OK CLASS, WELCOME back and listen up. You're enrolled in "I Desperately Want To Be A World Leader 101," and today's lesson is on legally telling the truth. So help us.

Our objective is to become schooled in the art of legal truth-telling, which means always stopping short of that critical point when what we say can and will be used against us in a court of law.Our motto: Never allow the truth to foul up a good defense.

Our patron saint: Miranda.

First let's point out that "legal lying" is not new and we have plenty of role models to follow.

The old USSR was especially good at it.

Remember all those athletic competitions between the Soviets and the United States. As far as Tass, the official news agency, was concerned, the Soviets never lost.

Typical Tass lead after an American win: "The Soviet Union finished second in yesterday's competition, while the United States finished next to last."

For a quick "how to," let's use a simple illustration involving one of today's most popular evasive maneuvers.

When someone asks if you've paid a bill you haven't paid, the way to buy time is to respond: "The check is in the mail."

But legally, that's not a good move.

To avoid any annoying recriminations later on, simply replace "the" with "a."

"A check is in the mail."

Take George Washington and the "I cannot tell a lie" story.

Suppose young George had said, "But I can tell a legal lie."

Instead of a blanket yes to "Did you chop down the cherry tree?" George could have responded:

"To the best of my recollection, the cherry tree was still standing" (before I got there).

"We have a lot of cherry trees" (and now we have one less).

"I do not have a personal relationship with our ax." (I only used it that once.)

With the parts in parentheses left out - young George isn't grounded.

Now let's take a more contemporary illustration. Let's say you're the commander in chief of the most powerful nation on earth and you've ordered a strike of Tomahawk missiles at suspected terrorist encampments overseas.

Asked why, you answer, "Because of information that the terrorists were meeting at that very spot that very day."

Now suppose you're asked, "But don't the terrorists have meetings every day, usually after somebody says, 'C'mon, let's have a beer and talk about the disgusting infidels in the West?' "

A truthful answer might be, "Yes."

But also truthful, in a legal sense: "I received the unanimous support of my entire Defense Council."

This response enables you to leave out, "It is true, the entire Defense Council would vote yes if I thought there was a retired terrorist driving a motor home across the interstate and I wanted to bomb Iowa. Their thinking is, `Why do we have all these guns if we're not going to use them?' If they were football coaches, they'd go for it on fourth and 99. They'd never punt. They think Patton was con-serv-a-tive."

It also enables you to leave out details regarding any personal reasons for the timing of the attacks.

Remember, the keys are being general instead of specific, forgetful when convenient, vague without appearing so, diversionary, and never volunteer information. Also remember, even though the really good ones make it look as effortless as ordering a pizza, it's harder than it looks.

OK, let's see how well we're wrapping our minds around this concept.

Here's a scenario: You're the president and you're being questioned by a special prosecutor who has a dress he thinks will incriminate you.

Mr. special proseucutor asks: "Do you remember this dress?"

How do you respond?

Class: "I have no recollection of Monica's blue dress."

We have all semester. We'll work on it.