- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

I love politics both the great issues and the great game. But for me in the last week the joy has been, temporarily, utterly removed. The game of knaves and princes has taken on an austere, even cruel, solemnity, as Charles Bakaly III, Ken Starr's former spokesman, stands in the dock charged with making criminally false statements to a federal judge.

As I write, judgment has not yet been rendered. I hope he is finally found innocent in fact and in law. But, innocent or guilty, it is an uncommented-upon scandal that in the last week Mr. Bakaly has been defended from both the left and right not by an assertion of his innocence, but by the argument that his alleged crime is not worth prosecuting.

What makes this an austere and joyless moment for me is that Mr. Bakaly is on my side of the great political divide he was a fellow Reaganite. I know him and have known him to be both smart and honest. I worked with his father in a California campaign a quarter century ago. And yet I feel compelled to say that, if guilty, he has committed a serious crime that requires criminal sanction.

In politics, as in war, shooting your own wounded is a despised act, and can be justified only in extremis. But his alleged conduct lying to a federal judge must be condemned precisely by those people who condemned similar conduct in President Clinton (or Hillary and Al Gore.)

I first publicly called Mr. Clinton a liar over five years ago. Since then, I have been on television hundreds of times during the impeachment period alone making the point that it wasn't the sex, it was the perjury and obstruction of justice which required impeachment and conviction.

So for me, now, it is not just Mr. Bakaly who is on trial: Truth is on trial and it is on the brink of being found irrelevant. Consider the Wall Street Journal article by Julian Epstein chief Democratic counsel on the House Judiciary Committee and a prominent Clinton impeachment defender. Focusing on the fact that the leak about which Mr. Bakaly allegedly lied was later found to be legal, Mr. Epstein points out:

"There is no real underlying crime … we are left with semantic parsing … [like the investigations involving the first lady and vice president] they were, largely interminable investigations into semantic trivialities that emerged from dead-end probes."

So, in the deconstructed, objectivity-is-subjective-world in which we live, perjury is now to be reduced to "semantic trivialities." If truth is trivial, is justice possible? After all, isn't justice the vindication of truth?

On the other side of the impeachment fight one finds the article by Wall Street Journal Editor Robert L. Bartley (whose editorial page brilliantly led the fight for Mr. Clinton's impeachment) asserting:

"The case against Mr. Bakaly rests on lawyerly pushing and shoving about what he was or was not obligated to tell the investigators. Normal discretion would conclude no harm, no foul … "

That argument is the twin to the Clinton defense that the Paula Jones case was dismissed, so who cares about a perjurious deposition in a dismissed civil case? Well, I care. And Mr. Bartley did too, not so long ago.

Meanwhile, in the New York Times, Jonathan Turley, the liberal law professor who prominently condemned Mr. Clinton, defends Mr. Bakaly with the closing non sequitur:

"In a city of habitual leakers, however, the prosecution of Mr. Bakaly offers no more justice than a random execution for collective guilt."

But, if Mr. Bakaly is guilty of lying to a federal judge, it is not random, and he is not a scapegoat for others, but a specific individual who committed a crime and deserves fair punishment.

In the case of the Clinton defenders, they are defending Mr. Bakaly in order to vindicate Mr. Clinton. This has always been, and will always be, the ultimate Clinton defense: destroy ethical standards and opponents until they seem to shrink to the moral size of Mr. Clinton.

In the case of the Clinton opponents, they are defending Mr. Bakaly because they hate to see the Clinton crowd get away with their crimes, while our allies who did far less get the book thrown at them. This is understandable, but petty. We must not keep score against each other, but against the abiding standards of our civilization.

Speaking the truth and obeying the law is the rock on which our mansion is built. We must condemn those, of whatever political stripe, who chisel away at that foundation.

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