BIG FAT IMPEACHMENT GOLDBERG FILEFew people outside Bill Clinton’s pants are less eager to revisit all of the impeachment stuff than I. The whole episode is a disgusting grease mark on American democracy. President Clinton lied, abused, perjured, distorted, ducked, bobbed, weaved, jived, smeared, and slicked his way out of what he deserved — at least. Time will tell if the country is better off that he got away with it all. A martyred Bill Clinton out of the Oval Office could be the only thing worse than an ineffective one in it.
Nevertheless, the cultural half-life of impeachment is making itself felt these days. First and foremost, consider the current plight of Linda Tripp. What they are doing to her in Maryland is simultaneously silly and scandalous. It’s silly because the case is political on its face, the law is obscure and almost never enforced, the crime minor, the extenuating circumstances great, the zeal misplaced, the “justice” at the end of the process is minimal, and the price for going through this is high.
It is scandalous because our corrupt, venal, and selfish president has so obviously done worse things than tape Monica Lewinsky’s conversations about salad dressing and her boss’s spring-loaded underwear. (He’s even done worse things to Monica Lewinsky, and if her parents had any class he would have learned that after a thorough beating.)
Linda Tripp is neither a Saint nor “evil incarnate” (as I believe Dee Dee Myers put it). She is simply a woman who did the best she could in an awful situation created entirely by a president whose real calling was to be offering such lines as “I’m here to look at your pipes” in porn movies.
The Move On Lie
When the Senate was considering impeachment, Robert Torricelli, the entire Congressional Black Caucus, the whole “feminist” community, four out of five pundits and news anchors, the bulk of the academic and intellectual communities, and pretty much everyone who hypocritically believes the phrase “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” does not apply to liberals, argued that we needed to “move on.”
Oh, the children’s programs going unfunded!, wailed the unfunding wailers. Lordy me! The suffering going on in the world that could be solved if we just had our president back! Cried the secular monarchists. What about the crushing need for campaign finance reform? caterwauled the, er, um, caterwaulers.
From the day after the impeachment vote, the only thing the news networks, the chattering classes, and the Democratic Party could talk about for the next month was Hillary Clinton’s cleansing run for the US Senate from a State whose football teams she couldn’t name without a memo from Harold Ickes.
Fine, the “move on” histrionics were all a lie, as so many defenses of Clintonism are. Fine, fine. Confirming cynicism has its uses in a democracy.
But now the president has a chance to recant the lie and help himself in the process. He can ask the Governor of Maryland to pardon Tripp. He can even make a big show of it by pardoning her for any Federal crimes she may have committed related to the taping.
Whenever asked about his misdeeds, he says he has “nothing more to say” and that he had to get back to the “work of the American people.” (Let’s leave aside the fact that according to Congressional Quarterly — hardly a conservative journal — 1999 was the second least successful legislative year a president has had since the magazine started collecting data on the topic 47 years ago. And before you say, “Well, that’s because the President was impeached etc…” you should know that Bill Clinton captured the #1 spot, of most unsuccessful years, in 1995).
Well, if the President is actually interested in putting all of this behind us, he can do something to help somebody other than himself — who knows? He might like the feeling. And, when the president is out of office he might need a little precedent for magnanimity when it comes to forgiving crimes.
The fact is that the trial in Maryland is bad for Bill Clinton. For his entire last year in office, it will remind people of what he put the country through. For example, all of the pundits predicted that the McCain-Bradley campaign finance handshake yesterday was going to dominate the media. William Safire predicted that “the picture of the week in every newspaper and on every television news show will be of Bradley and McCain.” Well, this morning Monica’s picture — in all of her Jenny Craig splendor — dwarfed the photo of McCain and Bradley’s gitchy-goo photo op — in the Washington Post! Al Gore and Bill Clinton are not helped by this kind of upstaging. Also consider that according to the latest CNN/USA TODAY poll, half of America now thinks the President should have been impeached, up from about a third. The number of people who think he should have been removed is up to 42% and growing.
If his conscience won’t tell him to be a decent man, there’s still hope that polls will.
Defending the Rapist
Which brings us to the other ghost of impeachment past surfacing these days. Al Gore was asked by a woman at a town hall meeting the other day what he thought about the allegations leveled against the president by Juanita Broaddrick. Fox News, and I believe Fox News alone, aired Gore’s response. It was hilarious — if you can get past the fact that they’re talking about whether Bill Clinton raped somebody.
After the woman asks the question Gore responds, “Well, I didn’t know what to make of her claim, because I don’t know how to evaluate that story, I really don’t.”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “Did you see the interview? Did you see the interview?”
GORE: “No, I didn’t see the interview, no.”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “I’m very surprised that you didn’t watch the interview.”
GORE: “Well, which — what show was it on?”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “ABC, I believe.”
GORE: “Yes, I didn’t see it…”
I love this answer! First of all it was NBC (as if a news junkie Vice-President who’s been planning on running for president ever since his father told him he had didn’t know that). And second of all…Hey! Wait a second. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe if she had said it was the NBC interview with Lisa Myers he would have said, “Oh, you mean the thoroughly credible and corroborated story where Juanita Broaddrick explained that she had been bitten through her lip by then-Attorney General Bill Clinton? Ohhhh…. Yeah, I saw that. He’s guilty as sin, don’t you think?”
Instead, Gore flannel-mouths on for a while about how there have been “so many personal attacks” and how “enough is enough” — you know, the sort of courageous, steel-spined stuff we’ve come to expect from this tobacco-farming crusader against tobacco; this pro-choice warrior who opposed Federal funding for abortion; this Gulf-War vote salesman. And then the woman asks, reasonably, “So you didn’t believe Juanita Broaddrick’s claim?”
GORE: “No, I didn’t say that. I just — I said I don’t know how to evaluate it. And I didn’t see the interview.” He then proceeds to repeatedly says that whatever Clinton did, it was “personal” or a “mistake.” (see for yourself here). So Gore thinks it’s possible, possible, his “good friend” is a rapist. So possible he didn’t even say, “Oh, I would be very surprised if he was a rapist.” Instead he offers endless drivel about hating the sin and not the sinner — as if that is the relevant issue — and stays totally neutral on the idea.
Now, the Vice-President of the United States has nothing to do. That is his job description. Do nothing except break ties in the Senate and wait for the boss to croak is about 95% of his day. But the VP is also supposed to fill-in for the P when the P (in this case “P” stands for “President” but the mind reels with possibilities) is deemed unfit for the office. Now, I’m not expecting a loyal Vice President to hire a team of goons to root through the President’s personal life (besides the “P” has been a goon full-employment act for so long, there is an acute shortage of sheet-sniffing bimbo-eruption experts). But, assuming that he thinks rape is a gosh, what’s that word again? Oh, right: “serious.” Assuming he thinks rape is a serious crime, do you think he might be willing to — oh I don’t know — turn on the TV to see if his boss is a rapist?
After all he says, he cannot evaluate the charge, simply because he has not seen the TV show. I will be glad to send him a tape.