Lies and evasion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 September, 1998, 12:00am

Until now, it is US President Bill Clinton's lies and misleading statements which have received all the attention in the debate over the Monica Lewinsky affair. The extent of his duplicity is well-documented in the Starr Report, to such a degree that it is clear the presidency can never hope to recover much credibility so long as he insists on clinging to office.

But now as supporting documents start to be made public it is becoming clear Mr Clinton may not have been the only one misleading the US public. For the first time, special counsel Kenneth Starr was forced on the defensive, as the White House seized with understandable glee on the discovery of several important statements, supportive of the President's defence, that Mr Starr had failed to directly mention in the main body of his report.

It now emerges Ms Lewinsky told the grand jury that Mr Clinton neither asked her to lie nor promised a job in return for her silence. Her interpretation of sexual relations also turns out to be very similar to the President's much-scorned version. All this has to be weighed against other evidence that continues to point strongly towards Mr Clinton's culpability on impeachable offences. Nevertheless, it clearly should have been taken more directly into account by Mr Starr, so raising fresh doubts about his impartiality. In a highly defensive response, all the special counsel's office could point to were a number of brief allusions to these statements in the Starr Report.

Nor are these the only doubts now cast upon his actions. Newly-released documents also show Mr Starr's prosecutors engaged in highly questionable conduct: preventing Ms Lewinsky from contacting her lawyer by threatening to prosecute her for perjury.

None of this excuses Mr Clinton's lies and evasion. As President, he has a special duty to be absolutely frank and act with absolute probity at all times.

But so too does the office charged with investigating him. And the growing evidence that this has not always been the case is yet another reason for believing that this scandal will not succeed in forcing Mr Clinton from office.