Why Bill Clinton SHOULD Go and why he wont go
Like most Americans, I have wrestled, both professionally and personally, with the future of Bill Clinton and his presidency. I am a lifelong liberal and strong Democrat who twice voted for Bill Clinton and who has never voted for a Republican candidate in my short ten-year voting life. I am appalled by both Clintons reckless behavior in office and the gotcha game the Republicans have played against Clinton since his election in 1992.
From the Vietnam draft, to his war protests in Britain, to Whitewater, the FBI file controversy, the firing of the White House travel office, Vince Fosters suicide, and the various sexcapades of Clinton, the Republicans have long hounded Clinton and sought his ouster. Like the President, I deplore the tactics employed by the Office of Independent Counsel and extreme right-wing Republicans who have suggested Clinton resign long before any evidence of wrongdoing was either produced or proven. For them, Clinton is not due either a fair hearing or the presumption of innocence afforded by our judicial system. For them, Clinton is guilty because Clinton is, well, Clinton. If the Conservatives are truthful, they would admit that they sought to overturn the 1992 and 1996 elections long ago and Monica Lewinsky is only an excuse to do the deed. For them, Lewinsky is simply a means to an end and the end has always been to get rid of Clinton.
These statements should make me likely to suggest that Clinton should finish his second term and continue in office unpunished, dismissing the pathetic exercise as partisanship at its worst. However, I have come to the conclusion, regretfully, that, though the charges against Clinton should never have been investigated in the first place and that Clinton should not be impeached or removed from office, President Clinton should resign for the good of the country and the Democratic Party.
II. Investigation as a Witch-Hunt
Ken Starr has pursued Clinton with the dogged zeal of a Puritan seeking to rid Salem of its witches or McCarthy ridding America of its communists. Unfortunately Clinton has been the target of a smear campaign, including Jerry Falwells peddling of the highly libelous "Clinton Chronicles" which accuses the president, among other things, of murder, and an investigation which has gone on too long, cost too much money, and produced too little. An investigation which began by examining a land deal in Arkansas 20 years ago has become an investigation about a reckless affair and its cover up.
The original jurisdiction of Starr was dubious at best. And, his investigation of the Lewinsky matter has proven the partisan nature of Starrs motivation. Sitting through the testimony given by Clinton to the grand jury, I saw no questions about Whitewater, none of Billy Dale and the White House travel office, none of the botched FBI file investigation. The only questions related to sex and its cover-up.
The investigation boils down, quite sadly, to criminalizing Clintons poor judgment and reckless sexual behavior. While there were no questions of Whitewater, there were 81 questions related to sex. Anyone believing this is not about criminalizing sexual behavior and a witch-hunt by Starr should look closely at the transcripts.
In Starrs 445 page report to Congress, two charges against Clinton were that he promised Lewinsky a job and that he asked her to lie about their sexual relations. Her own sworn testimony contradicting Starrs report to Congress is omitted suggesting that Starr only believed Lewinskys testimony when it met his own preconceived beliefs and dismissed her testimony when it contradicted his prior beliefs. In fact, neither Starr, nor any of his staff, even asked her whether she was asked to lie or promised a job; this question was left for a grand juror to ask, suggesting that Starr was looking for particular answers rather than the truth. This is not the way in which an "Independent Counsel" should behave and suggests that the law creating the OIC should be revisited and changed substantially or eliminated after the conclusion of this case.
