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View Full Version : What question preceded Pres. Clinton's "definiton of [is] is" quote?


Moriarty
07-25-2008, 07:54 PM
On the Daily Show the other night, I saw the classic Clinton testimonial footage, wherein he answered, "It depends on what the definition of 'is' is?". What question, from the grand juror, precipitated this response. To what is the "It" in the sentence referring?

jimmmy
07-25-2008, 08:28 PM
Solomon L. Wisenberg (http://pview.findlaw.com/view/1362810_1?channel=LP) is questioning Clinton under oath for the Grand Jury

Wisenberg: Mr. President, I want to go into a new subject area, briefly go over something you were talking about with Mr. Bittman.

The statement of your attorney, Mr. Bennett, at the Paula Jones deposition -- counsel is fully aware -- it's page 54, line 5. Counsel is fully aware that Ms. Lewinsky is filing, has an affidavit, which they were in possession of, saying that there was absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton. That statement was made by your attorney in front of Judge Susan Webber Wright.

Clinton: That's correct.

Wisenberg: Your -- that statement is a completely false statement. Whether or not Mr. Bennett knew of your relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, the statement that there was no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?

CLINTON: It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means. If is means is, and never has been, that's one thing. If it means, there is none, that was a completely true statement.

But as I have testified -- I'd like to testify again -- this is -- it somewhat unusual for a client to be asked about his lawyer's statements instead of the other way around. I was not paying a great deal of attention to this exchange. I was focusing on my own testimony. And that if you go back and look at the sequence of events, you will see that the Jones' lawyers decided that this was going to be the Lewinsky deposition, not the Jones deposition. And given the facts of their case, I can understand why they made that decision.

But that is not how I prepared for it. That is not how I was thinking about it.

And I am not sure, Mr. Wisenberg, as I sit here today that I sat there and followed all these interchanges between the lawyers. I'm quite sure that I didn't follow all the interchanges between the lawyers all that carefully. And I don't really believe, therefore, that I can say Mr. Bennett's testimony or statement is testimony that is impugnable to me. I didn't -- I don't know that I was really paying that much attention to him.

Wisenberg: You've told us you were very well-prepared for the deposition.

CLINTON: No, I said I was very well prepared to talk about Paula Jones and to talk about Kathleen Willey, because she had made a related charge. She was the only person that I think I was asked about who had anything to do with the -- anything that would remotely approximate sexual harassment. The rest of this it looked to me like it was more of a way to harass me.

Wisenberg: You're the president of the United States, and your attorney counseled the United States District Court judge that there's no sex of any kind or any way, shape or form whatsoever. And you feel no obligation to do anything about that at that deposition, Mr. President?

CLINTON: I had told you, Mr. Wisenberg -- I will tell you for a third time -- I am not even sure that when Mr. Bennett made that statement that I was concentrating on the exact words he used. Now, someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky -- that is ask me a question in the present tense -- I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.

Link (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B03EFDC1F30F931A1575AC0A96E958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1)

elfkin477
07-25-2008, 08:49 PM
But which "is" is Clinton questioning? the "is" in "Is that correct"? It doesn't really sound like it given his, um, explaination about is meaning not now or never, or not currently.

Little Nemo
07-25-2008, 08:58 PM
If I recall correctly, Clinton's "explanation" was based on the tense used. He was asked if it is correct that he was having some kind of affair with Lewinsky and he said no. Supposedly if he had been asked if it was correct that he was having some kind of affair with Lewinsky, then he would have answered yes because he had an affair with her in the past.

Moriarty
07-25-2008, 09:37 PM
In what capacity is Clinton's lawyer swearing to the veracity of the testimony of Lewinski? Or is the accusation that he submitted a sworn affidavit knowing it to be untrue? Isn't this what eventually got Clinon in trouble; that he counseled Lewinksy to lie under oath?

Diogenes the Cynic
07-25-2008, 09:54 PM
In what capacity is Clinton's lawyer swearing to the veracity of the testimony of Lewinski? Or is the accusation that he submitted a sworn affidavit knowing it to be untrue? Isn't this what eventually got Clinon in trouble; that he counseled Lewinksy to lie under oath?
Bennett wasn't swearing to anything, he was acting as Clinton's attorney during the civil deposition. I'll try to simplify it a little.

