Purely Political, By James Buckley
Ever since that day in January 1998, when, during a scheduled TV interview, PBS’s Jim Lehrer asked President Bill Clinton whether he had had an affair with Monica Lewinsky and the president answered (I am paraphrasing here, the exact quotes are below), “There is no affair with Ms. Lewinski,” and Mr. Lehrer didn’t follow up with the obvious “Are you saying there is no affair and that there had been no affair?,” I’ve come to realize that hiding truth with facts has become (and has probably been so from time immemorial) a standard political tactic for getting away from or out of unpleasant situations.
The following are three examples of how politicians, department heads and biased news gatherers hide the real truth by using something factual, giving them “plausible deniability” when caught out.
The first is the full transcript of Jim Lehrer’s interview with President Clinton.
Mr. Lehrer: The news of this day is that Kenneth Starr, independent counsel, is investigating allegations that you suborned perjury by encouraging a 24-year-old woman, a former White House intern to lie under oath in a civil deposition about her having had an affair with you. Mr. President, is that true?
President Clinton: That is not true. That is not true. I did not ask anyone to tell anything other than the truth. There is no improper relationship, and I intend to cooperate with this inquiry. But that is not true.
Mr. Lehrer: No improper relationship? Define what you mean by that.
President Clinton: Well, I think you know what it means. It means that there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship.
Mr. Lehrer: You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?
President Clinton: There is not a sexual relationship; that is accurate. We are doing our best to cooperate here, but we don’t know much yet. And, aah, that’s all I can say now. What I’m trying to do now, is to contain my natural impulses and get back to work. I think it’s important that we cooperate. I will cooperate, but I want to focus on the work at hand.
Mr. Lehrer: Just for the record, to make sure what your answer means, that there’s no ambiguity about it: You had no conversations with this young woman, Monica Lewinsky, about her testimony, or possible testimony before, in giving a statement …
President Clinton: I did not urge anyone to say anything that was untrue. I did not urge anyone to say anything that was untrue. That’s my statement to you. And, beyond that, I think it is very important that we let the investigation take its course. But I want you to know that that is my clear position. I didn’t ask anyone to go in there and say something that’s not true.
Mr. Lehrer: What about another allegation, that you may have asked your friend Vernon Jordan to do that?
President Clinton: I absolutely did not do that. I can tell you I did not do that. I did not do that. He is in no way involved in trying to get anyone to say anything that’s not true at my request. I didn’t do that. Now, I don’t know what else to tell you.
All I know is what I have read here, but I’m going to cooperate. I didn’t ask anybody not to tell the truth. There is no improper relationship. The allegations that I have read are not true. I do not know what the basis of them is other than just what you know. We’ll just have to wait and see. And I’ll be vigorous about it, but I have to get back to the work of the country.
I was up past midnight with Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu last night, I’ve got Mr. Arafat coming in. We’ve got action all over the world and a State of the Union to do. I’ll do my best to cooperate with this, just as I have with every other issue that’s come up over the last several years. But I have got to get back to work.
Mr. Lehrer: Would you acknowledge though, Mr. President, that this is very serious business? This charge against you that’s been made.
President Clinton: And, I’ll cooperate in the inquiry of it.
Mr. Lehrer: What’s going on? What … If it’s not true, that means somebody made this up … Is that, is that …
President Clinton: Look, you know as much about this as I do right now. We’ll just have to look into it and cooperate. And we’ll see, but meanwhile, I’ve got to go on with the work of the country. I got hired to help the rest of the American people.
(End of transcript.)
All Mr. Lehrer would have had to say was: “Why are you using ‘is’ when you mean ‘was,’ Mr. President? I witnessed that TV interview live and threw my shoe (a flip-flop), and yelled at the screen for Mr. Lehrer to challenge the president on his use of the word “is.” But he never did.
So did President Clinton tell the truth? Yes, he did. When asked about a sexual affair, he told Mr. Lehrer that “there is not a sexual relationship.” And Mr. Clinton was telling the truth because by then the sexual relationship had ended. He hid the truth with a fact.
LESS THAN TEN PERCENT
When the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that “less than 10 percent” of COVID-19 transmission had occurred outdoors, a figure like that would probably indicate at least 7 or 8% transmission and that mask wearing outside, in a park or by the sea, was probably warranted.
However, journalist David Leonhardt of The New York Times discovered that, although “less than 10 percent” was an accurate statement, the real percentage was considerably “less than 1 percent.” He wrote that it was like saying “ ‘sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year.’ Sharks actually only attack around 150 people a year, so the 20,000 number is both true and deceiving, which appears to be the case with the CDC’s outdoor transmission assessment.”
It was later revealed that the figure was indeed substantially less than 10% and may be as low as .001 percent. In fact, there are no recorded instances of someone being infected with COVID-19 virus by simply passing an unmasked person outside. None.
And yet, when people (such as yours truly) suggested a few months ago, that citizens without symptoms should discard their masks, particularly if they are walking alone outdoors, I was basically called a coward, a spoiled child and a “murderer” for “ignoring the science.”
The truth was hiding behind the facts.
VERY FINE PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES
How about President Trump’s statement that “there are very fine people on both sides?” Did he say that? Yes, he did. Absolutely. But did he say, as many in the press continue to insist, that the “white supremacists” and “neo-Nazis” were “good people?”
Here’s what he said in response to a question concerning his alleged coddling if not praise for the kinds of people who clashed in Charlottesville:
“Excuse me,” President Trump said, “they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of — to them – a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”
President Trump emphasized his point by responding to another question along the same lines: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally … Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
President Trump is on the record as having denounced those groups, yet, to this day, you’ll hear and/or read from “progressive” commentators and others who surely know better, that former President Trump called neo-Nazis and white nationalists “very fine people.”
So did he make that comment that “there are very fine people on both sides?”
Yes, he did. But the truth of the matter was hidden behind the facts.
Intentionally or unintentionally, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky hid the truth with a fact when she made her “less than 10 percent” comment, as did former President Bill Clinton when he disabused the word “is.”
Here’s Bill Clinton’s answer when asked whether he was lying when he claimed not to have had sexual encounters with Monica Lewinski: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the… if he… if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not… that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.”
And folks hate Mr. Trump because he’s a “liar?”
You’ve got to be kidding.
If there is anything to learn from analyzing this subject, it is to not let facts get in the way of truth. One needs to be skeptical, to question everything. And not believe a word of anything written by a biased reporter/journalist/news reader.
Or, at least and until one gets behind the facts … to the truth.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes readers’ comments. You can send them to email@example.com.