III. Why Should Clinton Resign?
So, if this is a witch-hunt which has demonized Bill Clinton and criminalized his sexual behavior, why should he resign? Should he resign because:
a) He had an adulterous affair? No. While sexual indiscretion and adultery are not and should not be condoned, peoples private sex life is and should be private. While deplorable, adultery is not, nor should it be, a criminal offense.
b) He committed perjury? No. Ken Starrs investigation has produced a strong case against Clinton on the perjury charge. However, to be fair to Clinton, perjury in this instance would neither be prosecuted in a court of law nor be winnable. While painful and embarrassing to watch the president parse the truth with legalisms and semantics over the definition of the words "sex", "alone", and "is" the answers were probably legally "correct. Though he looked slimy and the poster-child for why Americans hate both lawyers and politicians, it doesnt prove perjury since perjury requires prosecutors prove intent. Thus, while Clinton may have committed perjury and, at a minimum, was shifty and evasive in his answers, perjury was not proven. Further, my Republican friends should question the perjury charge and ask themselves if lying under oath is grounds for disqualifying individuals for elective office. The Republican darling Oliver North lied to Congress during a much worse Iran-Contra scandal and was endorsed for US Senate in Virginia by numerous Christian Conservatives. Consistency, though, has never been a strong point for partisans blinded by dogmatism.
c) He suborned perjury? No. Very weak evidence exists to prove that
Clinton asked anyone to lie. Monica Lewinsky, if we are to believe her testimony,
categorically denies being asked to lie by anybody associated with the case.
He obstructed justice? No. Starr charges Clinton and presidential pal Vernon Jordan helped Lewinsky get a job in New York. Her testimony contradicts the OICs report to Congress.
d) He tampered with witnesses? No. There is strong circumstantial
evidence that Clinton knowingly gave false impressions to his staff knowing that they
would repeat these to the grand jury. However, if you were the target of an investigation
about your sex life and you had an adulterous affair, you would probably attempt to cover
it up. The evidence is all circumstantial and again would probably not muster the beyond a
reasonable doubt test.
e) He abused his Constitutional authority? The weakest charge outlined in the
dossier against Clinton and most indicative of the zeal and fervor with which Starr
doggedly pursued Clinton. Starr suggests that invoking executive privilege and refusing to
testify voluntarily were abuses of office. Forget it. Clinton was proper in using these
devices and this charge is totally without merit and vindictive in nature.
f) He is a weakened world leader? No. Clintons performance at the United Nations and their standing ovation for him suggests that Clinton still has the respect of most of the world leaders. Further, leaders of three of the USs strongest allies, France, Germany, and Great Britain all continue to stand by the president and seem perplexed by Starrs obsession with what the French press has dubbed "sexual McCarthyism."
If none of the above reasons doom Clinton from my perspective, what does? Clinton should go for one fundamental reason. Clinton, despite the public opinion polls, has broken his trust with the American public and is a wounded president pursued by a flock of buzzards who will not rest until he is driven from office. This story is not, no matter how much Clinton or the American public hopes, going away. The media feeding frenzy will dominate the airwaves and Clintons time while problems such as Russia, Japan, the economic turmoil in the rest of Asia and Latin America, peace in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, and the domestic economy mount. America needs an effective president, unburdened by personal difficulties, to deal with these problems.
Regrettably, Bill Clinton is not that president. Bill Clinton should spare both the Democratic Party and the country of the vicious political game which will be played out over the next two years and do the honorable thing. His resignation should be immediately followed with a full pardon by newly sworn in President Gore. Mr. Clinton, with all due respect, your time to go has come. We appreciate the state of the economy and wish you well in your future but you shouldnt dither or waffle on this issue. Just do it. Resign.
IV. What is likely to occur?
Unfortunately, Bill Clinton is a fighter and doesnt back down easily. His personality dictates that he wont resign. When he doesnt resign, look forward to a painful and partisan two years of politics which will even further erode the public confidence in government and lead to further declines in voting turnout which would be an even sadder result than the traumatic resignation of a president.
Ultimately, unless circumstances change dramatically (and a smoking gun produced as in Watergate), two scenarios are most likely. First, the president will be impeached and survive a Senate trial. More than likely, however, a deal will be struck between the Administration and the Congress which censures the president and heavily punishes him followed by Clinton spending the remainder of his term as a lame-duck dead-duck president with little Congressional support and little domestic political clout.
America deserves better than this. Unfortunately, we wont get it.