Richard Posner is a top-ranking member of the United States judiciary and one of the most highly respected legal theorists and philosophers. In An Affair of State
, he turns his attention to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, which stemmed from charges of perjury and obstruction of justice regarding statements about his adulterous relationship with former White House staffer Monica Lewinsky. While Posner focuses on the actual legal issues involved rather than attempt to make a case for Clinton's or any of his Republican adversaries' being evil incarnate, he does not treat the president with kid gloves. Not only does Posner claim that Clinton is a brazen liar who "flaunts his religiosity, but gives religion a bad name," he makes a strong case that the charges of perjury against the president were valid, "that [he] in several instances obstructed justice in a legal sense, and that he has never admitted lying about his relationship with Lewinsky." Along the way, Posner considers several fascinating topics, including whether the president can pardon himself--theoretically, except in cases of impeachment, he can--and even, on occasion, displays a subtle dry wit. (Among the best one-liners: "[Alan] Dershowitz criticizes Clinton, but largely for the blunders he committed in trying to conceal his affair ... and implicitly for not having retained Dershowitz as legal advisor.") An Affair of State
is the smartest, most level-headed book written to date about what Posner calls "the whole Clinton-Lewinsky-Starr-impeachment business"; it is likely to retain that status for some time to come. --Ron Hogan
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From Publishers Weekly
By far the most legally sophisticated account of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal yet published, Posner's book brings scholarly rigor to a saga so far dominated by journalistic accounts. As Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Posner is more than qualified to wade through the 8000-page Starr Report. Indeed, he brandishes acumen, wit and a practical and theoretical understanding of the legal and constitutional issues involved. Posner writes, at times, like a judge composing an appellate court opinion. He's very critical of the House Judiciary Committee for, among other perceived lapses of judgment and intellect, failing to understand the technical distinction between perjury and obstruction of justice. But he's harsh on President Clinton, too, and generally exhibits an ability to expose the arguments generated by Republicans, Democrats, the press and Starr's office as inconsistent, politically motivated or simply fallacious. Posner anticipates criticisms that his book creates certain tensions between his position as one of the most influential judges in the U.S. and the censorious quality of his appraisal of l'affaire Clinton. Readers can be thankful that he dismissed any scruples and proceeded to write this welcome analysis of the constitutional, moral, philosophical, and political questions the case raised. (Sept.)
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