Impeachment Notebook

by Doug Payton

While watching the Impeachment debate, the vote and the commentaries, a number of thoughts on various subjects came to mind. Tried as I may, I couldn't manage to link them all together into one thought or essay. They all deal with impeachment, though, so consider this my Impeachment Notebook.

Mike McCurry told the BBC that he has "enormous doubts" about whether Clinton is fit for duty. This from the man who for years spoke for the President. While he didn't get any details from the President on the Lewinsky affair (so that presidential aids wouldn't be subpoenaed), he did get an assurance from the President that everything would turn out all right. According to McCurry, he didn't believe that a "tortured definition of sex was behind those denials". I wonder now if McCurry thinks to himself about all the other things that he told the press and the American people that came from the mouth of Bill Clinton.

At his inauguration, Bill Clinton was serenaded by Barbara Streisand with the song "Children are Watching". Matt Drudge recalled with descriptive speech and a tone of irony this event, contrasting it to the how the coverage of the President's affair was adding "oral sex" to the public discourse and its effect on children.

I'd almost forgotten that, until J. C. Watts, in his speech during the impeachment debate, spoke that phrase to Bill Clinton once again, this time under much different circumstances. An irony in an irony. But was anyone listening?

Draft Watts for 2000. "Because children are watching."

I heard of number of catch phrases spoken by Democrats during and after the impeachment debate that I just had to shake my head at:

"The politics of personal destruction"

Many a Democrat, and even the President, spoke against this. This sounds so disingenuous from a party and an ideology that so flippantly and eagerly trashed people for purely political gain during this whole ordeal: Paula Jones (whom Clinton spokesman James Carville said is what you get when you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park), Linda Tripp (who was derided by Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett as a liar in the Kathleen Willey case, which prompted Tripp to record conversations with Monica Lewinsky so that she couldn't be trashed again), Monica Lewinsky (who at one point was called a stalker to try and discredit her), and Ken Starr (whom James Carville made his primary target in his book "...And the Horse He Rode In On").

Then of course you have the ultra-liberal head of Hustler magazine, Larry Flint, admitting to investigating dozens of Republicans, most notably Hyde, Burton and Livingston. Liberals dismiss this as an independent person, unattached to the Whitehouse, and thus can't be associated with Democrats. My two observations are; 1) that description also fits Richard Mellon Scaife, but liberals feel more than happy to attack him, and 2) both Cokie Roberts of ABC News and Matt Drudge reported that Whitehouse sources were trying to front the story to reporters (Roberts says she was approached personally) days before Flint said anything about it. Even Dick Morris, one of Bill Clinton's longtime advisors, is thoroughly convinced that the Whitehouse "secret police", as he calls them, are behind the stories, using Hustler as the mouthpiece.

The most vocal critics of the politics of personal destruction are also the ones most vigorously utilizing it. And the fact that they are using accusations of sex to combat accusations of perjury and obstruction of justice only shows they still haven't figured out that Clinton was impeached for the latter, not the former.

"Partisan politics"

But for 4 or 5 of them, every Democrat voted "No" on every article of impeachment. Unlike that party-line vote, scores of Republicans crossed over on one of the impeachment articles, and enough in another that it went down as well. The independence of the Republicans was far more evident in the voting than Democrats. And again, the Democrats, who spoke passionately against partisan politics, were the ones most committed to it.

In addition to the vote results, there is more evidence in this ordeal and in recent months that the Republicans are far less partisan than Democrats. What the Republicans were voting for could lead to the removal of Clinton would and give the far more liberal Al Gore the perfect launching pad for his presidential campaign for the year 2000. How could that be considered partisan? Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston gave up the position 3rd in line to the President of the United States, an ambition few ever see materialize, for the good of the country and/or their family. They left for reasons that they felt would keep them from doing the best job they could. Democrats called those men partisan, and described the outcome of their actions "chaos". What Democrats call chaos and weakness, the rest of us call integrity. Gingrich left after losing 5 seats in, while keeping control of, the House, but Gephardt is still in power after losing 50 seats and control of the House. Livingston left after sexual accusations, but Clinton won't leave after lies, cover-ups and obstruction of justice due to sexual accusations. Who's really being partisan?

The ultimate display of partisanship was during the impeachment debate, when, after Bob Livingston called for the President to resign, Democrats could be clearly heard shouting, "No, no, you resign!" Then when he did resign, they backpedaled hard and fast, trying to cover up the fact that their extreme partisanship had shown through in a moment of anger. They were more than willing to excuse the President's behavior but call for the resignation of someone who had not used the power of his office to cover it up. That is partisanship, blatant and raw.

"No vote of conscience because no censure option was permitted"

The motion to recommit the Articles of Impeachment back to committee with instructions to reword it was the censure option, and every House member knew that. That fact, of course, was not important to those Democrats who complained afterward that they didn't get the chance to vote on censure.

"Overturning the election"

Many Democrats called the impeachment vote a vote to overturn the results of the last two presidential elections. Others called it an attempted coup, or a thwarting of the will of the American people. These proceedings were no more an attempt to overturn the election than the actions of the Judiciary Committee (and likely impeachment) in 1974 were an attempt to do that. The Democrats used blatantly inflammatory words to describe the possible replacement of Bill Clinton with Al Gore. How exactly that would be an overthrow of government is, of course, never explained.

And let's not forget that at the time of the Judiciary Committee's approval of Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon, Nixon's approval ratings were 60-70%. No Democrat ever considered impeaching Nixon a coup, but of course, he was Republican.

The bombing of Iraq started just before the impeachment debate began. I watched Clinton's address explaining why he decided to begin the bombing when he did; the UNSCOM report arrived just that morning and he didn't want to give Hussein any lead time to dig in, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan was coming and he didn't want to offend the other Muslim nations. I agreed with those reasons and figured that the timing was coincidence. Madmen don't work on a convenient timetable. Additionally, I imagined it may be the perfect time to start a bombing campaign because Hussein may be lulled into thinking that Clinton would never start an operation like that while he was so concerned about impeachment. I gave Clinton the benefit of the doubt.

Then came the reports that the President had, many days earlier, already decided to bomb Iraq, and that the UNSCOM report's language was modified to be stronger than originally written so that bombing could be more easily defended as an option. Then I heard that Clinton pretty much knew the content of the report before he got it, that it didn't say anything new about Iraq he didn’t already know, but that the timing of its release was manipulated to fall on that day.

And finally, the bombing stopped just hours after the impeachment vote was finished.

And the benefit began to drop, and the doubt began to rise.

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