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Jewish World Review /Jan. 21,1999 /4 Shevat, 5759

Don Feder

Don Feder Censure worse
than nothing

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) WITH THE SENATE TRIAL of our 42nd president in full swing, some legislators are again frantically pushing censure, ignoring their oath to do impartial justice by weighing the evidence before reaching a verdict.

"I've worked out a few thoughts on paper. Ideas are emerging," Sen. John Kerry hopefully reports.

"There will be a strong effort to make some statement on the case." Lest anyone mistake his resolve, Kerry earnestly added, "and I plan to be part of it. I feel strongly about that."

Instead of following the course prescribed by the Constitution to deal with presidential wrongdoing, proponents of censure would resort to a pathetically weak-kneed response never envisioned by the Framers.

Beyond the Beltway, even Clinton's supporters admit that while Congress can reprimand its own, it lacks the power to censure a president. "The idea of congressional censure for the president has no legal or constitutional authority," says the Rev. Robert Drinan, professor of law at Georgetown.

In 1834, Andrew Jackson was censured by the Senate for withdrawing federal funds from the Bank of the United States -- somewhat less of an offense than lying under oath in a federal civil-rights case and obstruction of justice.

Old Hickory, once a frontier judge who enforced order in his court with a brace of pistols, scorned the move as "wholly unauthorized by the Constitution and in derogation of its entire spirit. ... In no part of that instrument is any such power conferred on either branch of the legislature."

Jackson threw down the gauntlet. If you think I've committed "the high crime of violating the laws and the Constitution of my country," impeach me, Jackson demanded. If not, dispense with this mummery.

Censure is a creature of the twilight. It assumes that the president has done something so reprehensible as to call for an official condemnation, while not enough to warrant his removal. As such, it is a cowardly evasion and a fraud.

The resolution of censure proposed by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee last fall correctly noted that when Clinton took the oath of office, "implicit in that oath is the obligation" to "conduct himself in a manner that fosters esteem for the truth."

However, the Great Prevaricator "egregiously failed in this obligation" and, in so doing, "violated the trust of the American people, lessened their esteem for the office of president and dishonored the office which they have entrusted to him."

The resolution euphemistically nibbled at the edges of reality. It implied much while acknowledging very little.

Precisely how did Clinton fail to foster "respect for the truth"? By lying in a deposition, lying to a grand jury and lying to the American people?

By telling his aides falsehoods he knew they would repeat in sworn testimony? By getting a job for Monica Lewinsky to induce her to sign a false affidavit? By coaching Betty Currie to encourage her to help cover up his crimes?

How did he dishonor his office? By intentionally and repeatedly breaking the laws he had sworn to see faithfully enforced? By abusing the formidable powers of that office to obstruct justice?

How does leaving a perjurer in office foster respect for the truth? Does allowing a president to repeatedly misuse his position to frustrate the legal system increase esteem for the presidency? What precedent does it set? Censure is worse than worthless.

It will create the twin illusions that the Senate has done its duty and the president has been punished for conspiracy, serial perjury and a concerted effort to sabotage our judicial system.

Senators will be able to say: "That Bill Clinton, we sure showed him. He made a mockery of his oath, thumbed is nose at the Constitution and engaged in conduct that would have landed anyone else in jail.

"And, yes, by violating his constitutional duty to see that the laws are faithfully enforced, he committed what Alexander Hamilton called a 'violation of some public trust' requiring removal from office.

"But we lashed him with our words. We pummeled him with high-sounding prose. We tarred him for all time with this expression of our intense displeasure. When we censured him, lightening split the sky and the earth shook."

More senators should follow the lead of Bob Smith, R-N.H., Phil Gramm, R-Texas, and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, who have announced that they won't support censure under any circumstances.

They know that if the Senate goes through with this cynical charade, Bill Clinton will accept the rebuke solemnly, with head bowed -- and laugh his head off for the next two years.


