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Readers weigh in on President Clinton and the Senate's impeachment trial

THE BALTIMORE SUN

I am so proud to be a Republican these days because they are doing what is right for this country regardless of their political futures. How dare the Democrats accuse them of acting partisan? The Democrats are the ones who have acted totally partisan from the beginning in their defense of this embarrassment of a president.

During the voting on the impeachment articles, six times as many Republicans as Democrats crossed the aisle and voted with their conscience and sworn oath. Now we need 12 Senate Democrats to truly listen to the overabundance of evidence and vote their common sense.

Jim Rogers, Perry Hall

The most important U.S. potential that President Clinton should have spoken about in the State of the Union address was that of restoring dignity, respect and honor to the president's office, which he has tarnished.

The nation's chief executive committed despicable acts in his office when he was being paid to run the country.

People who say we expect too much of our leaders show that they have no faith in humans' capacity to control themselves and their destiny.

Isn't it time to begin changing the spirit of apathy and complacency by challenging citizens to accept greater personal responsibility for everything from the litter in the streets to the tolerance of diversity in our culture?

Marie Lewis, Baltimore

In your lead editorial on Jan. 24 ("Impeachment travesty has gone on long enough"), you said that the word senator implies wisdom. Senator comes from the Latin "senatus," which means old man. That word derives from "senex," which means old and is the same root as the word senile.

Senators are not, by definition, wise, just as representatives, in practice, don't necessarily represent.

D. R. Belz, Lutherville

The House managers and their compatriots in the Senate would have us believe that they alone know what is moral, and those of us who disagree are simply wrong.

What Mr. Clinton did was clearly indefensible. But there is morality and there is morality.

The same people who make up the let's-get-Clinton crowd are comfortable addressing the latest incarnation of the KKK, resist helping those abused by health maintenance organizations, resist laws to regulate cigarette smoking and resist meaningful campaign finance reform.

It is these people who have shown their contempt for the American people in refusing to give any credence to the overwhelming support for the president and their contempt for history in cavalierly rejecting the advice of our most eminent historians that the charges against President Clinton do not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Those wishing to remove the president would have us believe that the support the president enjoys is the result solely of a booming economy. In part, they may be right. But I believe there may be another reason: the fear that this fundamentalist minority will gain the ascendancy.

Stanley L. Rodbell, Columbia

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist recently was quoted as having said tongue in cheek, "Don't overestimate us [The Supreme Court]." Another quote from Shakespeare could follow, "Many a true thing has been said in jest."

His admonition was right on target. It's difficult to take the court seriously after its decisionthat a sitting president of the United States can be dragged into civil court at any time and that act will not interfere with his duties as president. Many of us outside the Beltway shuddered at the decision to allow the Paula Jones case to go forward, and we are now seeing the fruits of that decision.

The one good thing this entire matter has brought about is that the American people are getting a closer look at how our government works and the real character of our representatives.

Robert V. P. Davis, Baltimore

I take issue with Jack Germond and Jules Witcover's Opinion Commentary column ("Giving cover to Democrats who stand by their man," Jan. 22) suggesting that Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills played the "race card" by defending President Clinton's record on civil rights at the end of her statement in the impeachment trial.

Did they forget that it was the newfound concern of the House managers for the "civil rights" of Paula Jones, and more specifically, Sen. Lindsey Graham's comparison of Mr. Clinton's case to civil rights litigation of the 1960s that opened the door to Ms. Mills' comments?

After waiting three years to make a claim (allegedly to protect her good name), Ms. Jones found political enemies of Mr. Clinton willing to underwrite a weak sexual harassment suit. The suit became a federal "civil rights" suit only because the statute of limitations ran out on other sexual harassment statutes.

The evidence of Mr. Clinton's consensual affair was later found to be irrelevant to the suit, and the suit itself was dismissed for lack of merit that had no relationship to Mr. Clinton's alleged lies and cover-up. Yet, the House managers, in a hollow attempt to shame female and minority supporters of Mr. Clinton, continued to argue that Mr. Clinton's attempt to avoid embarrassment of exposure of his consensual affair with another woman was an attempt to thwart the civil rights of Ms. Jones.

I am glad someone on the White House legal team was able to express to the nation that African Americans are not impressed with the House managers' argument or any comparison of this case to the civil rights litigation of the 1960s.

Alan M. Boyd, Annandale, Va.

Your editorial ("Impeachment travesty has gone on long enough," Jan. 24 ) shows that The Sun still does not get it.

The argument that this impeachment is about overturning a presidential election is specious. Only an elected president can be impeached. Impeachment concerns presidential actions after the election. The Constitution provides for impeachment of an elected president. If it did not, then a president, once elected, could not be held accountable for any act, no matter how heinous.

