I've been pondering the astonishing bravado of the president's statement last week:

"I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it - and I will not authorize it."

I knew it reminded me of something and yesterday, it hit me. Bush's statement is true in his own private universe, and the criterion of his version of truth depends entirely on what the meaning of the word "torture" is. I think what you have to do is think of George W. Bush's statement in the same light as Bill Clinton's famous declaration that he had not had "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky. Both statements are semantic evasions to avoid a direct lie. Each man is using a private dictionary to redefine a word otherwise clear to any other rational person. But the broader conclusion is obvious: Clinton lied about an extra-marital affair in a civil sexual harrassment lawsuit. Bush is lying about one of the core featurs of a civilized and decent society in the middle of a vital war. The Republicans ridiculed Clinton for his linguistic somersaults - and even impeached him for it. They are mostly silent today. A telling contrast, I'd say.

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