In the House impeachment hearings, Democrats insisted that because the perjury and obstruction of justice were related to sex, they were not impeachable offenses. The Republicans insisted they were upholding the rule of law, saying the standard should be the same for all. The New York Times reported on December 21 that Clinton?s own lawyers warned him it would be suicidal to lie to the grand jury, that perjury before a grand jury was a very serious act.
The polls indicate that most people don?t agree. They apparently accept the claim that the argument is just about sex and that the Republicans are motivated by hatred of Clinton. The day before the President was impeached, Mrs. Clinton had said, “We ought to practice reconciliation and we ought to bring our country together, and we ought to end divisiveness because we can do so much more together.” Immediately after the impeachment vote, President Clinton said, “We must stop the politics of personal destruction. We must get rid of the poisonous venom of excessive partisanship, excessive animosity and uncontrolled anger.”
It appears that these statements were aimed at the Republicans, not the House Democrats who had been accusing the Republicans of excessive partisanship and hatred of Clinton. This was confirmed the next day when James Carville, the President?s most vicious attack dog, appeared on Meet the Press. Scowling, he passionately declared, “The Republicans have chosen to overturn the ?96 election and ignore the ?98 election….These people are going to pay for what they did. This was a cowardly and dastardly thing that they did. There is going to be retribution, and retribution is going to be at the polling place.”
As he spoke, retribution had already been visited on one Republican leader, Bob Livingston, who had announced the previous day that he would not succeed Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House. Instead, he was going to retire from Congress. It had become known that another activist ally of the President, Larry Flynt, the publisher of the pornographic magazine, Hustler, was planning to reveal that Livingston had had some extramarital affairs. In announcing his intention to resign, Livingston said he was setting an example he hoped Clinton would follow.
Flynt had run an ad in The Washington Post, offering up to a million dollars for sexual dirt about members of Congress and high government officials. He claims to have obtained stories from four different women about Livingston and other Republican congressmen. Asked if he was proud of having forced Livingston to resign, he said, “I?m happy if my efforts had anything to do with it.”
Flynt said, “Right-wing radical bullies like him are more of a threat to our unique form of democracy than anything else.” He said he wasn?t bothered by being called “the James Carville of publishing,” saying, “I concede that I?m quite partisan in this whole affair.” Tim Russert challenged Carville to tell Flynt, “Knock it off. No more.” Carville obliged saying (quote) “Knock it off, Mr. Flynt. No more. A lot of good that?s going to do.” The politics of personal destruction are alive and well.