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Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 1999 /21 Teves, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Trials and tribulations

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) IT SEEMS LIKE ONLY A YEAR AGO when we were being loudly warned against "a rush to judgment." Then, as more and more inescapable evidence came out against Bill Clinton, everything suddenly turned 180 degrees and the very same people were now loudly proclaiming that we should "get all this behind us."

A rush to judgment? No. It was more like a rush to non-judgment. Clinton supporters were now demanding a fixed -- and early -- date by which impeachment would be voted up or down.

Who cared about how long it would take hundreds of members of the House of Representatives to read 18 boxes of evidence?

Evidence, schmevidence. The point was to get it over with.

Now that the impeachment process has moved from the House to the Senate, the latest spin is that an impeachment trial would be a "trauma" and bring "agony" to the country, not to mention sending shock waves through the economy.

Just for the novelty of it, let's stop and think. What happened in the economy when Clinton was impeached? Not a ripple. Stock exchanges set new record highs.

Although the polls show how wide Clinton's support is, they don't show how deep it is -- or isn't. There were no huge crowds taking to the streets protesting the impeachment vote. In the media there was a lot of sound and fury but it signified nothing when it came to any general public outrage.

You don't need to conduct polls of the public. People who complain that they have never been questioned by pollsters can conduct their own polls -- of themselves.

How many nights -- if any -- did you lose sleep because of the impeachment?

How many aspirin -- if any -- did you have to take because of headaches caused by the scandals or the impeachment process? How many alcoholic drinks -- if any -- did you have to resort to?

How many of your favorite television shows were you too upset to watch? How many days did you take off from work because you were just too overwrought to do your job? How many tears did you shed?

If your answer to most or all of these questions is "none," then your own poll shows how much of this hype is hogwash.

What is the point of all this artificial angst and hype to avoid a straightforward trial in the Senate, as prescribed in the Constitution?

Whether the Senate acquits or convicts, there can be major political problems for many Senators and for the White House. That is the real reason for these frantic attempts to concoct something outside the prescribed Constitutional processes.

What the Constitution prescribes would require Senators to stand up and be counted, one way or another, on whether Bill Clinton should be removed from office. No matter which way any given Senator votes, he risks angering those voters who believe otherwise. The time-tested political way to avoid situations like this is to be on both sides of the issue. Voting for censure and against impeachment would allow Senators to straddle the issue and wimp out.

Bill Clinton's problem is a little different, but would also be solved by censure. At the end of the day, the White House spin-masters want to be able to proclaim vindication and to label the House impeachment vote as cheap partisanship. That will be hard to do if a majority of the Senators vote for conviction, even if it is not the two-thirds majority required for removing the president from office. That is more like a hung jury than an acquittal.

But if censure attracts enough votes to let a majority of Senators vote against impeachment, then the vindication scenario is on track and "the comeback kid" will have come back once again. Far from getting all this behind us, the airwaves will thereafter be filled with the joyous cries of White House spin-masters and their media allies, proclaiming exoneration and deliverance from persecution.

That is what all this political maneuvering is about, not about saving the public, the economy or the country from "trauma" or "agony." This is about sweeping the problem under the rug and evading the responsibility to stand up and be counted.

Politicians' narrow, short-run political focus does not mean that this whole episode is just a passing thing. History is full of things that were done for short-run political advantages but which had long-lasting -- and often disastrous --- consequences. Sweeping the rule of law under the rug is a prime candidate today.

01/08/99: Rays of hope
01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.