This impeachment (former Sen. Dale Bumpers notwithstanding) is not about sex or Mr. Clinton's private behavior. It is about multiple obstructions of justice, perjury, false and misleading statements under oath and witness tampering, all committed or orchestrated by the president. The purpose of impeachment is not to punish the president but to protect the republic from the president.

Perjury and obstruction of justice undermine the foundations of our judicial system. They prevent the judiciary from performing its constitutional function. Such actions by a president are crimes against the state because they destroy one of the three branches of government.

The expedient and convenient course would be to ignore the clear evidence and either acquit the president or dismiss the trial, as you and Sen. Bumpers urge. Wisdom from experience dictates otherwise. If the Senate does not carry out its constitutional responsibilities, a terrible precedent will have been set for future presidential conduct, and we will have embarked on the slippery slope of ignoring our Constitution when it is deemed to be the popular and convenient thing to do.

Evan Alevizatos Chriss, Baltimore

Based on their daily post-"court" comments, it appears that too many senators are doing to their oath of "impartiality" what Bill Clinton did to his oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

One can only wonder whether the Senate is as interested in getting as close to the truth of the matter as possible as it is in protecting its image and escaping from this mess without having to take a principled and public position.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if the senators could just keep their mouths shut completely until after they deliver a verdict?

As Mencken said, "The cynics are right nine times out of ten," a sentiment expanded by that well-known American philosopher, Lily Tomlin, to: "No matter how cynical I get, it's just never enough to keep up."

Robert A. Erlandson, Towson

The House managers continue to err by referring to their evidence as "facts". As lawyers, they should know better. If something is called a fact often enough, even though it is not, there is a tendency for people to believe that it is so.

But with their behavior, the House managers are highlighting the weaknesses of their case.

Larry Guess, Havre de Grace

The impeachment circus has shown why true campaign reform is needed.

Members of the House and Senate are being forced to vote the way of the PAC, not the way of their constituents or, heaven forbid, their consciences. They are captives, political prisoners, of well-financed, self-serving segment groups.

Conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat -- all are being forced to go after, or defend, the president at the pressure of their financial backers.

J. Martin, Baltimore

I simply cannot understand the support President Clinton has among women. Is it his pro-female agenda? Equal pay and equal rights are meaningless concepts unless respect for women in the workplace is a fact of life.

How can we promote such respect if ultimately our decisions condone intimidation, exploitation, and victimization of women in the workplace? What's the point of legislation if it only applies to some people, some of the time?

Minimizing the president's behavior by passing it off as "his private life" or as irrelevant to his job performance is poppycock. What he does in the Oval Office, on the job and with a federal employee or volunteer, willing or not, is, from any perspective, a public matter.

Condoning this behavior is incomprehensibly shortsighted and misguided. Demanding his resignation or supporting his removal from office isn't going to thwart women's rights. It will enforce them by communicating loud and clear that sexual exploitation of females in the workplace is absolutely and categorically unacceptable.

Sue A. Erdman, Towson

I can't understand the irate letters from Democrats who want to stop the Senate trial of President Clinton. Why would they want to stop it?

I haven't seen anything funnier in years than the self-destruction of the Republican Party. I don't know why everyone else isn't rolling on the floor laughing.

Over the past four years, I have watched the intolerant, bigoted, fascist Republicans shooting themselves in the foot over and over and over again.

William Smith, Baltimore

I had to laugh when I heard Henry Hyde complain about the unfairness of having no rebuttal time. Since when was any of this process supposed to be fair?

What could possibly be considered fair in a witch hunt where one adulterer is allowed to flush out and punish another?

The ineptness of the House prosecutors became agonizingly conspicuous when Rep. Asa Hutchinson declared that he believes the American people would like to see witnesses called. What planet is this guy from?

David Norton, Pasadena

I disagree totally with the title of the Opinion Commentary article "Honey, Clinton has shrunk the presidency" (Jan. 25). Clinton and his family are teaching us what it means to stand up in the midst of a crisis. Anyone can shine when times are good and favorable. Heros (leaders who change the world) make astounding progress in spite of the odds. That is the lesson for us and our children.

Dr. King, Gandhi and Mandela were jailed, criticized and met massive disapproval. They prevailed and became known as leaders for all people.

The onset of Clinton's struggle appears different. It is not. It is born of the same unshakable determination to be a stand for "fairness and equality" for all people. This is why he becomes more popular with each appearance and each speech.

