- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

A new morality of convenience may be afoot that leaves the definition of “perjury” up for grabs.

Since I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted for perjury Friday, Republicans have been accused of soft-pedaling the charge, as Democrats did for President Clinton seven years ago when he was charged with perjury.

“In Republican circles, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is not the big deal it used to be,” noted an editorial in the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press yesterday. The paper accused Republicans of an audacious “no-big-deal spin” and “new morality.”

“What’s hard to accept is the idea that Democrats are now posing as the defenders of the true definition of perjury — this after all that went on during the Clinton administration,” said Tim Graham of the Media Research Center. “The media consequently feeds on this type of amnesia.”

Retooling grave conditions into less menacing circumstances is a strategy used by both sides, said S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

“A lie is a lie, but its real importance lies in its interpretation. That’s where politics comes in, and on this one, the parties are equal-opportunity hypocrites, though it seems a little strange to see Lewis Libby standing in for Bill Clinton,” Mr. Lichter said.

“In the long run, these interpretations cancel each other out. The truth ultimately wins, though it may take longer than the next election,” he said. “Journalists love hypocrisy, though, because it gives them a nonpartisan reason to bash politicians.”

Politicians and journalists alike have argued the gradations of perjury, politicizing the criminal charges leveled against Mr. Libby, who will be arraigned in court tomorrow on two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice.

Days before Mr. Libby was indicted, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison cautioned that impending charges should be based on a crime, “not some perjury technicality.”

The Texas Republican was criticized by reporters who recalled her own 1998 resolution to begin Mr. Clinton’s impeachment, which emphasized the need for “a clear message that our rule of law is intact and the standards for perjury and obstruction of justice are not gray.”

In Mr. Clinton’s case, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr was accused of setting a “perjury trap” by questioning the president about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The Bush White House has remained steadfastly neutral about Mr. Libby’s situation and the often provocative political posturings it has inspired.

“We hope people aren’t trying to politicize an ongoing investigation,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “People need to let the investigation continue. Some might try to politicize the investigation, and that’s their business.”

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