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Jewish World Review /Dec. 14,1998 /25 Kislev 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Republicans find courage

DEMOCRATS ON THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE are fond of invoking the Watergate hearings of 1974 as the model of "bipartisanship." Those deliberations, they recall, in which Republicans cooperated with Democrats to draw up articles of impeachment against a Republican president, stand in marked contrast to today's proceedings. The Judiciary Committee is now poised to pass four articles of impeachment against President Clinton without a single Democratic vote in committee.

This may be proof that Republicans are pursuing a Democratic president out of an excess of partisan spirit. But there is an alternative explanation that never seems to occur to the Democrats: that while many Republicans were able to rise above partisanship when a president of their own party committed crimes and misdeeds in office, the Democrats -- at least those serving on the Judiciary Committee -- are willing to countenance nearly anything from one of their own.

The Lewinsky scandal sometimes seems to be a real-life version of the movie "Groundhog Day." We go over the same ground again and again, with only slight changes in the script.

After his August speech to the nation, in which the president made the laughable claim that his testimony in the Paula Jones case was "legally accurate," several leading Democrats, including Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), called upon him to abandon the misleading legalisms. Now, six months later, little has changed. White House lawyer Charles Ruff has twisted words and offered ludicrous interpretations of the president's obvious lies and perjuries.

(Until now, most English speakers may not have realized that the words "is," "alone" and "sex" were ambiguous.) Surely one article of impeachment should concern this abuse of the nation's intelligence.

Ruff may be a very successful lawyer, but he must achieve that success at the expense of self-respect. He can argue simultaneously that impeachment is not an appropriate punishment for the president because it was intended only to prevent "subversion of our system of government" and also that it was appropriate for the president to invoke and litigate an executive privilege claim to cover up what was purely personal conduct. Certainly no one can believe that the executive privilege is meant to shield the president's private misconduct. It was intended to preserve the independence of the executive branch under certain limited circumstances from encroachment by the legislature in matters of official business. So executive privilege is for personal matters, but impeachment isn't.

The Democrats wave flimsy tatters as banners of innocence. Abbe Lowell, the Judiciary Committee's minority counsel, reverts again and again to Monica Lewinsky's "No one told me to lie" statement. Well, perhaps not, but she filed an affidavit in the Paula Jones lawsuit with the approval of the president and Vernon Jordan. The sworn affidavit, which is signed on penalty of perjury, stated that she had not had sex "in any way, shape, manner or form," to quote Bob Bennett, with President Clinton.

The president denies that he told Lewinsky to lie, but when Bennett introduced that perjurious affidavit at the Paula Jones deposition in order to forestall any further questioning about Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton vouched for its accuracy. Of course, he didn't say, "Go out there and lie like a rug, Monica." But their joint testimony, the hiding of the gifts and the careful tailoring of cover stories about Monica visiting Betty Currie all amount to a conspiracy to commit perjury and obstruct justice. It requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove someone from office after an impeachment trial. No one today believes that Clinton will suffer that fate.

But the Republicans in the House of Representatives are following their consciences and the Constitution. They are not resorting to some ready escape for themselves or the president like censure. And what is most admirable, they are not following public opinion. For the first time in years, they are trying to lead it.

And even if the public never does come to agree with them that these felonies are impeachable offenses, the Republicans and the Democrats who vote with them will go down in history as something larger and better than finger-in-the-wind pols.


12/09/98: Nappy Hair and other racial slurs
12/07/98: Stranger in a strange land
12/02/98: Dangerous ground
11/30/98: Involuntary fatherhood?
11/24/98: Lies, damned lies, and sex lies
11/18/98: Another victory for cowardice
11/16/98: Separatism plus welfarism equals a dead end
11/10/98: Did conservatism lose campaign '98?
11/06/98: Democrat venality, Republican timidity
11/04/98: Are girls being shortchanged?
11/02/98: Believe the children?
10/28/98: What 'Measure 58' would do
10/26/98: The officers are bailing out
10/20/98: Using Matthew Shepard's murder
10/19/98: The school voucher that saved a family
10/14/98: Are powerful women different?
10/09/98: Can just sex be impeachable?
10/07/98: Repeal Miranda
10/02/98: Understanding the polls
10/01/98: What school texts teach about marriage
9/28/98: Fear of choice
9/23/98: A fork in the road: Bubba's fate and ours
9/18/98: Christianity and the Holocaust
9/16/98: The national dirty joke
9/11/98: Are we in crisis?
9/09/98: Does Burton's sin let Clinton off the hook?
9/07/98: Liar's Poker
9/01/98: One, two, three
8/28/98: Fat and folly
8/25/98: When homework is a dirty word
8/21/98: The unravelling
8/18/98: The wages of dishonesty
8/17/98: Sex, honor and the presidency
8/12/98: Pro-choice extremist
8/10/98: Switch illuminates biology's role
8/05/98: The presumption of innocence and the American way
8/03/98: An American hero
7/29/98: Lock up those who need psychiatric care
7/24/98: Making the military more like us
7/22/98: The 'Net sex hoax... and us
7/20/98: Disappointed by Cosbys
7/15/98: Feelings, not morality, rule
7/10/98: Guns as the solution?
7/8/98: Teacher preacher
7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
6/26/98: The Republican city
6/24/98: Poison pen
6/22/98: Clinton: inventing his own reality?
6/16/98: Senator mom?
6/12/98: Wisconsin: a trail blazer?
6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
6/2/98: English? Si; Republican? No!
5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
5/8/98: Where's daddy?
5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
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.