Get It Over With

by Patrick J. Buchanan – Sepetmber 14, 1998

“If it were done when ‘t is done, then ‘t were well/It were done quickly.” So said Macbeth — about the assassination of the king.

Sound advice now. For the impeachment of a president is the republic’s bloodless way of dethroning and beheading a monarch.

But this episode needs cloture now. The swaggering, cocky Bill Clinton of weeks ago, with his rakish “I’m-going-to-get-away-with-this” attitude, was an exasperating figure, but that Clinton could better command a country than the pathetic puppy of today, burbling endless, whiny apologies in which he does not believe.

And the hypocrisy here has reached the unhealthy range. To watch liberals who supped at Clinton’s table turn and bite him, as the polls turn, and wail about his “immorality” validates Harry Truman’s insight that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.

To see a Democratic governor of Maryland who bleated for Clinton’s fund-raising help crassly stiff the president when he came to a suburban school, while Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend appeared at the beleaguered president’s side, is to appreciate why so many people still love the Kennedys.

But with Russia in crisis, the Mideast embers glowing, the specter of Islamic war rising on the Afghan border, and smoke in the cockpit of the Global Economy, this soap opera has gone on long enough.

Congress ought to stay in session until the matter is settled.

Because the removal of a president would leave U.S. politics poisoned, any final call for Clinton’s resignation or impeachment must be accepted by his friends, not just demanded by his foes.

Thus, the arguments of Clinton’s defenders must be addressed.

Fundamentally, they are these: This whole scandal is about nothing but sex. Ken Starr has squandered $40 million in an Ahab-style pursuit of the president, only to find nothing in Whitewater, Filegate or Travelgate. He is hell-bent on destroying Clinton for personal weakness. “Lying about sex” is not an impeachable crime, and even if Clinton’s behavior is disgusting and immoral, it does not justify overturning two U.S. presidential elections.

Republicans and conservatives reject this. They believe the president must meet a higher standard than not being a provable felon. But that is not what is crucial now. What is crucial now is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the president’s conduct does go beyond sex-and-lies to deeds that disqualify him from remaining the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.

If the Starr report cannot reach that level of proof, the forced resignation or impeachment of Bill Clinton would forever be seen by millions as the result of a diabolic and vindictive plot that Hillary Clinton called, in her programmed demagoguery, a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

This president is passing through purgatory now. He will be deserted and denounced by “friends.” Any perverse activity in the Oval Office with Monica will seep out of the Tripp tapes into the evening news and onto Leno and Letterman. November will bring a crushing defeat for Democrats who did no more to deserve it than Republicans did to deserve their coming victory. And in his heart, Bill Clinton must know his political legacy will be to have made America safe for Republicanism and to have made prophets out of all the Clinton haters who have dogged him since Arkansas days.

Nevertheless, this thing needs to be ended now. If, as the left insists, the only issue is whether Clinton committed felonies, the place to decide that is at a trial in the Senate, where the Clinton defenders can make their case and where a simple majority of his own party can prevent Clinton’s conviction of high crimes.

The partisan House should yield the decision on Clinton’s fate expeditiously to the Senate. We all know the House Judiciary Committee is not going to rescue Clinton by refusing to let the full House vote on whether to impeach. Why act as though there were some doubt?

The full House, then, should vote quickly on one question: Did Ken Starr deliver “sufficient and credible evidence” of “high crimes”? If not, end it there. If the evidence warrants a trial, get it over to the Senate, and let’s get on with that trial.

As for Whitewater, Filegate and Travelgate, Congress should vote to instruct Starr to report on whether the president was wrongly investigated — or narrowly escaped indictment. The truth, and the whole truth, will not prevent the poisoning of politics from this sordid affair, but it may help make the poison pass out more quickly.