By Karen Hall

My latest unofficial scan of the all-important polls tells me that 65% of the polled believe that Bill Clinton is a liar. Thank God I finally agree with the majority on something.

Of course, that's roughly the same number who think he's doing a great job as president. What are we to deduce from this information? That somewhere between 60 and 70% of polled Americans believe that the slimy, lying, scheming, evasive, untrustworthy jerk is doing a great job?

Clinton's grand jury testimony reminds me of a lot of true crime cases I have read. First the accused absolutely did not do it and, in fact, was in Detroit at the time. Upon further scrutiny, he'll admit that he was actually in town, but nowhere near the murder scene. Then, okay, he might have been in the house with the victim, but he left long before the murder. Well, maybe he was there during the murder, but he wasn't the one who committed it. And so on.

Clinton's lies progress similarly. First he absolutely "DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN!" and, in fact, had never been in a room alone with her. Then he might have been in a room alone with her, but nothing sexual took place. Then maybe something sexual did take place, but it didn't really fit the definition of sex as given to him by Paula Jones' attorneys. And even if sex was involved (by the broader definition) this entire witchhunt was only about sex, and therefore should be ignored.

Like most Clintonspeak, this word pretzel poses a logistical problem that I wish some of the prattling pundits would address. While Clinton is still claiming that he has not had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky (since, as we all now know, oral sex performed on the deponent is not sex), all of his spokesfolk are still on cable news informing the rest of us that this whole thing is "only about sex"... I can't help wondering, since no sex has taken place, how can this thing be about sex at all, much less exclusively?

To turn on the TV and hear allegedly intelligent, well-educated people analyzing and arguing over the taped testimony is nothing short of surreal. I don't know how any of them can keep a straight face. Everything about Clinton's performance, from the continual requests to be given the texts of his previous lies (so he can make sure he tells the same lie this time) to his dizzying verbal dance to avoid answering the grand jury's questions, to his never-ending shuffle of water, glasses, Diet Coke, glasses, water, Diet Coke, just plain comical.

Depending, of course, on what your definition of is is.

Language is very much to the point in all of this. Definitions and interpretations that I used to take for granted are now being bitterly contested. I apparently don't interpret "doing a good job" the same way other people do, when it comes to presidential behavior. "Sex" has a very different meaning to me than it does to President Clinton, my definition being much less exclusive. And I'm not really sure what Hillary means when she says she's proud of her husband, but we obviously don't interpret that word in the same way.

All of the above has yielded a new area of insight for me. I now realize that I am going to have to loosen my grip on conventional meanings, if I have any hope of understanding the current political climate. I need to pay more attention to subtext and less to literal translation. I have been trying this lately, and I have to admit, the result is amazing. America is beginning to make sense to me again.

So for anyone who has been having the same problem, I now offer my studied interpretations of various popular Clintonspeak phrases:

"The economy is doing well." Translation: "I've got money in the bank and to hell with everyone else."

"No one should have to answer questions about such intimate matters." Translation: "I want this subject changed before anyone finds that out that I had an affair."

"I think President Clinton is basically a good man." Translation: "He only lies about things that don't effect me."

"I think he is contrite and has expressed his desire to be forgiven, and we should forgive him." Translation: "The mea culpa performance was good enough to use as an excuse to ignore something I'm sick of hearing about."

"Everybody lies about sex." Translation: "You should be obsessing about whether or not your partner has ever lied to you about sex, not about this silly perjury and obstruction of justice nonsense."

"The president is human, just like the rest of us." Translation: "Boy, is this Clinton business going to come in handy if I ever get caught in a sex lie!"

"The American people want to put this behind them and move on." Translation: "If you are not in favor of letting this drop, you are not one of the cool people." Alternate translation: "You're getting veeeeeeery sleeeepy.."

"We need to get back to the issues." Translation: "This crap has already overshadowed baseball season, are we really going to let it overshadow football, too?"

"Ken Starr is clearly out of control." Translation: "The American public is not clever or complex enough to believe in two bad guys, so let's convince them that it's the other guy who's bad, and then our guy will have to be the good guy."

"The Republicans have turned this into partisan warfare." Translation: "We're outnumbered. This stinks!"

"The American people will separate the issues from the scandal come November, and they're not going to take the Clinton scandal out on honest, hard-working democrats." Translation: "Lord, have mercy."

"This is not an impeachable offense." Translation: "The law be damned. I like the guy."

There. I'm much less confused now.