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Dershowitz on Bennett's Advice

February 14, 1999

Re "Leading the President Astray," Commentary, Jan. 25:

The rantings of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz against Robert Bennett, President Clinton's lawyer in the Paula Jones case, would be laughable if they were not so irresponsible. Dershowitz does not know what advice Bennett gave to his client, the extent to which the president may have lied to his lawyer (beyond the lying to Bennett that the president has already acknowledged), or what tactical decisions in the Jones case were made, not by Bennett, but by the president or others on the ample White House legal team.

The most specious of Dershowitz's criticisms is that Bennett should have urged his client to default in the Jones case. It is gracious of Dershowitz to come up with this tactic five years after the Jones case was filed; there is certainly no record of him making the suggestion when his theory could have been implemented. Dershowitz apparently presumes that neither President Clinton, a graduate of Yale Law School, a law school professor and a former state attorney general, nor any of his legal advisors, including the first lady, ever heard of the concept of defaulting in a civil case.

The biggest hole in Dershowitz's default gambit is his presumption that President Clinton would have been willing in 1994 to enter a formal legal concession to allegations that, while governor of Arkansas, he had dispatched a state trooper to round up an unsuspecting female state employee for a crude and demeaning sexual proposition. Or that the first lady would have gone along with such an audacious and politically suicidal move. In those days, the public did not yet believe the president was capable of such behavior. And there was another election to win.

The remainder of Dershowitz's theories are equally silly. But they do serve the purpose of advancing Dershowitz's two main goals: Blaming the president's predicament on someone other than the president and bestowing public attention on Dershowitz.

THEODORE B. OLSON

Washington

Olson is a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration and is a partner in the Washington office of L.A. law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

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