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How many times have you heard one of those Democratic Party shills recite this mantra: “I deplore the president’s behavior, but I don’t think the charges rise to the level of impeachment.” If I hear it again, I think I’ll throw my television set out the window.

Well, my friends, time for a reality check. That debate has already been decided. The president has been impeached. That decision was made by the House of Representatives, as is required in the Constitution. The only legitimate question to be decided now in the U.S. Senate is whether Bill Clinton is guilty of the charges. If he is guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, he must be convicted and removed from office. End of story.

My how this debate has shifted with the winds over the last year.

Remember when this story first broke? Even George Stephanopolous and Dee Dee Myers asserted on network television that, if the allegations of having sex with a White House intern proved to be true, Clinton would likely be impeached — if he didn’t do the honorable thing and resign first. Even Hillary Clinton, in weaving her conspiracy tales of a right-wing set-up, said, if the charges turned out to be true, it would be “a very serious matter.”

And that was long before the perjury and obstruction of justice trail started.

Then the investigations began and the White House spin operation went into full gear. First came the outright denials of everything. Then it turned out Monica Lewinsky was a stalker.

I don’t know how many times I heard even Clinton’s most devoted supporters in the House and Senate say that if it turned out that he lied in the Paula Jones deposition that he would be finished. Sex with an intern was one thing. Perjury was another.

The impeachment bar was raised again. OK, OK, his partisans said, lying about sex in a deposition in a civil rights case is one thing, but lying to the grand jury would be another. Some of them even warned him against that step.

And once again, Clinton lied under oath. He did everything in his power to throw roadblock after roadblock before investigators — delaying, denying, obfuscating, playing word games.

His loyalists took a new tack. Nothing is proven. There is no physical evidence. They are merely accusations. He should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Then the DNA tests came back, proving conclusively that Clinton had constructed his defense on a foundation of lies and deceit. He had lied to everyone — from his wife to his closest aides to the nation as a whole and to the court under oath.

I can’t think of a man in history who has been given more chances than Bill Clinton. And yet, his defenders say it is still not enough. Now the debate has shifted once again. The new line of defense is that even if he is guilty, the Senate must decide if it is in the best interests of the country to remove him from office. That was at the heart of that impassioned plea by Sen. Tom Harkin against not referring to the senators as a jury.

Nonsense. That’s not what the Constitution says. The Senate is supposed to try this case on the facts — on the law, on the truth.

Now the only excuse left is that they are reluctant to overturn an election.

Nonsense. Vice President Al Gore was elected vice president in that election for just such an eventuality, for just such a time. Those making this argument would prefer to overturn the Constitution than simply perform their own sworn duty.

I have come to the conclusion that there are probably enough Democratic senators who would refuse to vote to convict Clinton of a high crime or misdemeanor if he committed murder on national television. And that conclusion is scary.

They will use any excuse to avoid following the law and objectively evaluating the facts in evidence. Nothing rises to the level of an impeachable offense for men and women who put their party ahead of their country and ahead of the rule of law. They are nothing but gutless party hacks unworthy of calling themselves Americans.

Maybe we ought to ask these jokers to tell us exactly what the president would have to do to warrant being removed from office. Then, we can prove that case and be over this national nightmare once and for all.

My guess, though, based on their history, is that they would simply change their minds yet again. They will keep raising the bar no matter how offensive, abusive and criminal the behavior of this president gets.

All that illustrates that our problems in this country go much deeper than William Jefferson Clinton. Yet his pathological actions personify the end of standards, of responsibility and equal justice under the law. And that’s why it is imperative that he be removed from office so that the cleansing of our system of governance can begin.

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