Why is it that the overwhelming majority of senators insist onabrogating their constitutional duty to sit as a genuine trial ofimpeachment? Do they believe it is their prerogative to diligentlypursue their enjoyable and gratifying duties and willfully ignoreothers, such as those that may be politically difficult?
Democratic Sens. Moynihan, Lieberman and Byrd have each teasedRepublicans and justice-lovers with their individual condemnations ofClinton's conduct, coming perilously close to defining it asimpeachable. But after all the grandiose rhetoric from the anointed wenow know that all but one of the 45 Democrats are up to their ears inthe stench of abject partisanship. There is no longer any expectationthat any of the 44 will honor their oaths of impartiality; theirconsciences are on partisan sabbatical.
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The only hope we have left is to look to Republican senators tochange course and begin to do what is noble. With the unanimously passedimpeachment resolution Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in theirdishonor. The resolution called for a proceeding more closely resemblinga high school debate than the constitutionally prescribed, evidentiarytrial. So many procedural obstacles were imposed on the managers thatthey have been forced to expend all their energy and all the Senate'sattention on overcoming them. Predictably, senators are now long onfatigue and short on patience and have signaled an unwillingness tolisten to the evidence.
Republican senators are falling all over themselves to formulate somenovel exit strategy to end this non-trial short of its naturalconclusion. After spending the last year lecturing on the importance ofthe Constitution and the rule of law they seem all too eager to abandonthese principles now that the they have been unable to achievesufficient converts in the electorate to their point of view. But theheight of hypocrisy is to subordinate enduring principles because ofpolitical pressure. When the 56 signers of America's Declaration ofIndependence put their names to this nation's inaugurating document theydidn't raise their fingers in the air to determine which way thepolitical winds were blowing. They risked everything they had for thesake of establishing a nation dedicated to the very propositions thatare at stake in these proceedings.
The point is not that the Constitution will be irreversibly damagedunless Bill Clinton is convicted and removed. His acquittal willconstitute a grave injustice, to be sure, but the Constitution itselfwill only be damaged if its delicate system of checks and balancescontinues 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 countenancea further bastardization of constitutional procedure. They will beaccused of partisanship no matter what they do, so they may as well dowhat is right -- and constitutional.
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With no new dramatic revelations growing out of the depositions thereis increasing pressure to dispense with live testimony. But this ismindless propaganda. Nothing new is required to justify live testimony.Major discrepancies still exist between the witnesses. Our system ofjurisprudence is grounded in the belief that the best avenue forresolving these conflicts and arriving at the truth is a bona fideevidentiary trial.
The Republican majority must regain their dignity and get back to thenation's business, the most important of which is the constitutionallymandated impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. They must issue thesubpoenas and examine the witnesses in the well of the Senate. They mustgive the Senate triers of fact and the public the opportunity to observefirsthand the contradictory witnesses; to observe Monica in all heryouthfully vulnerable splendor; to observe the inscrutable Vernon Jordanreciting his incredible stories; to observe the irascible Sid Vicious.
The only thing approaching the shame of this scandal is itswhitewashing and cover-up by the Senate. There is a reason the Democratsare so anxious to avoid a real trial. They know that their untenablesupport of Bill Clinton depends on the public continuing to be boggeddown in the confusing minutiae of endless pages of transcripts. Thesimplicity of live testimony may go a long way toward clarifying theunquestionable reality of Clinton's guilt.
Enough damage has already been done to the Constitution and rule oflaw by Bill Clinton and his defenders. Republican senators are now at acrossroads: They will either reverse themselves and begin to conduct areal trial, letting the political chips fall where they may, or theywill join Bill Clinton's merry band of thieves. There is no middleground.