There's a relevant scene from an old Law and Order episode (actually, I'm sure there's a scene from some L&O episode that's relevant for just about everything) in which ADA Jack McCoy is sitting in court when Det. Lenny Briscoe slides up quietly behind him and informs McCoy that one of the main characters of interest in the current case has just been found dead by the waterfront.
For reasons that will become obvious later in the episode, it's crucial that McCoy not know if the man died of foul play so McCoy, thinking quickly, instantly interrupts Briscoe and tells him he doesn't want to hear anymore -- he just shuts him down.
Later, in chambers, McCoy's argument before the judge rests entirely on the fact that he did not know before that moment that the man had died of a gunshot wound. Because McCoy had earlier, and quite deliberately, cut Briscoe off in mid-sentence, he can now say, with absolute sincerity, that he had no idea -- no idea whatsoever -- that the man had died of foul play. All he knew, he said, was that the man was found dead, that's all. And, in that respect, one could say that McCoy was being completely truthful about the whole matter, albeit in a technically sleazy way.
Which brings us back to one Aaron Lee Wudrick who argues that, if one wants accuse Bush of lying, well, gosh darn it, one should prove it. In fact, that might actually be a tall order if one takes the Jack McCoy approach.
The Bush administration has, for years, argued that all of the evidence they received pointed to Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. If that were true, that would certainly let Bush off the hook since, if he truly and sincerely believed what he was saying, then of course he couldn't be accused of lying.
But it's becoming more and more obvious that there was plenty of dissenting evidence, just as it's becoming more and more obvious that any and all of that dissenting evidence was shunted aside and ignored in favour of even the flimsiest supporting proof of WMDs.
Now, it's one thing to be honestly mistaken, to realize that you looked at the evidence, examined it objectively and came to the wrong conclusion. It's quite another to have been presented with alternative evidence and sat there with your hands covering your ears, yelling, "LA LA LA LA, I can't heeeeeeear you, LA LA LA LA!!," which is precisely what the Bush administration did.
Under those circumstances, you really don't have recourse to the "Gee, we just didn't know" defense anymore. It's one thing to claim ignorance. It's another to remain wilfully ignorant -- to deliberately set out not to know certain things just so you can claim ignorance down the road. In legalese, unless I'm mistaken, this falls under the category of, "Well, yes, you might not have known where your friend was getting all that stereo equipment he was selling you at such a great price, but you certainly should have suspected that something wasn't right since there were no receipts and he only ever delivered it late at night, unloading it from the back of his car in the dark."
One would think that, being a law student, Wudrick might understand the distinction. I'm guessing this sort of thing comes up in a class he just hasn't taken yet.
More smackdown on tap later.
AFTERSNARK: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
And over here, we have AmericaBlog's John demonstrating that the word "lie" no longer has any real meaning. In talking about his star reporter Bob Woodward, who only recently admitted that he'd known about Valerie Plame's CIA status since 2003 and, in all that time, never admitted it but engaged in one of the most hideous conflicts of interest ever by bad-mouthing the investigation that whole time, Woodward's executive editor at the Post Leonard Downie Jr. says (emphasis added):
Bob Woodward never lied. He failed to come to me sooner and tell me something he should have told me. Once he did tell me last month, he told me everything about it. I've worked with Bob for 33 years, and he has always been truthful in person and in his work. He is also one of the most careful, accurate and fair journalists I have every worked with.
So Woodward never "lied." He just never let you, his executive editor, in on one of the most explosive political stories of the last decade. But that's not "lying," even as he publicly savaged that case's prosecutor and has now thoroughly embarrassed your entire newspaper. Jesus, this would be funny if it weren't so sad.
But he never "lied." And they tried to impeach Bill Clinton over semantics. Jesus Christ.