PELLEY: You know, in ’76, Jimmy Carter famously said, “I will not lie to you.”"I will never lie to you" is always a lie, isn't it? A President must lie some of the time. A Secretary of State must lie. A compulsive truth-teller would be a disaster. But she can't say that. She uses the word "leveling" in place of "truth-telling," and she shifts to the concept of trying.
CLINTON: Well, I have to tell you I have tried in every way I know how literally from my years as a young lawyer all the way through my time as secretary of state to level with the American people.
PELLEY: You talk about leveling with the American people. Have you always told the truth?
CLINTON: I’ve always tried to. Always. Always.
PELLEY: Some people are gonna call that wiggle room that you just gave yourself.
CLINTON: Well, no, I’ve always tried —
PELLEY: I mean, Jimmy Carter said, “I will never lie to you.”
CLINTON: Well, but, you know, you’re asking me to say, “Have I ever?” I don’t believe I ever have. I don’t believe I ever have. I don’t believe I ever will. I’m gonna do the best I can to level with the American people.
In the course of her career, she's had to try to do a lot of things. Telling the truth doesn't always come first. In fact, we need a capable liar who has good judgment about when to lie. Pelley was trying to box her in. If she says "I've never lied," we'll be able to point to that as a lie, because we know she's lied about at least a few things. Pelley's question is oversimplified, but it worked for him. He got a great soundbite. She stumbled horribly, but wasn't that evidence of some honesty?