The Dershowitz Epiphany
The House Judiciary Committee didn't learn anything new about the law yesterday. Perjury is bad - that much was known before, and several of the witnesses attested to the fact. Except that in some cases perjury isn't that big a deal - it was known that most of the president's allies are of that convenient belief, and several of the witnesses obliged by expressing it. But that is not to say that the hearings were uninformative. Late in the day there was actually a moment of startling, revelatory clarity -an epiphany that should enlighten the mind of anyone currently tempted to waffle on the issue before the committee: Waffling will win them no friends.
The moment came in response to a question from Rep. John Conyers, the committee's ranking Democrat. Mr. Conyers seems to believe that some momentum is building for a compromise solution - one in which the House would express its sentiment that Bill Clinton has been a very naughty boy - and hoped to elicit just such a recommendation from the committee's illustrious guests. "How," Mr. Conyers asked of the afternoon witnesses, "can we find some path of reconciliation that will get us with some small measure of honor out of the door altogether?"
The definitive answer came from the legal scholar famous for helping the famous escape the consequences of their crimes: Alan Dershowitz. The Harvard law professor is a cable-TV regular, where he shouts the liberal take on the finer points of law at other heads in boxes. He is also an ardent defender of the president, having recently written a hardcover pamphlet entitled "Sexual McCarthyism." This was Mr. Dershowitz' opportunity to extend an olive branch to his polemical enemies, an opportunity to encourage a scandal armistice. Instead, Mr. Dershowitz let loose with a rant worthy of professor Geraldo's seminar in comparative ethics. Lawmakers seeking compromise should read Mr. Dershowitz' remarks carefully, for they are an honest portent of things to come:
"I think history will not be kind to this committee. …