At the deposition, Bennett says, "There is no sexual relationship between BC and ML."
Wisenberg reads that statement back to Clinton in front of the Grand Jury and says, "wasn't that statement false?"

Clinton says, "That depends on what your definition of 'is' is....if it's meant only in the present tense, it's true."

Basically Clinton was technically correct with his answer, but his phrasing became the quintissential Clintonian parse.

Captain Amazing
07-25-2008, 10:01 PM
At the deposition, Bennett says, "There is no sexual relationship between BC and ML.".

Not exactly. In the Jones deposition, Clinton is asked about Monica Lewinsky. Bennett objects to the question, reminding Jones' counsel that Lewinsky has filed an affidavit with the court that there was no sex between ML and BC.

So what Bennett says is basically, "Lewinsky's affidavit says that they didn't have sex, and you know that, so you shouldn't be asking him about her."

Diogenes the Cynic
07-25-2008, 10:03 PM
Not exactly. In the Jones deposition, Clinton is asked about Monica Lewinsky. Bennett objects to the question, reminding Jones' counsel that Lewinsky has filed an affidavit with the court that there was no sex between ML and BC.

So what Bennett says is basically, "Lewinsky's affidavit says that they didn't have sex, and you know that, so you shouldn't be asking him about her."
Lewinsky's affadavit said "There IS no sex..."

Captain Amazing
07-25-2008, 10:10 PM
Lewinsky's affadavit said "There IS no sex..."

No...Lewinsky's affidavit is here:

http://www.courttv.com/archive/legaldocs/government/jones/lewinskyaff.html


It says, in relevant part:

8. I have never had a sexual relationship with the President, he did not propose that we have a sexual relationship, he did not offer me employment or other benefits in exchange for a sexual relationship, he did not deny me employment or other benefits for rejecting a sexual relationship. I do not know of any other person who had a sexual relationship with the President, was offered employment or other benefits in exchange for a sexual relationship, or was denied employment or other benefits for rejecting a sexual relationship. The occasions that I saw the President after I left employment at the White House in April, 1996, were official receptions, formal functions or events related to the U.S. Department of Defense, where I was working at the time. There were other people present on those occasions.

Moriarty
07-25-2008, 10:18 PM
As I understand it, Clinton was admitting to tell his attorney that there was nothing going on with Lewinsky, which corroborated Lewinsky's story, and was why the attorney filed the affidavit in the case. Clinton's way of explaining this apparent lie he made to his attorney was, to say that, at the time, he wasn't having sexual relations with her. So, he truthfully told his lawyer, "there is no sexual relationship with Lewinsky."

If so, though, isn't that protected by attorney/client privilege?

mesharrison
02-28-2013, 01:12 PM
On the Daily Show the other night, I saw the classic Clinton testimonial footage, wherein he answered, "It depends on what the definition of 'is' is?". What question, from the grand juror, precipitated this response. To what is the "Is" in the sentence referring?

The "is" is in reference to the usage of the verb.
Clinton says, "If 'is' means never has been, that means one thing. If 'is' means there is no sex now, that is a completely true statement."

puddleglum
03-01-2013, 09:27 AM
As I understand it, Clinton was admitting to tell his attorney that there was nothing going on with Lewinsky, which corroborated Lewinsky's story, and was why the attorney filed the affidavit in the case. Clinton's way of explaining this apparent lie he made to his attorney was, to say that, at the time, he wasn't having sexual relations with her. So, he truthfully told his lawyer, "there is no sexual relationship with Lewinsky."

If so, though, isn't that protected by attorney/client privilege?

Clinton had his attorneys prepare an affidavit from Lewinsky with information he knew to be false. Thus the attorney client privelege does not apply since it covers private communications. It is against the law for an attorney to present testimony he knows is perjury.

Really Not All That Bright
03-01-2013, 10:15 AM
Everyone: this is a four year old zombie thread which has already been answered and was resurrected for no apparent reason.

puddleglum, in what sense was the discussion between Clinton and his attorney not a "private communication"?

Colibri
03-01-2013, 10:43 AM
Everyone: this is a four year old zombie thread which has already been answered and was resurrected for no apparent reason.

Moderating

Good point. This is closed.

Those wishing to revisit the issue may open a new thread in Great Debates.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

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