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Jewish World Review / April 10, 1998 / 14 Nisan, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Armey states obvious, gets clobbered

PSSSST. The emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

"Armey launches attack on Clinton." That is how a number of news organizations reported the fact that House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) called the president of the United States a "shameless person." Is that an attack? Funny, any ordinary observer might have thought that Armey was merely stating the obvious. But ordinary observers have had a confusing time of it lately.

Speaking to a class of government students in Coppell, Texas, Armey said, "If it were me that had documented personal conduct along the lines of the president's, I would be Dick Armey so filled with shame that I would resign. I believe (the president) is a shameless person."

Well, yes. That seems a reasonable conclusion.

But reasonable conclusions are not permitted in the current climate. We are instructed, even by some Republicans, that the facts are not in, that reasonable inferences cannot be drawn from the facts available, and that any assumption, other than that of total presidential innocence, amounts to a "rush to judgment."

On cue, White House flack Paul Begala came out swinging. "It's just a partisan attempt ... from the right-wing Republicans to form an alliance with Ken Starr in a very partisan investigation, to try to use it for their partisan advantage."

Having successfully demonized Starr (who cannot defend himself), the Clinton patrol will now accuse anyone who criticizes the president of being in league with the devil. How tidy. The partisanship charge is actually quite lame, as the Republicans have been panting for deals with this president on everything from the budget to tobacco. Since the budget battle of 1995, the Republican Congress has been more compliant with President Clinton's agenda than the previous Democratic Congress ever was.

Just as demoralizing as the image of a president who will smear his every accuser, lie and perhaps obstruct justice to conceal his disgraceful conduct is the image of an opposition party waking up every morning and checking the opinion polls before deciding what to say or even what to think.

The Clinton Praetorian Guard is at least attempting to lead public opinion. That's more than you can say for the party of Lincoln. "Look at what happened to Tom DeLay," they're saying in private. "It's political suicide to take on this issue."

DeLay (R-Ga.) gave a speech on the floor of the House a few weeks ago criticizing the president's conduct and calling upon him to explain himself to the American people. He was hammered for this by Democrats in his district. And that was enough to frighten almost every other Republican in the Congress into silence. Imagine! If you say something, you might get criticized. How unbearable!

What made these timid Republicans think they were cut out for politics in the first place?

Four former attorneys general, including one Democrat, have come to the defense of Kenneth Starr, but Republicans, fearful of being labeled "partisan" or "judgmental," have shrunk from defending the rule of law, their own constitutional responsibilities, or high moral and ethical standards.

Asked about Armey's comments, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was patronizing and aloof. Armey "represents a lot of people who feel very deeply," Gingrich told the "Today Show." Does the speaker exempt himself from that category?

Asked if he agreed that the president should resign, Gingrich said, "No, I think the president should tell the truth." Really? And what if the truth is that the president abused his authority, suborned perjury and engaged in sex acts with a young intern (a charge he explicitly denied under oath and to the American people)? What if the truth is that even a female supporter looking for employment cannot count on decent behavior from the president in the Oval Office?

To recommend that the president tell the truth -- when it is perfectly obvious that he has no intention of doing so and when moreover the truth might demand further action, like impeachment -- is a dodge.

If more Republicans were to speak frankly about the president, they might just convince some people that ethical behavior is not too much to expect from our leaders. They might just begin to change the climate of opinion. And they might earn respect for showing some backbone.

So far though, they've merely praised the emperor's wardrobe.


4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.