Responding to reports and comments from anonymous friends and advisers that she plans to run for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton told the Associated Press that “I don’t know who those people are or where they’re getting their information from because they’ve never had a conversation with me they can quote.” (Link via The Scrum)
This clever, lawyerly formulation — suggesting (indeed, all but convincing) that she indeed had those conversations but with instructions not to quote her — calls to mind my almost forgotten file of Clintonian non-denial denials, some of which I have dredged up and will share with you now. In their classical form, these denials do not actually deny guilt or affirm innocence. They simply assert the absence of evidence.
• “There’s no evidence of that. There will not be any evidence of that.” (Hillary, Diane Rehm show, 4/10/1997, when asked if Web Hubbell’s silence had been bought)
• “I don’t believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution.” (Bill, Press Conference, 3/7/1997, discussing role of political contributions in his administration)
• “[A] White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity predicted that the Senate Republicans would have trouble proving that to the public.” (New York Times, 7/14/1997, discussing charges that President Clinton might be more closely involved with illegal fundraising than had been previously reported)
Perhaps the retired President Clinton will go beyond polishing his legacy into more general revisionist history, rewriting our outdated heroic myths to bring them in line with contemporary sensibilities. “Father,” he will have the young George Washington say, bringing Parson Weems up to date, “I don’t believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I cut down that cherry tree.”