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Lies, Tight Spots

(and other near death experiences)

By Tamala M. Edwards and Romesh Ratnesar

TIME magazine

(TIME, August 31) -- Clinton has managed more Houdini-like exploits (and catch-me-if-you-can, truth-defying declarations) than the slickest of pols. A sampling:

Arkansas Arrogance

Tight Spot
Presidential ambitions go up in smoke in 1980 after he loses re-election as Governor to an underdog.

Escape Hatch
Apologizes for raising taxes; wife softens her image; in '82, he becomes first defeated Governor in the state to regain his seat.

Luv Ya, Little Rock

In 1990, while running for Governor, he is asked, "Will you guarantee to us that, if re-elected, there is absolutely, positively no way that you'll run for any other political office and that you'll serve out your term in full?" Clinton responds, "You bet...That's the job I want. That's the job I'll do for the next four years."

Reality Check
In 1991, Clinton announces his candidacy for President.

The Longest Speech

Tight Spot
Billed as the man to watch at the 1988 Democratic Convention, he delivers a turgid address that has Johnny Carson turning him into national joke.

Escape Hatch
Pals Harry and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason use their clout to get him on Carson's show. Clinton plays the sax and makes fun of himself. More people watch the show than the speech.

The Draft Dodge

Early in the 1992 presidential campaign, he says that "it was simply a fluke that I wasn't called" to serve in the Vietnam War. "I was just lucky, I guess," he shrugs. Clinton also says he "never received any unusual or favorable treatment" that helped him avoid the draft.

Reality Check
Clinton receives an induction notice while at Oxford in 1969 and asks the draft board to postpone it until the end of the term, after which he enrolls in an ROTC program in Arkansas. A well-connected uncle also successfully lobbies the board on Clinton's behalf.

The Flowers Affair

Tight Spot
As the primaries began in 1992, the Star tabloid prints the accusations of Gennifer Flowers, a sometime Little Rock lounge singer, that for 12 years Clinton's interest in her went beyond music appreciation.

Escape Hatch
"I'm not some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," says Hillary on 60 Minutes, as Clinton denies the affair but admits causing "pain in my marriage." Clinton cruises to the nomination.

"I Didn't Inhale"

Beginning in 1987, he repeatedly responds to inquiries about past drug use by saying he has "never broken the laws of my state" or "country."

Reality Check
Pressed during the 1992 Democratic primaries about whether he had broken any state, national or international laws, Clinton confesses, "I've never broken a state law, but when I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale and never tried it again."

The Newt Scare

Tight Spot
Clinton advocates a national health-care system, and the country sends him to intensive care. Result: the 1994 seizure of the House by the G.O.P.--the first time the party has done so in 40 years. Newt Gingrich is dubbed the most powerful man in America.

Escape Hatch
Gingrich miscalculates, shutting down the government when budget talks fizzle. The G.O.P. gets blamed for everything from putting people out of work to closing Yosemite. Clinton then steals prized G.O.P. jewels--a balanced budget and welfare reform. He wins re-election handily in 1996.

White Lie No. 1

In 1996 Clinton says he has "vivid and painful" childhood memories of black-church burnings in Arkansas.

Reality Check
The director of the Arkansas History Commission says, "I've never known of a black church being burned in Arkansas."

White Lie No. 2

Asked in 1993 about his taste for fast food, the President replies, "I don't eat much junk food."

Reality Check
Quickly amends remark to say, "I don't necessarily consider McDonald's junk food. I eat at McDonald's and Burger King and these other fast-food places. A lot of them have very nutritious food...chicken sandwiches...salads ..."

White Lie No. 3

Claims he shot a 79 on a Martha's Vineyard golf course.

Reality Check
He rarely shoots below 90. Reporters saw him hit three tee shots on one hole into the trees.

In TIME This Week

Cover Date: August 31, 1998

"I Misled People"
Leading By Leaving
Blowing His Stack
Justice Should Come Before Closure
The View From Congress
Lies, Tight Spots
How We Really Feel About Fidelity
Is This What We Expect?
Can We Get On to Something Serious?
Finally, the Telltale Lie
That's Where He Lost Me
The Notebook: Clinton Loses Touch
Lies My Presidents Told Me
President Gantry Addresses The Flock

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