START THE ENDGAME NOW
The chances of Clinton’s removal are nil, say the people who have predicted everything else incorrectly. But, like the monkeys who bang on typewriters, this time they may have stumbled onto something cogent. So, what to do?
Be prepared to exploit the Clinton backlash. No not the one coming from angry Manhattan liberals willing to sacrifice their Café Vienna moments to re-elect Jerrold Nadler by an even wider margin than before. No, the Clinton backlash will come from the millions of Americans who bolster the other side of the coin of Clinton’s “approval ratings.” Unlike the liberal base we usually hear from in the press, most Americans actually think the president — like a rock star or some professional athletes — is a terrible person who’s doing a good job. If Bill Clinton gets away with it, which is in his nature, he will be arrogant, which is also in his nature.
Just because those polls are less advertised doesn’t mean the sentiment they reflect is less real. Republicans need to chew gum and walk at the same time — they need to press for a full and fair trial with witnesses, and they need to plan how they’re going to spend 1999. If Republicans fail to draw from the rich well of resentment against the president, they deserve minority status. There really have been only two kinds of Washington Republicans in this scandal: those convinced the president should be removed and those convinced that the Constitutional process should work itself out. If you think the moderate House Republicans who voted for impeachment did so because of a profound hatred of the president or out of fear from the Right Wing, you don’t understand how these precious creatures work. More often than not, these mother-of-pearl statesman think they are doing right when they anger the Right.
Assuming the president is not removed, what we need is a third kind of Republican. We need Lee Atwater. The late Republican warlord would see this as a perfect opportunity to shape popular perceptions of the parties. By paying a price now, Republicans are paying tribute to the precedents of future generations. In the words of John Buchan, the statesman and writer (of among other things The Thirty-nine Steps), “We can only pay our debt to the past by putting the future in debt to ourselves.” Hyde is catching on a little bit when he says things like “Equal justice under the law is what moves me and animates me and consumes me. And I’m willing to lose my seat any day in the week rather than sell out those issues. Despite all the polls and the hostile editorials, America is hungry for people who believe in something. You may disagree with us, but we believe in something.”
The Democrats will sacrifice any principles, listen to the diktat of any pollster, say anything if it will help them at the polls and help them retain power. Say it once, say it often.