SAPSUCKER, thy name is Democrat.
One after the other they came, strutting up to the microphone on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to plead the case for not impeaching one William Jefferson Clinton, who holds the distinction of being both America's president and its poster boy for sexual overindulgence.
This past Thursday, the House of Representatives was scheduled to debate whether said president should be impeached or merely given a good, sound wrist-slapping. But Clinton unleashed the bombs against Iraq on Wednesday night, delaying the debate for a day. It was a tacky and tawdry ruse by a tacky and tawdry president, but the way House Democrats sucked up to Clinton yesterday you'd think they didn't know that Slick Willie had played them like a cheap fiddle.
Any American with a healthy respect for his or her own intelligence would have sized up the situation, noted Clinton's passion for prevarication and his stubborn determination to remain in office and concluded, "Hey, the guy's trying to stall the impeachment debate here."
But not the Democrats. They had Georgia Rep. John Lewis take the floor and start a prayer meeting.
"Let he who is without sin [See Kane, 4b] cast the first stone!" LTC Lewis thundered. That has been the Democrats' chief defense of Clinton. Others have cheated on their wives and lied about it. Why persecute poor President Clinton?
Now, thanks to Clinton, Democrats have what they feel is a new weapon in their arsenal: war. How can we even have this debate, the Democrats whined, while our troops are engaged in battle and in harm's way? We were sending the wrong message to Saddam Hussein, our allies and our critics, Democrats wailed, as if our federal legislative body is Western Union.
It was an astonishingly hawkish statement, coming from Democrats, who seemed to imply that Republicans were being downright treasonous. Democrats seemed unaware that our troops are in harm's way because Clinton put them there and used specious justification for doing it. But Texas Republican Sam Johnson had a ready response for them.
"You know what the troops are fighting for?" Johnson asked the assorted saps on the other side of the aisle. "They're fighting to uphold the Constitution." Johnson has, unlike Clinton, actually served in our armed forces. In fact, he's a Vietnam veteran and former prisonerof war.
Having milked the war defense for all it was worth, the Democrats shifted gears.
"You're thwarting the will of the American people by impeaching Clinton!" they charged.
Oh? Fifty percent of Americans who bothered to vote returned Clinton to office in 1996. Forty-one percent voted for Bob Dole and nine percent for Ross Perot. That doesn't sound like a mandate indicating that an overwhelming majority of Americans want Clinton in office. It sounds like 50 percent of those who cast their ballots voted for Clinton and 50 percent had good sense.
But Rep. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who is the state's senator-elect, eschewed the knee-jerk defenses offered by the Democrats. Instead, he chastised both parties for "abusing the system" by being partisan in whom they choose to investigate.
"The Democrats investigated [Secretary of Defense nominee] John Tower for allegations not dissimilar to those against the president," Schumer reminded his colleagues. He was about to tell of a Greek myth in which "the occupants of a house found themselves in an escalating war of revenge" when his time ran out. Quite the pity. His comments were bereft of victimhood, on the mark and downright useful. His Democratic cohorts should have learned from him.
Instead they hammered away at themes of selective persecution, war and supporting the commander in chief. The issue of perjury is, for Democrats, a minor one, certainly not a "high crime or misdemeanor" as defined by the Constitution, they claim.
Democrats should come out and say it: We believe in one set of laws for the President of the United States and one for everybody else. As you read this, four former Northwestern University football players - Dennis Lundy, Christopher Gamble, Michael Senters and Gregory Gill - may get five years in prison and be fined $250,000 if they are convicted of lying about their relationship with a bookie.
All four of these men will have to answer to the charges in court. Republicans are right to insist that William Jefferson Clinton should have to answer to the charges against him in the Senate, with the chief justice of the United States acting as judge.
Pub Date: 12/19/98