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Jewish World Review /Jan. 12, 1999 /23 Teves, 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas The Senate's predicament and opportunity

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) ON THE EVE OF THE SENATE TRIAL of President William Jefferson Clinton, why is that body, and the larger body politic, having such a difficult time with this case? It is because the moral plates that have supported our culture in times of stress -- such as war and economic depression -- are shifting. It is because words and actions no longer mean what they once meant. It is because so many are unwilling to judge the president's behavior, which they see as no worse than their own.

And so we have this point of tension. The past tugs at us like Marley's ghost, pleading eternal principles, while many in the land of "do your own thing'' tug in the direction of materialism and self-focus. "If it doesn't directly impact my life, who cares?'' is their creed.

When the news of what Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton did was revealed a year ago, ABC's Sam Donaldson, voicing a morality that is either past or quickly becoming obsolete, predicted that Clinton would be a goner "in days'' and certainly by the end of that week. His prediction was wrong because Clinton's crowd argued that what the president did was no big deal. To say that Bill Clinton should be held accountable and removed from office is to acknowledge that their own attitudes about extramarital sex, lying and inattention to personal and national character are a big deal.

So, the Senate is caught between a rock (moral and constitutional law) and a soft place (the mushy thinking of people who believe feelings trump justice).

Real trials include definitions. The definition of "justice'' refers to the word "just,'' which is defined as "having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason; acting or being in conformity to what is morally upright.'' Even President Clinton's most ardent defenders concede that he failed to meet the standard of conforming to fact and doing what is morally upright in his encounters with Lewinsky, and his attempts to cover them up by "misleading'' (that is, lying to) a grand jury and by encouraging others to lie in his behalf.

In his book "Democracy and Human Nature,'' the late educator and university president Robert Maynard Hutchins wrote: "Equality and justice, the two great distinguishing characteristics of democracy, follow inevitably from the conception of men, all men, as rational and spiritual beings.''

There was similar exalted rhetoric as senators gathered in their old chamber recently. Many invoked history and called upon one another, in the words of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), to disdain "any more of the salacious muck which has already soiled the gowns of too many.'' Larry Flynt and his low-down friends aren't this high-minded.

While the question of whether witnesses will be called has been delayed until the end of the month (and they should be called, as in any trial), history, honor, justice and the law wait on the sidelines like the wallflower at the school dance.

In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson said: "Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political .... These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civil instruction, the touchstone by which we try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety.''

We have so wandered and it is time to retrace. Bill Clinton is not essential to the economic well being of this country, but his removal from office is necessary if we are to begin to purge ourselves of infection. The Senate trial is as much about us and our honor as it is about the president and his dishonor. Who will be found wanting as he, and we, are weighed in the balance?


01/08/99: ‘Compassionate conservatism’ is redundant
01/06/99: Don't give my regards to 'Narroway'
01/04/99: In culture war, a parking space trumps sex
12/28/98: Until we've learned our lesson
12/24/98: Peace in Bethlehem!? Something to think about during Xmas
12/22/98: The slime machine brings Apocalypse Now
12/15/98: The 'moving finger'
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.