The 1999 Impeachment Awards: May I Have the Envelope, Please?

 As you read this, the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton should be over. Barring some eleventh-hour miracle, the Articles of Impeachment should go down to defeat, and as of this writing (Wednesday morning), there is some doubt as to whether there is even a simple majority ready to vote "yes" on the perjury charge. So now seems an appropriate time to look back on the trial and hand out some consolation prizes.

 The Christopher Darden Award: named after the prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case who insisted that O.J. try on the glove found at the murder scene (whereupon OJ fumbled and futzed around and then claimed that the glove didn't fit). This award is given to the party who pursued the most incomprehensible and self-defeating legal strategy. The winners are the House managers. These guys fought like wildcats to get Monica Lewinsky to testify, whereupon Monica calmly blew them out of the water (if you'll pardon the expression) by repeating her testimony that no one asked her to lie and that no one promised her a job for her testimony. She then went on to testify that Bill Clinton never even discussed with her the contents of her affidavit in the Paula Jones case, and that she "wasn't comfortable" with the idea of attributing the differences between her testimony and Clinton's to perjury rather than differences in memory. So what did the managers do? They further showed their disconnection from reality by insisting that Monica come to the Senate floor to repeat her testimony. Hello? Guys? Were you listening?

 But what really cinched the Darden Award was the managers' quest to get the testimony of "presidential friend" Vernon Jordan. Folks, Vernon Jordan is so slick he has to wear suspenders to keep his pants from sliding off. Did anyone really expect a seasoned political fixer like Jordan to have a Perry Mason moment and break down in tears, crying "Yes! He did it! Bill Clinton ordered me to obstruct justice!"? So, to the managers, we present--what else--a pair of gloves that don't fit.

 The "Heads We Win, Tails You Lose" Award. This award is a gold coin with no faces on either side. It goes, once again, to the House managers, for their theory that (a) the attempt to get Monica Lewinsky a job was part of the cover-up, and (b) the negative stories supposedly spread by the White House were an attempt to intimidate her. In other words, anything positive done for Monica Lewinsky was bribery, anything negative was intimidation. Nice double bind there. It's also quite interesting that the people who abruptly summoned Monica Lewinsky to fly across the country to meet with them, then threatened her with loss of her immunity deal and possible jail time if she didn't "cooperate", have anything to say about witness intimidation.

 The Spider Robinson "God Is An Iron" Award: This award is named for science fiction writer Spider Robinson, who once wryly observed that "God is an iron." (After all, if one who commits felonies is a felon, and one who engages in gluttony is a glutton, what do you call one who regularly perpetrates irony?) The award, a pair of pants with scorch marks on the seat, goes to Kenneth Starr. The irony is that, according to the New York Times, Starr himself is being investigated by the Justice Department for making misrepresentations to them about, among other things, his office's denials of any contact with Paula Jones' lawyers when Starr was trying to expand the Whitewater probe.

 And finally, a pair of ice-skates to Texas Senator Phil Gramm, with instructions to present them to Bill Clinton if Gramm follows through on his threat to filibuster any censure motion. If Gramm blocks a censure, Bill Clinton gets to skate away whistling, without even a condemnation of his behavior.

 Friends, even I will agree that Clinton's behavior was pretty sleazy, not to mention just plain weird. But, in the final analysis, what the evidence showed was that Bill Clinton had an affair with a younger woman, didn't run around the White House letting everybody know about it, and engaged in legal hairsplitting during civil depositions. This last, by the way, is a tactic not unknown in litigation, and I don't like it any better than you do. Probably less, since I have to face it more regularly.

 So is what Clinton did sleazy? You betcha. It just wasn't a crime, let alone an impeachable one, and if the House managers hadn't been so hell-bent on impressing the Religious Right and other social-issues conservatives, not to mention trolling for sound-bites for the next primary, they would have realized that. So let Clinton know for the record that he acted like a Grade-A jackass, and let's get back to work.

 

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1999 Jerry D. Rhoades, Jr.