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Jewish World Review May 24, 2000 / 19 Iyar, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Consumer Reports


Last Chance for a Hardened Prevaricator -- HERE AT PREVARICATORS ANONYMOUS, we have our hard cases, and we have our very hard cases, and then we have the case of Bill C.

Bill C. began prevaricating at a very young age, sneaking small prevarications from an ample stock that his Uncle John F. Kennedy (actually, his name was not John F. Kennedy at all; Bill C. just said it was) kept in a cupboard in the living room. As an adolescent and young man, he progressed to weekend and later binge prevaricating. By the time he graduated from law school, he was a confirmed daily prevaricator. As the years passed and the disease progressed, Bill C.'s prevaricating became more and more pronounced. He got to the point where he was utterly unable to resist the impulse, and, in time, became unable to even see the difference between his prevarications and his increasingly rare interludes of truth-telling.

Nevertheless, for many years Bill C. was able to continue as a functioning prevaricator: He held an important job, kept his marriage more or less together and presented to the world a reasonably respectable front. It became generally known that he was more than an occasional or social prevaricator, but Bill C.'s employers did not object as long as it appeared that his prevaricating did not interfere with his work functions (growing the economy, leading the free world, administering the law of the land, etc.).

Then, Bill C. hit bottom. He was caught in an elaborate series of prevarications so insistently and publicly iterated that it became at last impossible to deny that he was a prevaricator of the most extreme sort, unable to stop prevaricating even at the cost of everything he had ever valued. Moreover, the particular prevarications for which Bill C. was exposed were ones that had direct bearing on his fitness to perform his work functions. As the administrator of the law of the land, Bill C. had an obvious (indeed, sworn) duty to obey the law, yet in this case he had repeatedly prevaricated under oath and also encouraged others to aid him in his prevarications and to thwart the administration of justice.

You may ask why those who cared about Bill C. did not, at this point, intervene in his life. They did--my, how they did. There was not one but a series of interventions, and they were of an unusually aggressive nature. A full, and hideously embarrassing, account of Bill C.'s prevarications in this matter, running to hundreds of pages, was published and disseminated worldwide. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to put Bill C. on trial for removal from his job. The U.S. Senate voted to allow Bill C. to remain in his job, but even Bill C.'s friends in the Senate went out of their way to note that he had acted in a most reprehensible manner. Federal Judge Susan Webber Wright found Bill C. guilty of giving "false, misleading and evasive answers" in a sworn deposition, held him in contempt of court, fined him $90,000 and referred his case to the Arkansas bar for possible disciplinary action.

But Bill C. did not respond to these interventions. Encouraged by a host of enablers (Hillary Rodham C., Al G., Sidney B., Lanny D., etc.) he repeatedly insisted that he had not prevaricated. Exhibiting a degree of denial that was almost delusional, he recast the entire episode to see himself not as a shamed prevaricator caught but as a great hero. "On impeachment," he said, "I am proud of what we did there."

Now comes one last chance for Bill C. The disciplinary committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court this week recommended that Bill C. be disbarred for his "serious misconduct" in giving what Judge Wright found to be false answers.

Still, incredibly but yet so typically in these hardest of cases, Bill C. denies he has a problem. He argues that his lawyers say "there's no way in the world" that he should be disbarred, "even if you assume what the judge says is right, which I strongly disagree with."

This is so sad, but it is not hopeless. Bill C. can still--even now--admit he has a problem. But he'll never get there by himself. He needs help. And there is someone who can give that help. There is a Pulaski County circuit court judge who will be assigned to hear the disbarment case against Bill C. Your Honor, show tough love; help this poor soul break the chains of his illness. Disbar him hard, and bounce him twice on the way out. Throw him out on his ear from the sacred places where citizens swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Perhaps, just perhaps, this last intervention will force Bill C. to see himself as he is. Your Honor, help Bill C. take that first step.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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