Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.
Re: Criminal Sexuality (long)
Author: Jason Lefkowitz Posted: 12/15/1998; 11:34:21 AM Topic: DaveNet comments Msg #: 1251 (In response to 1213) Prev/Next: 1250 / 1252
I've been a longtime DaveNet reader, but I've never felt compelled to reply to a message until now. It's funny, I never thought that the most heartfelt, genuine, and observant commentary on our Constitutional crisis would come from a software developer -- that's a commentary both on your insight and honesty, and on the sad state of political discourse in America. Anyway, I'm a Internet strategy consultant, but my academic training is in political science, so I thought I'd jump in and add my $0.02.
The problem here is threefold. First, we have a President who may very well be a compulsive liar -- I have known people like this, they can't help themselves, they just lie and lie and lie, it's a kind of sickness -- and who is almost certainly a compulsive user of women as objects to fulfill his sexual needs. Second, we have a opposition Congress that is extremely partisan and ideological, and which contains many members for whom "compromise" is a dirty word. Finally, we have a Constitution that (on purpose) only lists one way that the President can be punished -- impeachment -- and is highly vague as to exactly what misdeeds merit that punishment. Mix these things together and you have a Constitutional crisis.
Resignation would be the most appropriate solution, but Clinton would never do that -- he can't admit to his lies. Barring that, censure would seem to be the best way out -- it's quick, it would easily win a majority in Congress, it's (probably) constitutional, and it spares the country months of hearings and division. And, theoretically, it brands Clinton with a scarlet letter for the rest of his life -- which for most of us would be a horrible, horrible cross to bear.
But what do you do when faced with a man who *doesn't mind* wearing a scarlet letter? Whose sense of honor and maturity is so stunted that he just doesn't care, as long as he gets to keep his grip on power?
I'm sure this dilemma is maddening for the congressional Republicans. I have a feeling that many of them would support censure, if they believed that censure would have any effect on Clinton, the man. But I think they are right in believing that it won't. Clinton will see censure as victory, as vindication. He said as much in his most recent public statement. His "contrition" seems focus-grouped, calculated, false. If censured, he will feel that he has dodged yet another bullet and kept his office in the face of one of the greatest political challenges to an incumbent President in our history. For Bill Clinton, censure is Miller Time!
So if you have to punish him, and censure would be more appropriate but wouldn't really be punishment, what do you do? Impeach, even if the evidence for a full-blown impeachment is a bit skimpy. But this just makes the impeachment inquiry look petty and partisan, and it strengthens Clinton's hand further.
And the Republicans don't help their case any by using parliamentary tactics to shut down debate on Democratic alternatives they disagree with, like censure. They keep pushing so hard and fast that they look like a lynch mob -- angry white men out to hang the trespasser. Many of them have wanted to impeach Clinton since the day he was elected, and now it just looks like they've found a convenient way to do it.
And as for the argument that what he did is not a "high crime and misdemeanor" -- impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. High crimes and misdemeanors are whatever Congress decides they are. They could impeach a president for jaywalking if they so chose.
In short, there are no heroes here. Do we throw Clinton out of office, thereby throwing the government into disarray and divisiveness, and give red meat to all the rabid right-wingers who have been dreaming of that since day 1? Do we allow him to stay in office, and send him, and future Presidents, the message that it's OK to lie, and lie, and lie again?
Or is it time for us to take a hard look at how we elect our leaders, and to ask ourselves the obvious questions -- how does a man like Bill Clinton get to rise to the highest office in the land? Why do our presidents (Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton) feel that it's all right to keep us in the dark, or lie to us to our faces? What do we have to do to find leaders, regardless of party, who respect us enough to tell us the truth, and trust that we are wise enough to participate fully in making this country work?
I'd like to think that it's time for that long, hard look. Hope springs eternal.
-- Jason Lefkowitz
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