Bill Clinton famously defending lying to his senior staff about an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton’s staffers asked him, “Is there anything going on between you and Monica Lewinsky?” He said no and later defended this when he was quizzed under oath by saying, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
This past week it seems the Harper government pulled a Clinton and told the world they had no part in any plea deal between Omar Khadr and the U.S. government. They denied diplomatic notes, they denied making any assurances about Khadr coming back to Canada.
Sunday we discovered the Harper government was channeling Clinton.
Over the next few days it will be interesting to see how they parse words, as they are doing already. See the comments from the press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon in a story from my Sun Media colleague Bryn Weese.
For the most part I spent last week assuming the government was parsing words or lying outright but assumed there were legal reasons they could not or would not speak about assurances to Khadr that he would get to serve out his sentence in Canada. At a press conference last Thursday I gave Cannon an out. Rather than ask him to comment on something he clearly wasn’t ready to comment on, I used my questions late in the news conference to ask why they couldn’t comment. Cannon didn’t bite and just dug deeper.
He and the rest of the government can claim they only said they were not a party to the plea deal. Fine. Legally accurate if only in a “truthiness” kind of way. But when Cannon said point blank that Canada did not intervene. We know that’s not true and now Cannon and the rest of the government need to explain why.
Here’s the transcript of part of the news conference just for the record. It starts with me following up other questions where Cannon said he could not comment.
LILLEY: Why? The – at Guantanamo right now, we have had Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, they have been talking openly about the deal, Canada’s involvement in that deal for several days, the American prosecutor in front of the case has talked about Canada providing assurances and this is part of what led to a deal. So I understand you can’t say anything. Can you tell us why…
Hon. Lawrence Cannon: No, the…
LILLEY: … you can’t say anything when everybody else involved in the sentencing, in the trial, is speaking about it?
Hon. Lawrence Cannon: I speak in the name of the government of Canada and what I can tell you is that any plea bargain was between Mr. Khadr’s officials, his lawyers as well as the American government. And the government of Canada is not involved in that.
LILLEY: So essentially you are accusing the U.S. prosecutor and the other lawyers of lying because they have said..
Hon. Lawrence Cannon: I’m not accusing anybody, I’m saying that we are not involved in the plea bargain between Mr. Khadr and his lawyers and the government of the United States of America. This is an internal matter that is dealt with in the judicial system in the United States of America. The government of Canada does not intervene in that issue.