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Jewish World Review Dec. 11, 1998 /22 Kislev, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Corruption and confusion

SO-CALLED "MODERATE REPUBLICAN" congressman Christopher Shays epitomized the confusion surrounding the impeachment process when he said that he could not vote for impeachment unless he were convinced "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that Bill Clinton was guilty of the charges made.

There is no such legal standard anywhere. Even to convict someone of first degree murder, the standard is beyond a "reasonable" doubt. Absolute certainty has never been achieved by any human being.

More fundamentally, impeachment is not a conviction for anything, much less a punishment. A vote for impeachment in the House of Representatives is simply a vote to send the case to the Senate to be tried there. A vote for impeachment is not a judgment of guilty, but a vote that there is enough evidence to hold a trial.

No one requires "beyond a shadow of a doubt" before holding a trial. That is what a trial is all about, to find out if the defendant is guilty.

Whether Congressman Shays is genuinely confused or just wants to wimp out is for others to judge. These others include not only the voters, but history.

For all the wavering Congressman -- the "moderates," as they are called -- history will ultimately judge them by whether they stood up to their solemn obligations at crunch time or scurried for cover behind a smokescreen of rhetoric.

With all the polls that are being cited, the most significant one may be a poll that showed that 40 percent of the public think that impeachment means being convicted and removed from office. How many people would be for or against impeachment if they knew what it really was is another story entirely.

If the president is impeached and the case moves over to the Senate, those 40 percent will now learn that they misunderstood. The solemnity of a Senate trial, presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, may finally break through the fog of confusion surrounding those who think that this is all about Bill Clinton's private life.

Ultimately, the issue is not tactics or rhetoric or even Bill Clinton himself. The issue is the rule of law. It will either be strengthened or weakened -- for years to come -- by this vote on impeachment.

If Congress itself is so weak or corrupted that the House cannot even send the case to the Senate, then future presidents will know that they are above the law, for all practical purposes. Clinton's "legacy" to them will be a blueprint for corrupting both the legal processes in courts and the impeachment process in Congress.

What began as private sex acts has been turned into a corruption of all three branches of government by Clinton himself. The president's cabinet was mobilized in the media to back up his lie. His aides were coached in the lie before they testified in court. His lawyer presented the lie to a federal judge.

Among the distractions used to obstruct justice were charges against the special prosecutor that were known to be false by the very White House spokesmen who made them on nationwide television. But these spokesmen, who have learned to use the word "unfair" at every opportunity, have not hesitated to take unfair advantage of the fact that Kenneth Starr could not refute their lies, because he was forbidden to reveal grand jury testimony.

After Sidney Blumenthal stood outside the federal courthouse and declared to the television cameras that the special prosecutor had asked him improper questions -- which in fact he had never been asked -- a grand jury foreman took the unusual step of rebuking Blumenthal when he appeared in court again. Only now -- months later -- after the records have finally been unsealed, has this blatant deception been revealed.

At the recent House Judiciary Committee hearings, when Clinton lawyer David Kendall and others tried to create the impression that Kenneth Starr's agents had held Monica Lewinsky against her will and not let her phone her lawyer, Kendall knew that this whole issue had been raised in court months earlier -- and had been disproved by telephone records and rejected by the judge. But Kendall also knew that Starr could not answer him at that time, because the judge's ruling had not yet been unsealed.

These are the "fairness" folks in action.

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.