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More about the Clinton-Lewinsky Affair: You Only Get What You Ask For
by Avinoam Sapir
"Ask a lot of questions but be very careful. It might be that from your questions the person will learn how to lie." (from Jewish Law)
Asking questions in order to find out what happened is like guiding a submarine under the water. Both the submarine commander and the interviewer are guessing in the dark. The commander of the submarine does not know what is going on above sea level. And in an interview, the interviewer doesn't know what exactly happened in the past; on the other hand, the interviewee always knows more than the interviewer knows.
When the commander of the submarine wants to know what is happening above sea level, the commander will take out the periscope. And the interviewer will use his/her "periscope" - the questions.
The periscope has two disadvantages, and the same is true of the questioning process.
The main advantage of the submarine is that the enemy cannot detect its position. However, once the periscope is out, the submarine is just like a ship - it has exposed its position. And the same is true of the questioning process. The questions will teach the interviewee what the interviewer knows, what the interviewer doesn't know, and how to lie.
The second disadvantage, which is even more serious, is: the periscope allows the commander of the submarine only limited vision. The periscope will show you only what you look at; if you don't look at something, you won't see it. And the same is true of questions: one only gets what one asks for. If you don't ask for something, you won't get it.
For example, in a murder case the detective asked the suspect: "Did you go to the restaurant to visit her?" and the suspect answered with "No." Later on, the detective approached the suspect again and told him: "You lied to me. When I asked you, 'Did you go to the restaurant to visit her?' you said 'No.' and since then I found witnesses who saw you going to the restaurant." And the suspect said, "But I didn't go to the restaurant to visit her."
The detective didn't realize what the subject said: He only denied going to the restaurant to visit her. However, he went to the restaurant to kill her.
The same thing happened in an interview with a certain former congressman. A reporter from the Washington Post interviewed the former congressman after he had become an executive in a national association for gay rights. The reporter asked something to the effect of: When you were involved in a scandal several years ago you denied being homosexual, and now you become an executive of a national association? You lied to me.
The former congressman answered: I didn't lie to you. Several years ago you asked me if I have any problem with homosexuality, and I truthfully answered "no". If you were to ask me if I am homosexual I would have said "yes."
You only get what you ask for. The former congressman didn't lie. The suspect in the murder case didn't lie. They only answered exactly to what the question was asking them.
When President Clinton was asked if he told Monica Lewinsky to lie his answer was: ""I never told anybody to lie. Not a single time. Never."
Is it possible that President Clinton is truthful but, still, he coached Monica Lewinsky?
In the newspapers there are reports that Monica Lewinsky said that she met President Clinton in the White House after she was called for a deposition in the Paula Jones case. The reports quote Monica Lewinsky as saying that President Clinton asked her to say that she came to visit the White House in order to meet President Clinton's secretary, Curry.
Well, it is very likely that whenever anyone comes to visit President Clinton, even for a personal visit, that person will have to go through his personal secretary. So, in that sense, if President Clinton did tell Monica Lewinsky to say something like that, then President Clinton would be technically truthful in saying that he never told anyone to lie. It is quite likely that he only told people to tell part of the truth, but not the whole truth.
As a matter of fact, President Clinton is not unique in that sense. Most people will lie by omission and not by commission.
An interviewer needs to know this simple truth, and to sit down and think of all the options that would enable a person to do what he is suspected of doing, and to design the questions accordingly.
For example, if we were to confront President Clinton and ask him questions, then we have to ask the following:
||1. Did you talk with Monica Lewinsky about her testimony in the Paula Jones trial or deposition?
||2. Did Monica Lewinsky talk with you about her testimony in the Paula Jones trial or deposition?
||3. Did Monica Lewinsky ask you what to say in the Paula Jones trial or deposition?
||4. Did you give Monica Lewinsky guidance, instructions, or any ideas in how to answer questions in the Paula Jones trial or deposition?
||5. Did you suggest to Monica Lewinsky how to mislead Paula Jones's lawyers?
||6. In any of your conversations with Monica Lewinsky, did you or her mention the name Paula or Paula Jones?
Asking these questions will force President Clinton to commit himself in his answers.
One can ask: If he was misleading till now, what would prevent him from lying outright?
The answer is applicable not only to President Clinton, but to the vast majority of people: If the person didn't lie (=say something which is not true) but only omitted some of the truth, then it is quite likely that the person will continue with this strategy and will not be able to lie frontally. This means that if we find the right question we might get the right answer!
© 1998 By Avinoam Sapir