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Jewish World Review /Dec. 22,1998 /3 Teves 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Party of shame, party of shamelessness

THEY BLINDSIDED HIM. President Clinton, the master of political tactics and jujitsu, was caught by surprise when the Republican House impeached him. And the reason he was caught unawares is written in his character.

Bill Clinton could not possibly have imagined that the Republican members of the House, along with five Democrats, would do something so strange and unexpected as to risk their own political futures for the sake of the nation. They are already paying a price in popularity. Certainly he would never put the interests of the nation above his own narrow self-interest.

The division between the two parties was more stark last week than at any time in recent memory. President Clinton's was the party of shamelessness, while the Republicans showed themselves the party capable of shame and therefore capable of honor.

Though the Democrats used strong language in their proposed censure resolution, accusing the chief executive of, among other things, having "disgraced his office," they vitiated those words by their actions. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the president in the Rose Garden after he was impeached, they cheered him as if he had just won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Their arguments were contradictory. They urged, on the one hand, that the president's sins were entirely personal and yet, on the other, that he deserved to be censured by Congress. But if the offenses were purely personal, surely censure was out of place, too.

The Democrats' shamelessness was on display when Rep. Bob Livingston delivered his shocking and dramatic speech before the House. When he encouraged the president to heal the nation's wounds by doing the honorable thing and stepping down, the Democrats in the House began to jeer. They booed and shouted, "You resign!" For a moment, the House of Representatives sounded like the House of Commons but with none of the saving humor.

And when Livingston announced that indeed he would follow his own advice, the Democrats were thunderstruck. As soon as the vertigo wore off, several speakers (and later the president, for utterly self-serving reasons) rose to discourage Livingston from following through on his decision. The subtext was clear: This sort of thing cannot be permitted. This might set a new standard for public officials, and we reject all notions of sexual morality.

In the days that followed, a number of Democrats amplified on this theme, decrying the new "sexual McCarthyism" and insisting that if the Livingston model stands, only residents of monasteries will be suited to hold office.

Now, where personal morality intersects with public standards is actually a tangled and complex matter. A good case can be made that for the president, the sphere that can really be called "personal" is quite limited, while this is not true of legislators. But however you define what private is, and how much private sins impinge upon public duties, surely it is remarkable to argue that simple marital fidelity is too high a bar to expect public officials to clear.

The Democrats have resorted throughout this sordid mess to character assassination and name calling again and again. The White House, devoid of any sense of shame and remote even from a seemly silence, analyzed the impeachment vote as the triumph of "partisanship," "hate" and "extremism."

Alec Baldwin, friend of Bill, actor and donor to the Democratic Party, encouraged Americans to march on Washington and kill the wives and children of members who voted for impeachment. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law professor and O.J. defender, stopped short of Baldwin's hysterics but not by much. He called a vote against impeachment "a vote against bigotry, against fundamentalism, against anti-environmentalism, against the radical right and against the pro-life movement."

Meanwhile, leading Republicans like Robert Dole and Gerald Ford are filling op-ed pages with pleas for leniency toward Clinton. Republicans who think he deserves removal are phrasing their views in the measured language of constitutional duty. And two Republican leaders have tendered their own resignations -- not, as the Democrats believe, in the fevered desire to "get" Clinton -- but out of passionate hope that their sacrifice will advance the larger struggle for honor and truth.


12/18/98: Wag the country
12/16/98: Is this impeachment constitutional?
12/14/98: Republicans find courage
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.