WecannowconfirmthatBillClinton was in search of a little “wiggle room” when he told the grand jury, inveryuncertainterms,thatwhether hehadanaffairwithMonicaLewinskydependedonwhatone’sdefinition of “is” is.
To refresh your memory, here’s whatMr.Clintonsaidinhistestimony, according to a footnote in special prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s report:
“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the — if he — if ‘is’meansisandneverhasbeen,that is not — that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely truestatement.[...]Now,ifsomeone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I wouldhavesaidno.Anditwouldhave been completely true.”
Nowlet’sturntoTennesseeauthor Nancy French’s most-entertaining debut book “A Red State of Mind,” which tracks her move to the blue zone of Manhattan, where she clashedwithblue-stateconceptsand residents,andontoPhiladelphia,before settling again below the MasonDixon Line.
In one of our favorite chapters, the author explains how “Southerners tend to soften their language” for effect or whenever they might be in a pickle.
“Take Arkansas native President Clintonasanexample,”Mrs.French writes. “He was known to utter sentences like ‘I might should do that,’ whichsuggestsagreatersenseofhesitance than just the word ‘should.’ Thisallowsforalittlewiggleroomon both his part and the listeners.”
She goes on to explain that when “in confrontational mode, Southerners employ verbal mechanisms to take the edge off.”
John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.