“It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is.”
When Bill Clinton uttered that whopper, he made it clear to anyone who still had any doubts that he could split hairs as finely as the most conniving lawyer alive and had no qualms about doing so, if that was the means necessary to achieve his ends.
Wily old Bill was explaining to a grand jury why it was technically true when he insisted that “there's nothing going on” between him and White House intern Monica Lewinsky, because at the particular moment he uttered that denial there wasn't. Before or after that split second, maybe so, but not at that one particular moment.
He wasn't really having a relationship with “that woman,” or lying about it, not if you interpreted his words in an extremely literal sense – if you construed them in a way that nobody ever does.
In other words, Bill wasn't really lying, but he was being deceptive. It's a fine distinction, but there it is.
Chicago attorney Michael Kasper is the general counsel for the Illinois Democratic Party. He has represented State House Speaker Mike Madigan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and President Barack Obama. And he's represented a former president by the name of Bill Clinton.
Perhaps that's where he also learned the dubious art of splitting hairs so finely that plain meaning can be turned on its head and parsed into its very opposite.
Kasper is currently representing John Baricevic, Robert LeChien and Robert Haida, the three crafty circuit court judges who are trying to game their way into another term by circumventing the higher standards for retention and running for their same seats as if for the first time.
You see, the relevant section of our state constitution says that a sitting judge “may” seek retention, but, as Kasper points out, “it says absolutely nothing about what a sitting judge may not do.”
In other words, it depends upon what the meaning of the word “may” is.