In October 1998, my opponent for Georgia's 7th District congressional seat, John Linder, lied. Not a slip of the tongue. Not a misstatement. Not a little bit of fact-blurring. Nope, what he uttered was a calculated deceit.
Now, I suspect that Mr. Linder's mild-mannered facade has, over the years, deflected attention from many fibs and from his ultra-extremist political agenda.
But, almost four years ago to the day, he got busted. Members of the national press corps caught him in a down-and-dirty untruth. Oops.
As the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee that year, Mr. Linder swore to reporters that, nah, the GOP had no intention of mentioning Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky in an effort to smear Democratic congressional candidates. Such strategy "could be overkill," Linder piously intoned.
As it turned out, not only did Linder intend to use Monicagate as campaign fodder, his committee had already produced three slimy television spots that were loaded and ready to be excreted onto the American public.
Linder didn't have to lie -- and then be exposed by the Washington Post and The New York Times. He could have just said "no comment" to reporters' questions about GOP strategy. Instead, he dissembled.
One of the GOP's ads featured Clinton wagging his finger and proclaiming that he had not had sex with the White House intern. The commercial then sneered: "Should we reward Democrats for not telling the truth?"
There's rich irony there. Bill Clinton's libidinous squirming became the shibboleth of the Republican Party. Yet here was Mr. Linder lying about whether he would capitalize on Clinton's lying.
Fast-forward to circa now. Here's a question for Mr. Linder:
Which president's untruth endangered the American people:
Just this week, families of 9-11 victims have been demanding an unfettered and independent investigation of what happened. These families accused Linder's pal and teammate, Senate wannabe Saxby Chambliss, of placing "politics before America's security."
Republicans have been trying to kill the idea of getting to the truth about 9-11. Their tactic is death by details -- how the investigating committee would be chaired, for example. More important, the GOP wants to undermine subpoena powers of the proposed panel.
Why? It's now clear from disclosures beginning in May that Bush -- and, undoubtedly, insiders such as Mr. Linder -- had plenty of warning. It's equally clear that from pere Bush on down through the GOP-oil-War Party complex, fortunes have been made and are being made off the "war against terrorism" and the planned overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It's a feeding frenzy, to be precise.
So it wouldn't take long for even a feeble prosecutor to start exploring the only two possible explanations for the behavior of Bush-Cheney junta and the GOP establishment -- gross negligence or some degree of actual culpability. Either the Bushies' egregious incompetence resulted in the thousands of deaths on 9-11. Or they were well aware that the attacks were likely and imminent, and allowed them to happen so that their already planned invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq -- to assert our dominance over Asia's oil reserves, and not to thwart terrorism or any "axis of evil" -- would have a plausible excuse.
We're talking about questions many magnitudes of seriousness greater that Clinton's itchy crotch. Questions Bush can't allow to be asked.
If an independent investigator should ask them, it would result in another stonewalling on the release of anything embarrassing to the Bushies -- as Dick Cheney has done in his desperate efforts to hide how Enron and other corporate bullies dictated the nation's energy policies.
One of the questions I submitted to Mr. Linder, still unanswered, was whether he would support an independent commission to study 9-11. After all, considering all of the tens of millions of dollars that went into the inquisitorial Ken Starr probes of Clinton -- when at worst we were talking about financial improprieties and a semen-stained dress -- why shouldn't there be a thorough probe of the Bush administration?
Heck, just as Starr felt he had no constraints, as measured by either the law or good taste, let's find a legal proctologist and tell Bush and Cheney to bend over.
Mr. Linder, of course, has had no response to my inquiry. He marches in lockstep (or is that goosestep?) with whatever the War Party wants.
It would have been delightful to consider Mr. Linder's position on an investigation into 9-11. It would be illuminating to hear Mr. Linder's spin on the really great issues behind the Bush smokescreen.