity, would KBH consider forgery to be a matter worth pursuing, or is that another one of those "technicalities"?
UPDATE: Turns out quite a few other Republican Senators thought perjury was important in 1999. What do they all think now?Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 24, 2005 to National news | TrackBack