As with law courts involving formal procedures, each witness before the Congressional House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the impeachment of Donald Trump are sworn in using the standard oath. That swearing in, recited aloud in words familiar to anyone who watches TV or movies, includes the phrase, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” The apparent redundancy of this triad of “truths” in the oath is not employed for the purpose of mere emphasis. There’s a collection of reasons for this phraseology that is particularly relevant, especially to our current age of alternative truths, quibbles, spin and technicalities.
Another perfectly valid way of reciting the sworn testimony oath might be, “Do you swear to tell the truth? Do you swear to tell the whole truth? Do you swear to tell nothing but the truth?” Let’s take that new, expanded version of the oath one sentence at a time. First, the witness is asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth?” That’s straightforward enough. The witness affirms that he or she is going to tell the truth. But is that enough? When asked by the prosecutor, for example, if she saw a particular man identified in the courtroom murder Mr. Smith, she might (technically speaking) say “no,” if she saw him murder Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. So if she affirms that she will also tell “the whole truth,” that technicality becomes impossible to rationalize.
But what if in nine questions out of ten she tells the truth and the whole truth but not the tenth? Isn’t that enough to satisfy the technical requirement of the oath? That is where “and nothing but the truth,” comes to the rescue. In effect, the witness is bound north, east, south and west, and cannot find a loophole out of perjury if she is anything less than forthcoming with the truth. That is why the oath is so powerful. If you take the oath and then you lie you are guilty of perjury, no matter how much or convincingly or gymnastically you may backflip, somersault or squirm.
As superintendent of West Point, General Maxwell Taylor was the author of the cadet honor code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” General Taylor was also impatient with the slippery employment of “quibbling, evasive statements, or the use of technicalities.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a graduate of West Point. In fact, he graduated first in his class.
Like so many men and women who have entered the feckless, insidious orbit of Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo made a sad choice and sacrificed a brilliant career on the altar of the pig-god Trump. After West Point, Pompeo was made captain of the army 7th Cavalry Regiment, received a JD at Harvard Law School, served his country in the US House of Representatives and as Director of the CIA. He renounced his life of service and integrity by serving the aforementioned pig-god, discarding his integrity on the filthy floor of a blasphemed White House.
So when it came time for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to stand up and defend the honor of Marie Yovanovich against the unjust lies hurled against her by that selfsame pig-god and his cabal of con men, liars and low rent thieves, Pompeo cowered on the same filthy floor where he left his mouldering integrity to rot.
I never went to West Point, and chances are neither did you. But we know what truth is, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we know the difference between honor deserved and honor discarded. Marie Yovanovich is a woman of truth and honor. Mike Pompeo doesn’t deserve to be in the same room where those words are spoken.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.