One of the key elements of our system of justice is the seeking and identifying of truth. In fact, justice is often described as “discovering the truth,” and dealing with the consequences.
In order to get people to give the truth, we have equipped our courts with the means to compel them. They have a “carrot,” with the power to grant immunity — if the person speaks the truth, they cannot be punished for any misdeeds they confess to.
But they also have a “stick” — the power to punish those who withhold, or lie. If one refuses to speak, they can cite you for contempt, and imprison you until you choose to speak.
But woe betide those who lie to the courts. That is a whole new category of offense, called “perjury.” And it is taken very, very seriously, indeed — lying to the court while under oath threatens the very nature of our justice system. For if people cannot be trusted to speak truly, then the truth may never be found.
And that’s one of the reasons I loathe Bill Clinton. I don’t care what his motivations, his causes, or even the topic of his lies — he raised his hand, while President of the United States, swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God, and then lied his ass off. The truth was only proven when it turns out Monica Lewinsky hadn’t taken a certain Clinton-DNA-bearing blue dress to the dry cleaner’s. He was impeached for that lie, and it’s to our national disgrace that he was acquitted.
Likewise, as I mentioned before, that is precisely the reason I find myself unable to respect Oliver North. He stood before Congress, raised his hand, swore on his honor as a United States Marine to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to those people he was constitutionally compelled to give the truth to, and lied. He will always be “damaged goods” to me for that.
Both men escaped serious consequences for their actions, and — to me, at least — caused great harm to our system of justice and government. And it aggravates me no end that both are lionized by their respective sides to this day.