Before President Clinton admitted on TV that he had an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Lars Erik Nelson, a liberal columnist for The New York Daily News wrote that if Clinton (quote) “now admits he had sex with her, as some of his aides have begun to hint, he is unfit to lead the nation and ought to have the decency to resign.” “Who can ever believe him again?” Nelson asked, adding, ” If he allowed so many of his most-trusted officials to defend him falsely for seven months, who can ever believe any of them again?”
But unlike those who want to give Clinton a free pass if he lied about sex, Nelson was more offended by Clinton’s sexual behavior than about his lying. He said, (quote) “If he had sex -no matter how you define it-with an intern, a low-level subordinate, he has betrayed not only his wife, but his daughter, the American people who look to him for leadership, the integrity of the government he professes to love, all of the loyal staff who followed him into government to carry out a progressive agenda, every parent who proudly and nervously watches a daughter go off to work and every aspiring intern who thinks the route to success is hard work.”
Those sentiments from a liberal defender of Clinton were echoed after Clinton’s August 17 speech by other columnists and by editorial writers, liberal and conservative alike, in newspapers throughout the country. Conspicuous by their absence were similar comments by the Republican leaders in Congress, with one exception-Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority whip. On August 18, he joined presidential hopefuls Dan Quayle and Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri in calling on Clinton to resign.
DeLay said, “It is bad enough that our President is guilty of having an extramarital sexual relationship with one of his young interns. But it is much more damaging that this President looked the American people in the eye and knowingly lied to us.” However, Speaker Newt Gingrich has taken a very different position. He says that the cost of choosing a president is so high, that once it is made there should be (quote) “an overwhelming presumption that they serve out their term.”
According to The Washington Post of August 24, he said that only “a pattern of felonies” and not a single “human mistake” could constitute grounds for an impeachment inquiry.” He said Starr would have to present “an overpowering case” to move Congress to act. Noting polls that show a strong majority opposed to impeaching the President, Gingrich said this reflected “a wise sense” on the part of the voters.
That did not sit well with Larry Klayman, the Chairman of Judicial Watch, who promptly called on Gingrich to resign as Speaker. Klayman believes that Gingrich is soft on Clinton because the Democrats are threatening to use derogatory material they have gathered on him if he permits a serious impeachment inquiry. He says Gingrich has watered down House investigations of Clinton for two years, fearing retaliation against himself. We will discuss some other possible explanations in our next commentary.