1/18/99: Words can`t dignify a dishonored presidency
1/13/99: Conservatism "with a heart" is conservatism without a head
1/11/99: If he isn't removed, watch out for Bill!
1/07/99: We can learn a lot from Teddy
1/05/99: Monica and a call to modesty
12/30/98: Will Bubba get away with it again?
12/28/98: Zionist dream alive and well on West Bank
12/18/98: Impeach or abandon the Rule of Law
12/16/98: Clinton moves Middle East closer to war
12/14/98: Why we lost interest in the homeless
12/10/98: No place at table for conservatives
12/07/98: The day America lost its innocence
12/02/98: Pilgrims Pilloried in streets of Plymouth
11/30/98: Caribbean dogpatch not a good candidate for statehood
11/25/98: Will Vermont force gay marriage on the nation?
11/23/98: The ACLU wants your kids to get a love life
11/18/98: Why liberals hate tobacco and guns more than drugs and crime
11/16/98: "Pleasantville" a countercultural morality play
11/13/98: Ads are a tough sell for abortion
11/09/98: Why gutless Republicans lost
11/06/98: Historians against the Constitution
11/02/98: Loving response to a hateful conference
10/28/98: Professor Death will fit right in at Princeton
10/26/98: Plymouth caves to Pilgrim foes
10/21/98: On '98 election, keep a critical eye on polls
10/19/98: Clinton could yet be 'prosperity president'
10/16/98: Working families -- Dems love 'em (stuffed)
10/09/98: Majoring in 'weirdness'
10/07/98: Friends of Billy Clinton
9/29/98: Letter from ex-soldier highlights defense peril
9/28/98: Answering arguments against impeachment
9/18/98: The nation that doesn't exist
9/14/98: Bubba isn't the only one who should be ashamed
9/11/98: Resolution of Clinton crisis will define national character
9/09/98: We're still just wild about Harry
9/07/98: Mexican banditry didn't end with Pancho Villa
9/02/98: Clinton forgives us!
8/31/98: Ashcroft's plain talking touches responsive chord
8/26/98: Public opinion be damned
8/24/98: Why liberals condone Clinton's lies
8/20/98: Time to move on -- to impeachment
8/12/98: With Bubba in the sexual privacy zone
8/10/98: The truth won't set Clinton free
8/06/98: Truth about Hiroshima is incontrovertible
8/04/98: Clinton not the first hollow president
7/30/98: "Small Soldiers" -- a fractured Vietnam allegory
7/27/98: Crime wave hits hometown
7/22/98: Love in an Internet fishbowl
7/20/98: Ads bring ex-gay movement out of closet
7/15/98: Brian and Amy -- the children of Roe
7/13/98: Why are we scared of obnoxious 'activists?'
7/6/98: Fonda still resists reality
7/1/98: New York blesses domestic partnerships
6/29/98: Teddy and Calvin stood for virtue
6/24/98: Will Clinton betray Taiwan?
6/22/98: Big tobacco? What about big casinos?
6/15/98: Religion -- God for what ails you
6/10/98: Planning Clinton's China itinery
6/8/98: Republicans' Custer offers advice
6/4/98: Oh, Dems Christian-bashers!
6/2/98: Goldwater did conservatives more harm than good
5/27/98: A Clinton-hater confesses
5/15/98: Giuliani's assault on marriage
5/13/98: Hillary knows what's best for everyone
5/11/98: To honor her would not be honorable
5/6/98: Conservative chasm: pragmatism vs. worship of marketplace
5/4/98: Anglo-saxon me
4/29/98: Needle exchange programs are assisted-suicide
4/27/98: Chretien's mission of mercy to Fidel
4/22/98: School-choice is a religious freedom issue
4/20/98: Corporate execs deliver body parts to Beijing
4/14/98: National sales tax --- looks better all the time
4/13/98: The U.N. sinister? Hey, where did that idea come from?
4/8/98: Unions fight workers rights in 226 campaign
3/30/98: Africa's leaders should apologize
3/25/98: GOP shouldn't look to media for advice
3/22/98: You should care about Clinton's 'private life'
3/19/98: Color-coded reading, product of obsessive minds
3/16/98: Amendment will end exile of G-d from our public lives
3/9/98: Havana will break your heart
3/2/98: Vouchers Terrify Teachers' Union
2/25/98: Presidential politics starts at a resort hotel
2/23/98: Hillary's support comes at a price
2/18/98: How many times must we say "no" to gay rights?
2/16/98: Enoch Powell spoke the truth on immigration
2/11/98: Bubba behaving badly
2/9/98: A conservative dissent on the flag-burning amendment
2/5/98: We get the leaders we deserve
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy

©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.