Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


One of Bill Clinton’s most famous contributions to the political lexicon is

It depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is.

This was his defense from the accusation of having lied when he explicitly said, of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky,

There is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship.

It was immediately obvious that there was something strange about his somewhat tortured insistence on the present tense, where what he was asked to deny was in the past. Of course, we know that he was trying to be extremely clever in making a statement that was literally true, while seeming to deny an accusation that he knew to be correct.

Now Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has spoken out, not in his own defense, but in defense of the president:

“In all of this, in any of this, there’s been no evidence that there’s any collusion between the Trump campaign and the President and Russia,” he said. “Let’s just make that clear — there is no collusion.”

Is he being ironic?

Comments on: "The meaning of “is”" (3)

  1. Seymour Steinsaltz said:

    I wonder why our august congress does not instruct the present special prosecutor to investigate the current president’s sexual faults? Probably might add decades to the present investigation.

  2. Blissex said:

    Please, please, please enough with the “Russia connection” fantasies, they are ridiculous.

    D Trump has spent decades being a real estate developer in NYC: that most likely means that he has “colluded” with everybody of note, by bribing every mobster, official, politician, journalist, etc. he could bribe and had a remote connection to his many businesses.

    He seems to me very likely to be deeply corrupt, but not because of *taking* bribes, but *giving* them. The Democrats cannot use that to attack him because since his main business is in NYC and NJ, he has probably bribed most of the democrat politicians there. So they have made up a scandal from very little to nothing (e.g. the “Emoluments clause”).

    And this plus the recent article in “Business Insider” reporting that he has been for a long time one of the biggest donor to Republican politicians (obviously to get favourable tax rules for real estate developers, which are a real scandal).

    Plus there are no big conflicts of interest between USA and Russia (Putin wanted to apply for NATO membership), and saudi/israeli/japanese/chinese purchases of usian politicians are open, accepted, and on a grand scale, compared to minuscule russian deals, and if there have been any, most likely it was D Trump paying russian politicians rather than viceversa.

    • I’m sorry that my insistence on the importance of this matter seems to trouble you so much.

      I find it odd to see “Emoluments clause” presented in quotes, as though it were an obscure invention of pettifogging Democrats. It is obscure only in the sense that previous presidents have honoured its spirit, and so kept well clear of violating it in sensu stricto.

      As for there being no big conflicts between the USA and Russia, it seems to me a peculiar viewpoint — certainly not one that was shared by many Republicans until very recently, viz. Mitt Romney’s debate remark that Russia was the main geopolitical adversary of the US. I think Romney’s point was very much overstated, not because of the lack of opposing interests, but because of the vastly smaller population and economic power of Russia compared with China. I have difficulty assigning any relevance to Vladimir Putin’s offer to undermine NATO from within 20 years ago. More recently, of course, NATO suspended cooperation with the Russian Federation because of its aggression toward Ukraine.

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