- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

Bill Clinton is fading quickly now, often not even bothering to look presidential.

He went through one African country in a flowing dashiki (or maybe somebody's nightgown), and showed up in Colombia a few days later without his jacket, without his tie, looking in the newspaper photographs as if he had slept late in his clothes and hadn't taken time for a shave and a shower.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is threatening to take away his law license because he lied about Monica Lewinsky in the Paula Jones lawsuit.

You have to feel a little sympathy for a studly guy having a hard time keeping his molls straight (and separated). Haven't we all been there?

But to a layman, untrained in how to find the loopholes that lawyers put there to make the law a profitable crap-shoot for tort artists, the disbarment case against the president looks airtight.

The American Bar Association has what it calls (do not laugh, please) "standards" that lawyers are required to live up to. Standard No. 6.11 states plainly that disbarment is "generally appropriate when a lawyer, with the intent to deceive the court, makes a false statement, submits a false document or improperly withholds material information, and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a party, or causes a significant or potentially significant adverse effect on the legal proceeding."

And it's not just the bar association. Only two years ago, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld its board of law examiners who had denied a license to someone who had merely been "less than candid" on his application for membership in the bar. The justices said "there simply is no place in the law for a man or woman who cannot or will not tell the truth."

Nevertheless, the Arkansas legal establishment, manipulated skillfully by Henry Woods, the 82-year-old senior federal judge in Arkansas whose hands are still sticky from a career as the plunderer-in-chief of Arkansas politics, may have cooked the outcome of the proceedings to a drearily familiar recipe.

The case against Bill Clinton will be heard by state Circuit Court Judge Leon Johnson, appointed earlier this year by the governor to fill out the term, which expires Dec. 31, of a judge bounced from the bench by the Arkansas Supreme Court when he got caught stealing from a client.

If Judge Johnson is unable to conclude the proceedings by New Year's Day, the case falls to his elected successor, a Democrat who was once appointed by Gov. Bill Clinton to the state commission on law-enforcement training standards. You might think this is bad news for Mr. Clinton law enforcement standards and all that but if you think that you don't understand Guatemala.

Henry Woods once had a go-fer named Bill Wilson, and not only took him into his law firm but got him elected, first, as president of the state bar association and then got him appointed a U.S. district judge in Arkansas, where he now sits not far from his old mentor. Mr. Wilson subsequently found a protege of his own, named Stephen Engstrom, who is Arkansas being the world capital of coincidences Bill Clinton's Arkansas lawyer in the disbarment case.

The wise men in Little Rock expect the judge who decides whether to take the Clinton law license to file a devastating critique of the president's behavior, a critique similar to Joe Lieberman's famous impeachment speech, eloquently written with ruffles and flourishes that even a casual reader might think had been written by, say, Henry Woods and Bill Wilson, indicting and convicting Mr. Clinton for everything short of treason, child molesting and cheating the pizza delivery boy. But he will conclude that none of that is reason to keep a man from practicing law with the good opinion of his colleagues at the bar.

The bill of particulars will be so inclusive, so expansive, so humiliating for the defendant that the Arkansas Supreme Court would feel churlish indeed to reverse the circuit judge's opinion.

I called my old friend Justice Jim Johnson, late of the Arkansas Supreme Court himself, a onetime Democratic nominee for governor who has won and lost more statewide races than any man in Arkansas politics, to ask whether this was too harsh, too cynical, too satirical.

"Well," he said, with a heavy sigh, "It's evident enough to me that Stephen Engstrom will have the active help of all his old friends in obtaining some more 'Arkansas justice' for his new client." Bill Clinton's a New Yorker now, and he might get a Yankee's just deserts. But don't bet on it.

For now he's California dreaming, practicing the rumpled earth-tone and bag-lady chic so familiar in Hollywood, impatient to get to Beverly Hills for a new job as Barbra Streisand's pool boy. But before that, he needs one last "Arkansas coincidence" to beat one last rap.

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