Mr. Starr Goes to Washington

by Patrick J. Buchanan – November 21, 1998

Not since Ollie North rocked the Iran-Contra committee back on its heels has a congressional witness done more in a single day to turn the tables on his accusers.

Last Thursday was the triumph of Ken Starr, a scene set for him by history, and he played it beautifully. It was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. By his demeanor, character and reasoned responses, through 10 hours of often-obnoxious hectoring, Starr gave the lie to the hacks, shysters and shills who have smeared him as some out-of-control Puritanical prosecutor obsessed with sex.

By the time Starr walked out of the committee to an ovation, he had brought the case for impeachment back where it belongs — to the criminality of the president, not the squalor of his private life.

Calm, methodical, thoughtful, steeped in the law, Starr laid out his case: The president had perjured himself, suborned perjury, obstructed justice, tampered with witnesses and abused his office by using its powers to impede a federal investigation. Again and again, Ken Starr charged William Clinton with serious felonies.

Astonishingly, Democrats did not even bother to refute or deny the charges. Not one Democrat rose in righteous rage to defend the president’s honor, integrity, truthfulness or innocence. Instead, Clinton’s auxiliaries made fools of themselves with student-radical disruptions, War Room rants at a benignly smiling Starr, and canned and contrived statements of moral indignation.

The fakery was laughable. Empaneled to investigate if the president corrupted an intern by drawing her into a conspiracy to commit perjury, the Democrats seemed more alarmed by whether an FBI agent told her she might go to jail and asked if she would wear a wire. Liberals who have spent careers talking of a “living Constitution” were sounding like Robert Bork on original intent.

Under Starr’s relentless recital of facts and the law, Clinton defenders were beaten back into their last ditch: Even if Bill Clinton committed perjury, obstructed justice and lied to a grand jury, his felonies do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

Though a college president would be fired in disgrace for Clinton’s crimes, a trial lawyer would be disbarred, and a general in the armed forces would be court-martialed and sent to Leavenworth, Clinton must be given a pass and allowed to serve out his term.

If this is what the New Democrats offer America, why are they superior to the Old Democrats of Sam Ervin’s generation? Indeed, when one compares the Democrats on Henry Hyde’s committee with those on Peter Rodino’s committee that voted to impeach President Nixon, the change is not so much in the partisanship. Those Democrats were as hostile to Nixon as these are favorable to Clinton. Yet, whatever one thought of Rodino or Barbara Jordan, compare their deportment and dignity to that of Barney Frank, Maxine Waters and today’s demagogues, and you can see up close the decline of American politics. This crowd ought to stick with Clinton; they are perfect for each other.

What gave Ken Starr his massive advantage over his attackers like David Kendall were personal qualities that shone forth: dignity, a sense of duty and a sense of honor. They were iron shields against his enemies.

Starr has shown the nation how a man of integrity does his duty in the face of the longest, ugliest campaign of vilification and abuse in modern U.S. political history. He has set an example for a new generation. Now, the House Judiciary Committee must do its duty.

One Democrat warned that the American people voted to end this inquiry, and their demand must be respected. But the American people voted for no such thing, as Republicans won more votes than Democrats in 1998, and impeachment was not on the ballot. But even if the American people say in surveys they want all this to go away, this cup cannot pass away. The Congress must do its sworn duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Hyde’s committee should vote to impeach Bill Clinton for high crimes for three reasons. First, the evidence is sufficient to indict him, which is what impeachment is. Second, the crimes go directly to his dishonoring of his oath of office. Third, the entire People’s House must pass judgment on the crimes of the president.

If this reaches the House floor, that body will have two choices: Declare the president’s offenses too trivial to impeach, or impeach the president, which is the constitutional method of censuring a president devised by the founding fathers — and send it on to the Senate to decide whether to remove him.