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Jewish World Review / Dec. 15, 1998 /26 Kislev, 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas The 'moving finger'

COMMENTING ON THE IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS last Friday, President Clinton invoked the words of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. In his classic poem, The Rubaiyat, composed more than 800 years ago, Khayyam wrote: "The moving finger writes; and having writ moves on. Nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.''

The president said he took that to mean that neither piety, nor tears, nor wit (''nor torment,'' he added), "can alter what I have done. I must make my peace with that.''

To what was Omar Khayyam referring? What was this "moving finger'' and whose finger was it?

The "moving finger'' to which Omar Khayyam referred is found in the Book of Daniel, Chapter Five. The King of Babylon, Belshazzar, hosted a great banquet for a thousand people. In the midst of wine drinking and merriment, King Belshazzar called for the gold and silver goblets his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. His friends, their wives and concubines drank from them. These were objects sacred to the Jews. As they drank, they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Beginning in verse five, the record says: "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall .... The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way.''

Unable to learn the meaning of the message from his enchanters, astrologers and diviners, the king summoned Daniel. He knew that Daniel once interpreted a mysterious dream for the king's father. Belshazzar offered Daniel riches, but he refused and then translated the inscription: "God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.'' Belshazzar's reign ended that very night, Persia conquered Babylon, and another king took his place.

Belshazzar and his father, Nebuchadnezzar (Saddam Hussein's hero), were both ruthless and proud men. The difference between them was that Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself before God and was spared. His kingdom was even restored. But Belshazzar refused to humble himself and perished, along with his kingdom.

The poem cited by President Clinton as worthy of his and our consideration contains a deeper and far more important message for him. He also has demonstrated arrogance and pride. He has flouted the law and behaved as if the presidency were his by right. Offered ample opportunities to humble himself, Clinton used his "contrition'' as just one of several strategies to preserve himself in office and avoid accountability later.

Given such history and evidence of the president's disrespect for the law, the House is right to move forward with articles of impeachment. The Senate, if it is principled, should vote to convict and remove him from office. Such acts will not tie up the country. They will serve as a purgative. They will affirm that no one is above the law, nor should anyone, including the president, be able to hide behind opinion polls or clever statements to avoid being held accountable to the law.

This president, like the ancient and proud King Belshazzar, is being weighed on the scales and found wanting. The Founders established the process of impeachment because the people are not always right. They often vote their feelings, but the law stands above emotion and holds us all accountable for our mutual benefit. It's time for him to go.

As Omar Khayyam put it in what could be another strong message for the president should he wish to read further:

"Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
"Have done my credit in this World much wrong;
"Have drowned my Glory in a shallow Cup,
"And sold my Reputation for a Song.''


12/11/98: This sorry president
12/09/98: The eclipse of principle
12/03/98: Destroying Jewry on the installment plan
12/07/98: Before the Age of Clinton
12/01/98: Apathy and ignorance
11/19/98: Ken Starr's moment of truth
11/19/98: The fall of journalism's empire
11/17/98: Republicans drift while conservatives float
11/13/98: Supreme Courtupholds freedom of school-choice
11/10/98: The revolting Republican 'revolution'
11/06/98: Hulk Hogan for president?
11/03/98: Clinton's greatest peril isn't Monica
10/30/98: Mother Teresa was right about killing
10/27/98: Clinton to Netanyahu: 'You're despicable'
10/21/98: A 'peace' agreement: Wye not?
10/19/98: Vanity Fair snubs some of the greatest women 'leaders'
10/14/98:The mean machine
10/09/98: Impeachment: an outside perspective
10/07/98: The corruption of the Secret Service
10/02/98: Land erosion in Israel
10/01/98: The race panel: lies in black and white
9/18/98: The Clinton strategy and the Clinton legacy
9/18/98: Stopping him before he sins again
9/15/98: Repenting when the end is near
9/11/98: Faithfully executing: Congress vs. the President
9/10/98: The degrees of separation between Dan Burton and Bill Clinton
9/08/98: Joe Lieberman and the Democrats' conscience
9/04/98: Clinton vs. Reagan and the struggle for power
9/02/98: If only Bubba had been a Boy Scout
8/31/98: Liberal clergy and the Lewinsky affair
8/27/98: Combating the terrorists among us
8/25/98: The president as 'Chicken Little'
8/20/98: That was no apology
8/18/98: Big government's crab grab
8/14/98:Untruths, half-truths and anything but the truth
8/12/98: Lying under oath: past and present impeachable offenses
8/10/98: Endangered species
8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.