Celebrity power pushes truth off the political stage

Celebrity power pushes truth off the political stage, by Greg Sheridan.

Bill Clinton established for the first time that a president could have a debauched character and not suffer for it politically. Many presidents have had dubious characters, but the public didn’t know about it. So, was knowing about Clinton and keeping him in office a healthy sign of public consciousness catching up with reality?

The answer is an emphatic no. Had a conservative abused the inherent power differential between a serving president and a young unpaid intern to pursue an affair he would certainly have been hounded from office. But the Lew­insky affair was not the primary way Clinton demonstrated a debauched character. Rather, it is that he lied about the affair under oath and, although impeached, did not resign. He was not impeached for the affair but for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Lying under oath is one of the most serious offences a public office holder can commit. In this country former justice Marcus Einfeld was imprisoned for almost exactly the same offences — perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice. In the US, almost no politician or senior official gets convicted of the initial controversy but of lying under oath. Alger Hiss was not convicted of espionage but perjury. Richard Nixon was hounded from office not for the Watergate burglary of which he probably knew nothing but the cover-up. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, was not convicted of revealing a CIA agent’s name but received a criminal conviction for giving false testimony to a special prosecutor.

Clinton established that a hyper-partisan, activist-based defence could defeat reality and defeat a standard that had never been challenged before, that no official caught lying under oath can stay in office. He established that there were special standards for special people, that politics could defeat the law. In every way, Clinton represented a serious degrading of US political standards.

They’re back. Imagine four or eight more years of Clintonian abuses under a sycophantic media, beating the Enlightenment-era practices out of the leading Western country. Post modernism will have landed.

hat-tip Stephen Neil