by Doug Payton
Since the Starr report came out, a number of common questions continue to come up on talk shows and in conversations. Often on the Internet, you will see a list called a "FAQ"a frequently asked questions listwhich intends to tackle questions that people often ask about a specific subject. This, then, is my FAQ dealing with the Lewinsky scandal and the Ken Starr investigation.
Isnt all this a private matter between the President and his family?
Arguably, infidelity is his private business. Still, he felt he had to publicly apologize for that. However, lying under other, obstruction of justice and abuse of power are most decidedly public business. And on those counts he is fighting with every scrap of legalism he and his cadre of lawyers can muster. What the Presidents lawyers are arguing these days are not the facts of the case, but the pure technicalities of the specific words the President has used to characterize his behavior in deposition and in testimony. Basically they are using the law to make a lie sound like the truth. This is a highly public matter.
Why were all those explicit details in the Starr report?
Not all explicit testimony was included. Congress will censor some of the lurid details in granting a request by Lewinskys lawyers to spare her and her family humiliation. But the main reason those details were included was because the Presidents defense about his "legally accurate" testimony assumed strange definitions of "sex" and required that, to prove his case, Ken Starr had to show, legally and accurately, that the Presidents actions did in fact cross the line his own testimony drew in the sand.
Consider this: If the President said he never met Monica Lewinsky, then all Ken Starr would have had to show is that the President did meet her. No details would be required. If the President said he never kissed Miss Lewinsky, then Starr would have to go further and show that the President did kiss her. But the President raised the bar higher and higher. Ken Starrs job was to leap over that bar or declare the Presidents innocence. He cleared the bar, but now the Presidents defenders are complaining that he did just that. Ken Starrs report included explicit details because the President denied explicit details, and the facts did not concur.
Didnt Hyde/Burton/Chenoweth have affairs, too?
But doesnt that disqualify them from sitting in judgement over the President?
No, the law stands in judgement over the President. Nothing disqualifies the law from doing that, and members of the Judiciary Committee are there to carry out the law.
Judges in a court of law are not barred from trying perjury cases if they themselves have ever lied. If so, we would have no judges to choose from for cases like that because, at one time or another, all of us have lied. But that does not excuse us from the consequences, and it is the law that points out crime and administers punishment. Judges may make rulings and modifications to sentences, but only within bounds set by the law.
One cannot argue that they should be set free because the judge has done what they have done. The judge is not the law; he or she merely represents the law. The law stands in judgement and, if we really care about the Constitution and the laws of our land, we must allow the legal system to take its course. To be sure, judges of good character are much preferred to those who are not, but none of those whose pasts have come out have come close to matching the Presidents actions in terms of perjury and abuse of power.
Impeachment hearings began on Nixon because of the Watergate break-in. Should Clinton really be impeached over sex?
Impeachment hearings began on President Nixon because of perjury, obstruction of justice, lying to the American people, and abuse of power, not because of the Watergate break-in. Those who called for his resignation pointed that out as well. One Arkansas politician at the time put it this way:
"Yes, the president should resign. He has lied to the American people, time and time again, and betrayed their trust. He is no longer an affective leader. Since he has admitted guilt, there is no reason to put the American people through an impeachment. He will serve absolutely no purpose in finishing out his term, the only possible solution is for the president to save some dignity and resign."
-William Jefferson Clinton, 1974, on President Nixon.
Cant we get beyond this? Given the Presidents approval ratings at 60+%, doesnt that show the American people want to put this behind them?
Yes, it would be great to get beyond this. But what does "get beyond this" mean?
Clinton is still lying saying that his actions did not qualify as "sexual relations", yet they did. Lewinskys testimony says as much. So we have perjury, but some are suggesting we accept his apology and move on. Are we then, from here on out, to accept a simple apology from perjurers and witness tamperers and let them go? If not, then why should we accept that from the President? He is not King; he is a citizen and subject to the same laws as the rest of us. While the legal procedure for metering out the law may be unique to his position, the law itself is not.
Interestingly enough, at about the same time in his investigation, President Nixon had very good poll numbers as well. In fact, he overwhelmingly won a presidential election after Watergate was out and the press coverage was incessant and negative. But the polls didnt stay that way, and most Democrats, Im sure, did not want to put Watergate behind them just because the polls were favorable to Nixon.
But do we really want to impeach a President over a sexual affair?
Michael Kelly, editor of the left-leaning National Journal, a supporter of many Democrat political positions, said it best:
"That Clinton, through his mouthpieces, continues to lie proves, finally, that he must be impeached. He must be impeached not merely because he is a pig and a cad and a selfish brute. He must be impeached not merely because he sexually exploited and then discarded an employee under his supervision, nor because he used government resources and personnel to facilitate and cover up his sorry little affair. He must be impeached not merely because he abused the office entrusted to him by the people.
"He must be impeached because he shows an utter and absolute contempt for the truth and for the law he has twice sworn to uphold. He must be impeached because, in a judicial proceeding, he knowingly lied under oath with intent to deceive, because he was given a chance to correct that lie in a second judicial proceeding and he lied again, because he persists in lying even still. He must be impeached because, in his pathology, he does great and heartless violence to other people and to the nation, and because he has made it clear that he is perfectly prepared to do more violence. He must be impeached because to not impeach him is to declare that this is what we accept in a president. He must be impeached because we are a nation of laws, not liars."
So to answer your question; No, we dont want to impeach a President over a sexual affair. We should, however, impeach a President when he commits high crimes and misdemeanors. This one has.
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