We are both Democrats, and between us have served some 40 years
on congressional staffs. Now that the acquittal of President
Clinton seems certain, we have a proposal that will leave him in
office without condoning his perjury or obstruction of justice.
Our proposal calls on the Senate to adopt, as its post-
impeachment “Articles of Censure,” the text of the House
Articles, except for the phrase calling for expulsion. Our
proposal will send a message that is clear and firm.
There will be something in it for everybody. The impeached
president will remain in office without having to apologize or
admit any wrongdoing. The Senate Democrats will achieve their
goals of “standing by their man” and “achieving closure.” The
Senate Republicans will confirm the “votes of conscience” for
impeachment cast by most House Republicans, as well as by several
In our view, this proposal should have support across a centrist
spectrum of both political parties — from center-left to center-
right. It is consistent with The New York Times’ endorsement of
censure rather than the removal of President Clinton. It was
favorably mentioned by A.M. Rosenthal in his Jan. 29 column in
the Times, which suggests it will elevate political morality.
Rosenthal has noted that in 1993 Sen. Daniel Patrick
Moynihan warned America against “defining deviancy down” –
acceptance of actions we once regarded as acutely offensive,
immoral or illegal. Under our proposal, in the words of Mr.
- “The President would not have to agree or sign — a
demand that would guarantee insipidity. But both
Houses would support and preserve the validity of the
perjury and obstruction of justice charges.”
“There would be no punishment but history’s. And
deviance would be defined upwards.”
Also commenting favorably on this proposal, Democratic former
Sen. Sam Nunn recently told a CNN interviewer:
- “I would hope that it would make very plain to the
country that perjury and obstruction of justice are
very, very serious crimes. … If we come away with this
with a notion throughout our land that you can choose
what you lie about, and if it’s sex it doesn’t matter,
I think you have undermined the rule of law, perhaps
This proposal has also won the support of nationally
syndicated conservative columnist William Rusher who has
- “It will probably pass by a highly respectable majority
– conceivably even more than two-thirds. Any Democrat
who refused to vote for it would probably spend the
rest of his life explaining his refusal.”
Currently, rather than face up to their responsibility to be
triers of facts, certain senators have taken to opposing censure.
These include left-wing Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and center-
right Republican Orrin Hatch — as well as Democratic Sen.
Robert Byrd, who argued for dismissal without any finding of
In effect such senators argue that “after all, the President has
received the ultimate censure in the form of the House’s Articles
of Impeachment, etc. etc. …” Their arguments are specious. The
House Articles are at best a half-a-loaf — since the House is at
best only half of the Congress. Also, the House is merely the
“indicting” or “probable cause” forum — and its Articles are
subject to trial by the Senate, which serves as both judge and
A few other senators, such as Republican Susan Collins,
call for a bi-furcated vote on “findings of fact” — that would
fail to spell out the details of the president’s illegal conduct
before a final vote on conviction. Still another proposal has
been advanced by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who in the
words of Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal would censure the
president with “little more than a collection of harsh adjectives
(that does not include the word ‘illegal’).”
In our view — which according to the polls is apparently shared
by more than 70 percent of Americans — there is clear and convincing
evidence that the president is guilty of criminal behavior. To
save the honor of our Democratic Party, Senate Democrats should
affirm the rule of law — and not simply call the president’s
conduct “reprehensible, outrageous, and indefensible,” without
appropriately censuring him.
As we see it, our party as well as our country will be
permanently damaged if we ignore, and thereby condone, the
president’s illegal conduct.
Jerome Zeifman served as the House Judiciary Committee’s chief
counsel during the Nixon impeachment proceedings. Jim Guirard
served for many years as chief of staff for Democratic Sens.
Allen Ellender and Russell Long of Louisiana.