Excuse me. I hate to be the skunk at the garden party. But, what must be
said must be said. The refusal by Al Gore's choice for veep, Sen. Joseph
Lieberman, to vote for the impeachment (conviction) of "Slick Willie"
Clinton, and oust him from office, shows that Lieberman lacked the courage
of his own convictions and that he never really got what was the enormity of
the president's high crimes.
True, Lieberman was the first Democrat in the Senate to denounce, on the
Senate floor, Clinton's adultery with Monica Lewinsky as not just
inappropriate, "but immoral." And he said that what Clinton had done was
"wrong and unacceptable, and should be followed by some measure of rebuke
and accountability." But, when it came to enacting the appropriate "rebuke"
of Clinton -- convicting him and removing him from office -- Lieberman
caved-in and voted against this. Indeed, he ultimately refused to even call
for Clinton to be censured.
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But, what about the high crimes the president committed? In his
well-documented book "An Affair Of State: The Investigation, Impeachment and
Trial of President Clinton" (Harvard University Press, 2000), Richard A.
Posner, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit,
and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, summarizes
how Clinton, clearly, beyond a reasonable doubt, obstructed justice, in
violation of federal criminal law. He did this by:
- Perjuring himself repeatedly in his deposition in the Paula
Jones case, in his testimony before the grand jury, and in his responses to
the questions put to him by the House Judiciary Committee.
- Tampering with witness Lewinsky by encouraging her to file a
false affidavit in lieu of having to be deposed, and to secrete the gifts
had received from him; and
- Suborning perjury by suggesting to Lewinsky that she include in
her affidavit a false explanation for the reason she had been transferred
from the White House to the Pentagon. He may also have tampered with
potential witness Currie, conspired to bribe Lewinsky with a job that would
secure her favorable testimony, and suborned perjury by Lewinsky by
suggesting that she include in her Paula Jones affidavit the 'delivering
documents' cover story. ...
Noting that all of these things "were false and misleading
statements designed to derail legal proceedings," Judge Posner adds, "An
imaginative prosecutor could no doubt add counts of wire fraud, criminal
contempt, the making of false statements to the government, and aiding and
abetting a crime."
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But, as I say, Lieberman never seemed to get the fact that Clinton
committed these crimes that deserved his impeachment, conviction and removal
from office. In fact, in his own book, "In Praise of Public Life" (Simon and
Schuster, 2000)," he downgrades the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal to a mere
"saga" and "a tawdry soap opera" which he says is "the most vivid example we
have of the virus of lost standards being passed back and forth among the
entertainment culture, the news media and government, making each more ill."
Lieberman says that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal forced the American
people, and those who serve in government, "to confront the new realities of
public life in America and the moral complexities that are at its heart." It
required all of us to sort out "conflicting values and sentiments" regarding
an individual's freedom and privacy and the community's need for values and
Lieberman notes that he had called the president's behavior
"disgraceful," "immoral," "harmful," and "too consequential for us to walk
away from." He adds that what Clinton did made himself, his government and
his people "vulnerable."
But, once again: What about the obvious high crimes and misdemeanors
committed by Clinton? About these things Lieberman says nothing in his book.
Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. And this is why, when all is said and done -- sad to
say -- Lieberman's verbal denunciations of Clinton amounted to nothing more
than hot air. By refusing to vote for Clinton's impeachment, conviction and
removal from office, Lieberman lacked the courage of what, at first,
appeared to be his correct convictions.