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Jewish World Review / Nov. 6, 1998 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5759

Don Feder

Don Feder Historians against the Constitution

ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER JR. and a few hundred of his closest friends and ideological soul mates had a full-page ad in The New York Times last Friday, headlined, "Historians in Defense of the Constitution."

With defenders like these, the Constitution needs no detractors.

The ad implores us to champion the Constitution by opposing the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

That is to say, the signers want us to preserve the Constitution (under glass? in amber?) by ignoring the Constitution. They would have us honor the Constitution by allowing Clinton to shred it.

Schlesinger, et al warn us that the Framers "explicitly reserved" impeachment for "high crimes and misdemeanors in the exercise of executive power."

They offer no explanation of "high crimes and misdemeanors," other than to suggest they're pretty serious stuff. They can't, because any definition grounded in history would demolish their case.

Still, the historians are sure that Clinton committed no impeachable offenses. And so, any attempt to remove him is nothing less than an attack on the Constitution itself, with "ominous portents."

"If carried forward ... (impeachment) will leave the presidency permanently disfigured and diminished," the academics caution.

Reality break: The Framers clearly understood the need for an impeachment mechanism. The Constitution mentions impeachment six times.

The Founders were creating a government of laws, not one of elected sovereigns. They specifically envisioned a situation in which a nation was burdened by a president of such low character and appalling conduct that the dignity and credibility of the office required his removal.

Alexander Hamilton explained that impeachable offenses are those which "proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust ... they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to society itself."

The Federalist Papers (No. 70) observed that impeachment was meant to deal with an officeholder who acts "in such a manner as to render himself unworthy of being any longer trusted."

Finally, Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution charges the president to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

Some "abuse or violation of the public trust?" -- might that include lying repeatedly to the American people, lying under oath and (to paraphrase Sen. John Ashcroft) doing things that would disgust a pig in the White House with another federal employee?

As for offenses that "relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to society itself," how could an attempt to subvert our legal system be anything else?

To frustrate Paula Jones' sexual-harassment lawsuit, Bill Clinton committed perjury, induced Monica Lewinsky to file a false affidavit, engaged in witness tampering (coaching his secretary, Betty Currie, to induce her to lie to the grand jury), concealed evidence, obstructed justice with his repeated claims of executive privilege, which brought groans from the federal bench, and enlisted the Secret Service in the cover-up.

We have laws against sexual harassment (i.e., a governer exposing himself and asking a state employee to "kiss it"). When they believe they've been victimized, citizens have a right to sue under those laws.

When the president commits multiple felonies to deny them justice, he is violating his constitutional duty to take care "that the laws be faithfully executed." If this isn't an impeachable offense, I'd like to know what is. Schlesinger and his colleagues claim that if we follow the Constitution here, the presidency will be "permanently disfigured and diminished."

Are they suggesting that if Clinton is removed or forced to resign, future presidents won't be able to perjure themselves in civil cases, lie to grand juries, obstruct justice and enlist federal agencies in their conspiracies? Good.

Liberal historians like Schlesinger have facilitated the degradation of the Constitution by providing the rationale for its misinterpretation to advance elitist goals. Their distortion of the impeachment clause is another contribution to the cause.

Every year, Schlesinger and his academic cronies do a rating of presidents. Ronald Reagan -- the man who won the Cold War and started the revolution for limited government -- is invariably ranked in the bottom half. In 1997, he was rated below the criminal Clinton.

One might as well appoint an expert panel composed of Hillary Clinton, James Carville and Barney Frank to rule on whether Bill Clinton can be impeached as listen to Schlesinger and his cohorts on the subject.


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.