Berneather Atkins, Bowie

There is something very disingenuous about Rep. Henry Hyde and cohorts complaining about a lack of fairness in the Senate's trial of President Clinton ("Losing their ground, House prosecutors respond to defense more aggressively" Jan. 22).

These people presided over and took part in one of the most biased processes in our country's political history. They had their chance to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry. They chose not to.

Whether the Senate's procedures are fair is open to question. What is quite clear is that it is more fair than anything that happened in the House Judiciary Committee or on the floor of the House.

Joye F. Jones, Towson

There was a firestorm many years ago when President Nixon had Archibald Cox dismissed as independent prosecutor. Now, in a reversal of roles, I think public opinion will demand that the services of the current independent prosecutor be terminated as a threat to our system of government.

His request to interview Monica Lewinsky in this right wing-inspired farce flies in the face of the Constitution, and everything we hold sacred in our system of Justice.

He had Susan McDougal thrown into jail for not telling him what he wanted to hear and if you don't think that's exactly what he and 13 House Republicans have in store for Monica Lewinsky, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to show you.

John D. Venables, Towson

After watching and listening to this mess for longer than any citizen should have to, all I can say is, "Shame on you." And I'm not talking about Bill Clinton. That is too easy and obvious.

Aren't we all in agreement that the man is a philandering, dishonest, egocentric disappointment and certainly no role model for our nation's children?

The largest group deserving shame is made up of those who continue to defend President Clinton.

What a terrible precedent we are setting. The American people don't want to see this mess go away. No, we are looking for real integrity in those who have been entrusted to govern.

Mark Smith, Ellicott City

We suspected, and now it's proven: the Office of Independent Counsel was just the Republican right wing's witch-hunt force.

The House managers have lost their case.

They misrepresented (based on Ken Starr's one-sided version of truth) the testimony given at numerous depositions, distorted events and exaggerated comments. In violation of the Constitution, the House managers are having secret meetings with a potential witnesses.

Isn't that obstruction of justice?

Alex P. Gross, Owings Mills

,Governor's decision on police training center defended

Given the magnitude of the challenges faced by our cities, towns and rural communities, one could anticipate criticism of Maryland's Smart Growth efforts as not being enough to change the course of development. Therefore, it is surprising and unfortunate that The Sun would criticize Gov. Parris N. Glendening ("Undercutting Smart Growth," Jan. 22, 1999) for doing exactly what he said he would do when he pushed through his Smart Growth initiative: that is, begin changing the way we do business in this state.

Smart Growth has been hailed as "the most promising new tool for managing growth in a generation," but Gov. Glendening knows that such accolades will mean nothing if the program does not begin to make a difference in where future growth in this state occurs. The whole premise of Smart Growth is that spending decisions by state government have an effect on future development patterns. Build a road, and it has an effect on growth. Locate a facility, and it has an effect on the community around it. These effects last for decades.

Instead of criticizing the governor, The Sun should be recognizing him for following through with his promises, for being courageous enough to say, "We are changing our ways." These are not easy decisions, but if Smart Growth is to work, we have to start taking into consideration the long-range ramifications of where we locate facilities.

The old Springfield Hospital Center near Sykesville meets minimum requirements for Smart Growth, but that -- by itself -- hardly means it is the best location for the police training facility. In this instance, the governor believes that from a Smart Growth perspective, a more urban or community-based site could have a more positive impact on an area that state and local government may be trying to revitalize.

In addition, many roads in the area around Springfield are already crowded, largely because of the large-lot and strip commercial development in the area. Locating this training facility there would only compound that congestion.

Finally, a steady stream of law enforcement officers and vehicles going to and from the site, especially in an urban area that state and local governments are trying to bring back, could have a beneficial deterrent effect. That effect would be lost by locating the training facility in such a relatively isolated location as Springfield.

Your editorial asserts incorrectly that this project will be delayed or that the money already invested in a driver training course and a firing range at Springfield will somehow be lost. The governor remains committed to the same timetable for building the training facility, and plans for using the firing range and driver training course will not be changed. In fact, funding for the project has been accelerated, and the governor is committed to identifying a new site within the next 90 days.

The accusation that this decision was made for political reasons is simply without merit. Projects were removed or eliminated in jurisdictions around the state where local and state officials strongly supported the administration's re-election efforts.

It is appropriate for the governor to revisit decisions to invest tens of millions of dollars in projects that could have an effect on growth patterns in this state for decades to come. If all previous decisions were merely rubber-stamped, then Smart Growth would have made no difference at all.

Ronald M. Kreitner, John W. Frece, Annapolis

The letter writers are, respectively, director of the Maryland Office of Planning and assistant to the governor for Smart Growth.

Pub Date: 1/30/99

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