The pageant to end all pageants is finally set to play-out in Washington DC. The press is lined up with pencils sharpened and cameras poised to capture the sordid event. The politicians and pundits are pushing and shoving, jockeying for position, trying to dream up the perfect sound bite. And lawyers and PR flacks debate the issues endlessly, all spouting the most carefully applied spin - each particular version, of course, depending on the participant’s side of the aisle.
All of which leaves us, the vast majority of voters, wondering, “Exactly what the hell went wrong?”
The impeachment and trial of William Jefferson Clinton is one of the greatest spectacles to ever unfold in the long, illustrious history of our country. And it’s also one of the greatest travesties and perversions of justice – as well as one of the saddest examples of partisan bloodletting - ever to disgrace this great nation.
While conservative sages make grave pronouncements about the sad necessity of the venerable duty the Senate is about to perform - trying the President for high crimes and misdemeanors - the simple fact of the matter is that the whole mess is nothing more than the most gory example possible of a partisan, public butchery, brought on by a lame-duck congress out for political revenge.
The purpose of this feeding frenzy is not to avenge our great country from a heinous act of treason; nor is it to punish the President for committing high crimes and misdemeanors. No, quite simply put, the one and true purpose of this ghastly soap-opera gone-awry is purely and most succinctly partisan in nature – the only real goal in this whole ugly process is to try and tip the balance of power back towards the Republicans – because after years of investigating, and spending untold millions of dollars, Special Prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, finally hit the jackpot and caught the President in a lie.
No, the truth be told, this impeachment and trial of William Jefferson Clinton is not about truth, justice and the American Way. Most emphatically not. No, this process is solely about power – who’s got it, who wants it, and how far they’ll go to get it. It’s as simple as that. And it’s a sad, sad commentary about how far the ethics and morals of our country have devolved to see the extent some people will go to further their petty, acrimonious political ambitions.
Put anyone under the microscope the way that President Clinton was, and most likely you’ll find something – particularly where you have an open-ended investigation with essentially unlimited funding. It’s to the President’s credit that it took as long as it did before Judge Starr actually found something.
That is not to excuse the acts of the President. Having extra-marital sex and then lying about it is inexcusable. It’s a breach of conduct that merits some action – most appropriately taken by Hillary Clinton herself - but it certainly does not merit impeachment and trial before the Senate.
In the context of employment law, conduct off the job may not be used as the basis for discipline unless it can be shown there is a clear and substantial nexus between the conduct and the job, and moreover, that the conduct has a measurable, detrimental effect on the job. In the instant case, the actions of the President are deminimus, and clearly do not stand up to this test.
Nor can any legitimate comparisons be made to the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Nixon’s case, among other things, involved political espionage, burglary and a subsequent cover-up. On the other hand, President Clinton, it’s alleged, had an extra-marital affair that included oral sex, and then lied about it. There is a whole different order of magnitude between the two sets of allegations. No meaningful comparison is possible.
This fact is mirrored in the approval polls – the public perception is that the charges are specious, don’t bear on the President’s ability to perform his job, and should be dropped so the President and the nation can get on to other, more important things. The results of the recent election prove this conclusively.
It’s sadly apparent that the congress will not heed the voice of the people. Like a rabid, diseased wild dog, slavering with the scent of blood while waiting for the kill, the impeachment process seems to have taken on a life of its own.
That being the case, we can only hope and dream that common sense will soon prevail, and the whole tawdry mess will be dropped as quickly as possible, before our nation is done an egregious, irreparable harm.
Therefore, under the present circumstances, especially given the inertia of the situation, censure is the only possible outcome that makes sense.
Finally, when the whole sordid mess is for once and for all put to rest, as a nation, we must work to insure this type of abuse of power never happens again. And as to those who perpetrated this travesty, they will undoubtedly pay for this Pyrrhic victory in their next election campaign.