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Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 1998 /27 Kislev, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Polls and partisanship

AMONG THE MANY ridiculous arguments being made in desperation by the defenders of Bill Clinton are that polls shows that "the American people don't want him impeached" and that only "partisanship" can explain why the Republicans are voting for impeachment anyway. Some even call it a "coup d'etat" when an elected president is removed from office.

Let's go back to Civics 1. We have a representative form of government for a reason: The people themselves cannot govern. Many of the very liberals who act as if polls should dictate what Congress does have been complaining for years about ballot initiatives in places like California, where the voters can legislate directly.

Many of the things that Californians vote on are things for which you would need expertise to have any realistic understanding of what should be done. About 40 percent of the American public doesn't even know what impeachment is. They think it is removal from office, when in fact it is nothing more than sending the case to the Senate for a trial.

When much of the public does not understand something as basic as this, does anyone seriously believe that the people being polled have read all the boxes of evidence that the House Judiciary Committee has? Most people have probably not even read the special prosecutor's report.

We elect members of Congress to represent us, not messengers to carry out orders or statisticians to add up poll numbers. If the public is bored with the Clinton scandals, then the public can tune out. But Congress cannot shrug off its duty, even if the people in Congress are just as bored and disgusted as the public.

That is another reason for representative government. Otherwise, we are going to have government by polls -- which means government by sound bite, emotional outburst and snap judgment. No society can survive if its government is just the Oprah Winfrey show writ large.

We don't do our own dentistry or surgery, and most of us don't even fix our own automobile engines. Why in the world would anyone want us to act as if we could carry out the complex duties of Congress? We have a right to choose who goes to Congress, but micro-managing them after they get there makes no sense.

Most of what is being said by the White House and its allies in politics and in the media is a deliberate attempt to take advantage of the public's ignorance. A typical example is the claim that impeaching the president is an attempt by the Republicans to "overturn the results of the election" that put Bill Clinton in the White House.

Whether impeachment succeeds or fails, the Democrats will control the White House until January 2001. The 1996 election will not be reversed. Bob Dole will not be put in the White House.

Removing a given president is of course still a serious matter. But the Constitution authorizes impeachment because no election can make anyone immune to the law.

The word that gets repeated like a mantra by Clinton's defenders is that "partisanship" explains the move to impeach the president. This too is an argument designed to impress ignorant or unthinking people.

From a purely partisan perspective, the best thing the Republicans could do would be to leave Clinton alone. What benefits would the Republicans gain by allowing Vice President Al Gore to succeed Bill Clinton and be a sitting president himself when the elections are held in the year 2000?

Gore would be in a much stronger position to defeat any Republican presidential candidate then. Moreover, since Gore would just be filling out Clinton's term until then, he would be eligible to run twice on his own and remain president for a whole decade, despite Constitutional limits on how often a president can run.

What partisan advantage does that give the Republicans? Ironically, some of the very same people who have been accusing the Republicans of partisanship are now warning the Republicans that impeaching this popular president would hurt them politically. You can't have it both ways.

It takes two to be bipartisan, but the Democrats are trying to make the Republicans look partisan by blindly sticking to Clinton, thereby making every vote a party-line vote. The big question now is how many Republicans in Congress will stick to their duty in spite of this and how many will wimp out under pressure.

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.