For the week of December 16 thru December 22, 1998  

Bully court and bully Congress

With the decision of the House Judiciary Committee to send articles of impeachment instead of a recommendation for censure to the full House, President William Jefferson Clinton became irrevocably locked in a struggle that looks like it will have one of two endings, acquittal or removal from office.

Clinton could resign and halt the process, but resignation would simply end the crash, but leave the wreckage. There’s a lot more at stake than the president’s personal reputation and his place in history.

Clinton can’t resign now..

His resignation would leave the presidency weak and powerless in the face of a relentless political onslaught like the one underway. The presidency would be left subject to sordid political witch hunts in which confession is hailed as salvation and resignation as redemption.

Any new occupant would rightly fear that fanatical opponents could transform the smallest misstep into a constitutional crisis. No matter who occupied the presidential suite, the real power in government would reside in Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. The balance of powers would be gone.

The highest court in the land allowed a private citizen to bring a civil lawsuit about a civil matter against a sitting president. It forced the president to sit for a deposition in the civil case, a case that was eventually rejected by the courts.

After four years in a fruitless search for presidential misdeeds in an Arkansas land deal, staff dismissals in the White House travel office and the death of Vince Foster, independent counsel Ken Starr finally seized on revelations that the president had a sexual relationship with a White House intern and may have lied about it in a deposition while under oath.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee drafted and approved four articles of impeachment, which it referred to the full House. Members are scheduled to vote on the articles late this week.

Should the House concur with the committee, President Clinton will face a trial in the U.S. Senate.

The Constitution says the president shall be removed from office upon "Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Constitutional scholars say high crimes and misdemeanors must be acts against the state. Impeachment supporters say lying under oath is a crime against the state because the president is bound to support and defend the nation’s laws.

No one likes the fact that Clinton tried to hide his affair, but his prevarication was not a high crime or misdemeanor.

The real crime is an unprecedented assault on one arm of government by the bully court and bully Congress.

The House or the Senate must stop this juggernaut or risk wrecking the nation’s whole system of government.


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