- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

The Fourth of July is over but Bill Clinton remember him? just might want to light one more firecracker to celebrate American independence from Great Britain. Had things gone the other way 200-plus years ago, he might be in jail.
The thought of Mr. Clinton amid these tranquil (or not) summer days may be about as welcome as sand in the sunblock, but news from England this summer brings the former prez to mind. Why? As Mr. Clinton finishes moving into his plush, new, Harlem offices this week, Jeffrey Archer Lord Jeffrey Archer the high-profile Tory politician and multi-millionaire novelist, will be just about finishing his second week in a cell at a high-security prison in southeast London. That leaves the luxe-loving lord with 3 years and 50 weeks to go to pay his debt to British society for assorted acts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
To put his crimes in cruder, more Clintonian terms, the 61-year-old Archer lied about sex. And not only did he lie about sex, he persuaded others, including his personal secretary, to lie about sex on his behalf. The fact that he is finally behind bars because of these lies not preparing, for example, to re-emerge as the life of Democratic Party fund-raising shows that more than the Atlantic Ocean still separates the two nations.
Not that Archer's rendezvous with justice was a sure thing. His fantastic case with more outlandish twists than the best-selling thrillerist himself would dare to impose on his readers was seemingly closed 14 years ago when he won a sensational libel case against a pair of British tabloids, the Daily Star and the News of the World. The story in question was that Archer had hired a prostitute in September, 1986, which he vehemently denied and audaciously contested, concocting a false alibi that required his secretary to fabricate a completely bogus office diary, and a friend to lie about a dinner that never took place.
No one could prove Archer's rotten little scheme at the time because the secretary wanted to keep her job and the friend was, well, still a friend his loyalty, not incidentally, solidified by Archer's infusion of more than $25,000 into a pet business project. Meanwhile, Lady Mary Archer, cool, lovely and a bona fide expert in quantum solar energy (honestly), had completely captivated the judge. Indeed, the judge's instructions to the jury on the unlikelihood of the well-married Archer ever engaging a prostitute "Has she elegance? Has she fragrance?" sounds more like the balcony scene in "Romeo and Juliet" than legal guidance.
Archer's reputation cleansed and his wallet stuffed with more $1 million from the defeated newspapers, he left the libel case behind him to resume the awfully good life of a successful writer and popular Tory. What did it matter that Daily Star editor Lloyd Turner was fired in the case's aftermath, never recovering his professional footing before his death in 1996? Let the "shepherd's pie and Krug parties" begin. These gatherings, by all accounts quite famous among British bright things young and old, took place with some frequency at Archer's Thameside penthouse in London, where Parliament was the view and the bathroom was "past the Picasso." Here in another improbable touch began Archer's undoing.
One evening, ten years after that first trial, The Friend, a London-version of a Hollywood type named Ted Francis, was chatting with an actress when, as the London Telegraph tells it, "Archer came over and said loudly: 'You wanna watch this fellow. I lent him 20,000 pounds and I'm still waiting for it to come back.' Turning to Francis he added: 'You might well blush about that,' before walking off laughing." According to the paper, that remark or was it the laughter? "festered with Francis and was one reason he blew the whistle."
And so, in 1999, as the seemingly indomitable Archer launched a lavish campaign to become Mayor of London, Mr. Francis finally 'fessed up to the News of the World, triggering an investigation that led to the second Archer trial that ended in conviction last month. Nothing, not even Lady Archer's fragrance, could save the man this time, particularly once his secretary produced the unaltered, original diary to smash the false alibi once and for all.
The story is all very bold and dramatic, with none of that petty "is, is" stuff, or witness-tampering on the sly. If the moral is simple thou shalt not lie even if thou art a Big Man the message is refreshing. No man is above the law at least, sometimes.

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