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Why is it that the overwhelming majority of senators insist on
abrogating their constitutional duty to sit as a genuine trial of
impeachment? Do they believe it is their prerogative to diligently
pursue their enjoyable and gratifying duties and willfully ignore
others, such as those that may be politically difficult?
Democratic Sens. Moynihan, Lieberman and Byrd have each teased
Republicans and justice-lovers with their individual condemnations of
Clinton’s conduct, coming perilously close to defining it as
impeachable. But after all the grandiose rhetoric from the anointed we
now know that all but one of the 45 Democrats are up to their ears in
the stench of abject partisanship. There is no longer any expectation
that any of the 44 will honor their oaths of impartiality; their
consciences are on partisan sabbatical.
The only hope we have left is to look to Republican senators to
change course and begin to do what is noble. With the unanimously passed
impeachment resolution Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in their
dishonor. The resolution called for a proceeding more closely resembling
a high school debate than the constitutionally prescribed, evidentiary
trial. So many procedural obstacles were imposed on the managers that
they have been forced to expend all their energy and all the Senate’s
attention on overcoming them. Predictably, senators are now long on
fatigue and short on patience and have signaled an unwillingness to
listen to the evidence.
Republican senators are falling all over themselves to formulate some
novel exit strategy to end this non-trial short of its natural
conclusion. After spending the last year lecturing on the importance of
the Constitution and the rule of law they seem all too eager to abandon
these principles now that the they have been unable to achieve
sufficient converts in the electorate to their point of view. But the
height of hypocrisy is to subordinate enduring principles because of
political pressure. When the 56 signers of America’s Declaration of
Independence put their names to this nation’s inaugurating document they
didn’t raise their fingers in the air to determine which way the
political winds were blowing. They risked everything they had for the
sake of establishing a nation dedicated to the very propositions that
are at stake in these proceedings.
The point is not that the Constitution will be irreversibly damaged
unless Bill Clinton is convicted and removed. His acquittal will
constitute a grave injustice, to be sure, but the Constitution itself
will only be damaged if its delicate system of checks and balances
continues to be ignored and repudiated.
Though they can’t control the outcome of the trial by themselves,
Republicans have total control over whether or not they will countenance
a further bastardization of constitutional procedure. They will be
accused of partisanship no matter what they do, so they may as well do
what is right — and constitutional.
With no new dramatic revelations growing out of the depositions there
is increasing pressure to dispense with live testimony. But this is
mindless propaganda. Nothing new is required to justify live testimony.
Major discrepancies still exist between the witnesses. Our system of
jurisprudence is grounded in the belief that the best avenue for
resolving these conflicts and arriving at the truth is a bona fide
The Republican majority must regain their dignity and get back to the
nation’s business, the most important of which is the constitutionally
mandated impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. They must issue the
subpoenas and examine the witnesses in the well of the Senate. They must
give the Senate triers of fact and the public the opportunity to observe
firsthand the contradictory witnesses; to observe Monica in all her
youthfully vulnerable splendor; to observe the inscrutable Vernon Jordan
reciting his incredible stories; to observe the irascible Sid Vicious.
The only thing approaching the shame of this scandal is its
whitewashing and cover-up by the Senate. There is a reason the Democrats
are so anxious to avoid a real trial. They know that their untenable
support of Bill Clinton depends on the public continuing to be bogged
down in the confusing minutiae of endless pages of transcripts. The
simplicity of live testimony may go a long way toward clarifying the
unquestionable reality of Clinton’s guilt.
Enough damage has already been done to the Constitution and rule of
law by Bill Clinton and his defenders. Republican senators are now at a
crossroads: They will either reverse themselves and begin to conduct a
real trial, letting the political chips fall where they may, or they
will join Bill Clinton’s merry band of thieves. There is no middle