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Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 1999/9 Shevat, 5759

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg Impeachment: Short subjects

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) OBJECTION, YOUR HONOR: Here's my and maybe the country's only criticism of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's otherwise unexceptionable conduct of the current proceedings in the matter of William Jefferson Clinton:

Those stripes have to go.

Yes, Gentle and Tasteful Reader, you may have innocently assumed that those gold bands on the chief justice's robes stood for something academic when they first attracted your eye, like a laser beam. We did. But they don't. Not a blessed thing. They just make him look like the sturgeon general of the Bohemian navy. Or maybe the head of the Secret Service in some particularly showy mitteleuropean archduchy.

Indeed, the chief justice himself stipulates that they were inspired by the lord high chancellor's costume in a Gilbert and Sullivan epic. "Iolanthe,'' to be specific. But the gold stripes remind us of some lines from "The Mikado'': They never would be missed, they never would be missed!

The chief justice's sartorial tastes have always been out of the '70s -- classy oldster Phoenix atop basic Schlitzean Milwaukee, his two home towns. But why must he impose those tastes on his robes, and on the country? Please, your honor, spare us and television viewers everywhere. And impose some order on the court. Basic black, as any woman knows, would have done just fine.

THOSE INFALLIBLE POLLS: At last, scientific opinion has begun to raise questions about the strange results of some of those public opinion surveys.

No, not the polls that report how the vast majority of Americans don't want this president impeached. But the polls that regularly show 40 percent of the national population attending church once a week.

Preachers given to counting the house probably had their doubts all along, and now a couple of researchers have borne them out, putting the number of regular churchgoers at closer to 20 percent of all Americans.

Somehow one knew that, when the polls were called to account, it wouldn't be because of their political tilt.

THE MONSTER RALLY THAT WASN'T: Clinton apologists across the country organized rallies Tuesday night to defend their hero but, to quote a dispatch from the Washington Post, "a number of anti-impeachment leaders said they are having difficulty building enthusiasm.''

A rally in Washington on the president's behalf had to be canceled for lack of interest. Patricia Ireland of the National Organization for Women Except Paula Jones, offered this explanation: "Many of our activists are suffering from war-weariness about this.''

But folks on the other side seem to be revving up their campaign for the president's impeachment -- and now conviction -- despite the conventional wisdom that they don't have a chance to get that two-thirds' majority in the Senate. They may be just as weary, but they're still energized.

Something besides a general weariness with the whole business may be depressing the president's defenders. Even those Americans who don't want to see Bill Clinton removed from office -- and the polls say they're the overwhelming majority -- have a hard time working up the kind of enthusiasm for him that it would take to go out, wave signs, cheer and applaud, and generally rush to this poor, put-upon man's defense. After all, it's not easy to be enthusiastic about a leader whose behavior has been uniformly described by friends and foes alike as "reprehensible.''

"It Was Reprehensible but Not Impeachable'' is not exactly the sort of slogan to stir the millions. Neither is "It May Have Been a Crime but Not a High Crime.'' They don't quite have the panache of Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too. Or even I Like Ike.

Almost no defender of the president's begins his appeal without saying something like "While I certainly do not condone the president's reprehensible behavior ...'' before proceeding to condone it.

Some Americans may think this president innocent of perjury or obstruction of justice, G-d bless 'em, and many more may think those shouldn't be impeachable offenses, at least not in his case. But it's hard to believe that many of us think of his behavior as heroic. And it may take a certain amount of heroism on a leader's part to rally people to his defense.

One may detect many things in the way this president has conducted himself, but heroism surely is not one of them. So even though Bill Clinton's presence in the highest office in the land may not offend a majority of Americans, it may not make them very proud, either. And how to organize a mass rally in the nation's capital on behalf of a political leader who does not inspire pride? It's a problem.

STARRING ROLES: Asa Hutchinson, the native son who does Arkansas proud, continues to get high marks in and out of Washington for the clear and compelling case he's made against William Jefferson Clinton. Here's one gauge of how well he presented the facts and increasingly inescapable conclusions:

Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law and Clinton Apologetics gave the congressman from Arkansas a B Plus. Considering the grudging source, Asa Hutchinson's performance must have gone off the chart.

Any graduate student unfortunate enough to have entertained conservative leanings at an Ivy League school, however quietly, will understand. Such misfits soon learn to keep their opinions to themselves, or lower their expectations by a grade point or two.

Not the least impressive aspect of how Asa Hutchinson presented his evi-dence against the Presi-dent was the Mountain South accent in which he nailed down, wrapped up, hog-tied and hand-delivered his arguments. Meanwhile sophisticated politicians and pundits with Eastern enunciations were explaining in the most solemn fashion that a crime is not a crime, or at least not in this case, or at least not a high crime, and besides this should be settled by public opinion polls rather than the Senate. Seldom has an Arkinsaw drawl sounded so much like the voice of pure reason.

For that matter, all the managers of the House's case did a creditable job, though Bob Barr remains Bob Barr. Even the schoolmarmish types like Bill McCollum and Charles Canady didn't overly grate. Anybody still listening by the end will have his own favorite.

Lindsey Graham's summation, with its almost boyish faith in equal justice and The American Way, may have been the most impressive. And this republic's is indeed a naive faith. Imagine believing that even the most powerful in the land will be held accountable for their actions, and to their oaths. It is a rare thing, an America in the world.

Because our own experiences shape our judgments, my own personal favorite among the presenters was the scarcely noticed George W. Gekas of Pennsylvania, about whose politics, background or career I know little if anything. Yet each time he has spoken in these proceedings, whether in the House or Senate, this congressman has exuded good faith, personal integrity, sincerity and simple decency.

Is that a speech impediment Gekas has, a foreign accent, or just a Pennsylvania peculiarity? Whatever it is, it only adds charm and persuasion to what he says about equal justice before the law. I detect in his voice the same sort of immigrant roots I grew up with. And the same sense of gratitude and humility, the same awe and amazement before the American system. And the same, profound loyalty to its ideals.


1/22/99:Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99:Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate