Of The Day
But, sometimes not every day.

Most recent past comment.

January 12, 1999

Pomp & Circumstance
(It's still the same bunch in a different room.)

We all love the Senate, don't we? It's just a little higher, just a little classier. It's where we promote Congressmen and Governors and other prominents when there's no place else for them to go. It's a high-minded place, embedded in the mantle of Democracy. The last bastion of the Daniel Websters and Thomas Hart Bentons. It's where people say things like, "Give me liberty, or give me death." Once things come to the Senate, they are thought over, debated over, and improved. It is so orderly and deliberative. And now that the Impeachment has arrived in the Senate we all subconsciously think that it is more serious, more historic and more carefully managed. The Senate would never entertain an impeachment that had no chance, no constitution basis... something so partisan and frivolous as that which captivated those guys in the House. Right? Well, check it out:

The House managers, just as derisive and unyielding in their presentation now as they were then, have delivered a 105-page document (with 250 pages of "supporting evidence") and even though they are constitutionally restricted to the evidentiary record of the House proceedings, they have gone beyond that already, listing the sexual encounters and saying in the same paragraph, "This case is not about sex or private conduct... it is about multiple obstructions of justice, perjury, false and misleading statements, and witness tampering -- all committed or orchestrated by the President of the United States." But down at the bedrock of their case is their ultimate distaste for President Clinton's carefully worded answer (some say "lie") about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and his alledged scheming to cover the affair. Without that rising to impeachment temperature in the Senate, they have nothing. And, strangely self-destructive, they proceed knowing they will fail.

So, you see, we're back in the House arguing about sex, lies and peccadillos again. For all the Pomp and Circumstance, it still signifies nothing on the stage of Constitutional propriety. In their document they sort of wink and nod in good-ole-boy fashion, probably elbowing each other amusingly: "Of course no one said, 'Now, Monica, you go in there and lie.' They didn't have to. Ms. Lewinsky knew what was expected of her. Similarly, nobody promised her a job, but once she signed the false affidavit she got one." That is from the official brief presented to the Senate by Henry Hyde. Imagine. Even the managers admit "no one said 'Go in there and lie," and that no one overtly obstructed justice by bribing her with a job." So the basis of their pitch is, "Oh, come on, Bill. Who do you think you're kidding?"

You and I could build a case that the House managers are presenting merely circumstantial evidence and discussing possible violations that have nothing whatsoever to do with the "abuse of Presidential power" which all jurists hold as the litmus test for impeachable offenses. Andrew Johnson used the Presidential veto 20 times, and 20 times it was overridden. That was Presidential power abuse. What Clinton did was to personally offend the conservative Republicans (many of whom have done worse and still remain in office). That is, he made the people who didn't like him anyway, ever madder. Listen to the easily recalled refrain from Hamlet and tell me: isn't life imitating art here? Shouldn't we recognize that we are too far down a wrong road? Shouldn't we take a deep breath and turn back? Shouldn't we decide not to comit parlimentary suicide just to prove a point?

... a poor player that struts and frets
his hour upon the stage, and
then is heard no more; it is a
tale told by an idiot, full of
sound and fury, signifying
nothing. --William Shakespeare

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