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An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton

3.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674000803
ISBN-10: 0674000803
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

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.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674000803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674000803
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,729,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book does a superb job of exploding arguments offered by both supporters and opponents of impeachment. Posner's writing is engaging and lucid, and his analyses are usually compelling. While some think he is too easy on Ken Starr, the fact is that Starr's prosecutorial tactics are used routinely by Clinton's own Justice Department and by state prosecutors across the country. I happen to believe that over the past two decades or so the Supreme Court has given prosecutors too much power, but the suggestion that Starr's tactics were somehow unique is a distortion.
One of the arguments heard repeatedly during the impeachment hearings and Senate trial is that the President's lies were justified because the questions put to him were improper. In a new twist on this argument, one of the reviewers below goes so far as to suggest that "Biblical" conceptions of morality dictate this conclusion. (If there is a Biblical precept that justifies lying under oath if a question is improper, I am not aware of it, and in any event it is not likely to be of much help to an ordinary citizen being prosecuted for perjury by the Justice Department.) Posner makes short shrift of this entire line of argument.
First, he shows that the questions put to Clinton were "material," which necessarily means that they were proper deposition questions. This conclusion is buttressed by the fact that it is commonplace for defendants in sexual harassment cases to be asked questions about other sexual relationships in the workplace.
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Format: Hardcover
No one can read this book without appreciating the facile mind and no-holds-barred candor of Judge Posner. I would recommend that readers let down their defenses and drop their emotional attachments to any fixed point of view they came to hold during the Lewinsky scandal. If you don't have an open mind you won't enlarge your understanding of this historical event in our nation's history.
Judge Posner serves the reader and the law well when he describes the difference between popular justice and legal justice. There is a difference, a crucial one. It is something Americans should not be confused about. If you are confused, you should read the book.
In addition, Judge Posner takes pains to examine his subject matter from the angle of every interest group, partisan advocate and player in the ordeal. You may not agree with everything he says, but he says something about everything. He believes that the smearing of Kenneth Starr was obvious slander and an effective but repulsive tactic. He says that President Clinton was not able to confess his crimes fully to the public and be redeemed because of his fear of indictment. In his view the Starr Report was too invasive of the President's privacy. And he asserts that prosecutors should not be put on trail with the defendant. His point that we should not worry about the plight of convicted felons was long overdue. Take that, Geraldo!
I was disappointed that Judge Posner chose to mock his senior, Justice Renquist, three times for the inconsequential matter of wearing a few gold stripes on his robe. One fondly worded quip would have been sufficient.
Getting past that low moment, you may find this book will have you thinking to yourself, "That's just how I saw it.
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Format: Hardcover
A number of reviewers of this book incorrectly state that Posner takes a partisan, Republican view of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. I'm a Democrat who voted twice for Clinton, but this characterization of this book is completely untrue. This book is pragmatic, not partisan.
Should Clinton have been impeached, and if impeached, convicted? Richard Posner says the question is unanswerable. So why read this book?
This book shows how an outstanding mind thinks through important legal and moral issues where existing law and precedent are unclear or inconclusive. It is highly critical of almost everyone involved, including Republicans, the Supreme Court, Clinton's defenders, William Bennett, the TV pundits and 'intellectuals' who commented on the case. The four hours I spent reading this book were far more interesting, clarifying and valuable by far than the many hours I spent in front of the TV during the year or so of the crisis. Too bad this book wasn't available in the early months of the crisis. A lot of misleading and inaccurate information and thought could have been sorted through much more easily.
Here are a few of Posner's more interesting views, with which I agree:
1. The volume and brazenness of Clinton's lies are impressive. As Posner says, to keep on lying after no one believes you does not mislead, but it shows contempt for truth and truthfulness.
2. Clinton made a travesty of the religious rite of atonement by asking for forgiveness and absolution without offering to incur any cost.
3. The Supreme Court should not have allowed Paula Jone's suit to proceed during Clinton's presidency.
4. The avoidance of scandal is a public duty of the President, since it weakens his effectiveness in discharging other public duties.
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