“Republicans have an image to repair and much critical support to win back as they cope with the aftershocks of the impeachment process and prepare for the 2000 elections.” This line from an article in USA Today sums up the attitude of much of the media since President Clinton was acquitted on the two articles of impeachment brought before the Senate. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in a column for USA Today that, (quote), “Americans fault Republicans for putting the country through this.” (unquote) We agree that Republicans have things to answer for regarding the proceedings, but what about the Democrats?
It was Robert Byrd, held up by the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle as an icon and the resident authority on all things constitutional, who said just days before the Senate vote that he thought the President?s actions rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. (Quote) “It will be very difficult to stand and say `not guilty,? very difficult. Who?s kidding who here? I have to live with myself.” (unquote).
We have to assume that he is still living with himself. And so are the 29 out of 45 Democratic senators who signed Senator Dianne Feinstein?s Congressional Record letter, which stated that President Clinton, (quote) “gave false or misleading testimony and his actions have had the effect of impeding discovery of evidence in judicial proceedings.” All 45 voted in lock-step on both articles. And according to a CBS News poll, 84 percent of those asked believed the President was guilty of the charges brought by Congress, but 55 percent felt he shouldn?t be removed from office.
Yet the focus of the questions on the Sunday talk shows was “how will the Republicans recover from the debacle?” The day before the Senate vote, Clinton was described in a New York Times front page story as, (quote), “so furious at House Republicans over his impeachment…that he has vowed to mount an all-out offensive to knock out many of his foes and win back the House for Democrats in 2000.” (unquote)
Why do the Republicans need forgiveness? For allowing Independent Counsel Ken Starr to set and determine the case against the President. There was much on the record from various Congressional investigations that proved corruption and abuse of power beyond a reasonable doubt. The House was not required to limit the scope of the impeachment to Starr?s findings. It was just easier that way.
Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary committee and chief impeachment manager, seemed to finally understand this, though he sought to minimize his own responsibility. On ABC?s This Week, in an interview with Cokie Roberts, he referred to Starr?s report. (Quote) “We kept hoping that there was going to be more than just Lewinsky, because of the heavy emphasis on the sexual aspect of this…We kept expecting something on Travelgate and Filegate…But when it developed that he did not have anything there that he was going to proceed with, we were left with Lewinsky. So we did our best with it.” (unquote) We respectfully disagree.