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That'swhy Republicans' blocking of a censure substitute, which would have allowedDemocratic senators to vilify the First Cad before sending him on his gallivantingway, is the strategic masterstroke of recent weeks. It shows the GOP is notnearly as tactically dimwitted as we've heretofore thought. And it locksSenate Dems into the foolhardy course of defending the President on the groundsof his innocence, which cannot be done. Yes, the independent counsel was overzealous. Yes, it's a shame all this started with an office affair that should benone of anyone's business. But there are laws against sexual harassmentand perjury and obstruction of justice, and the President?clear as day?broke'em. As long as they take it upon themselves to argue he didn't, theDemocrats are going to have to reenact Clinton's logical acrobatics daily.This is a recipe for highly unpredictable hearings.
When Houseimpeachment manager Henry Hyde mentioned last Wednesday that he'd liketo see President Clinton take the stand, Democrats treated it as a violation-in-spiritof the bipartisan Senate agreement not to discuss calling witnesses until bothsides had made their opening arguments. So Democrats caucused Thursday morning,and all of them emerged with exactly the same "spontaneous" reaction.Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said: "I'm very disappointedand somewhat surprised? It certainly violates the spirit of the agreementwe all just agreed to last week." Pat Leahy of Vermont said: "I wasreally disappointed, actually saddened to see it... For the Republicans to allowit to suddenly break from that bipartisan effort and become a partisan thing,is very, very disappointing." Barbara Boxer of California said: "There'sgreat sadness in the Democratic Caucus today. We were so happy that we had reachedthat bipartisan consensus." Clearly the senators were all given their partisanmarching orders, which were to (1) angrily announce that their anger was actually"sadness" or "disappointment," not anger, and (2) collude,for the good of the party, in accusing the other party of partisan collusion.In the eyes of the nation, they looked like a bunch of devious turds.

But really,what's the alternative? There are two. First, the Fantasy Camp strategy,which is being followed by Dick Durbin, the loathsome Illinois senator. Havingtalked himself into the delusion that Clinton can somehow prove himself innocentof the perjury and obstruction charges, Durbin met Hyde's suggestion bycheerily saying he's "open to the argument" that the Presidentshould testify. Yeah, sure. So convoluted is the Clinton story by now that thereare certain questions to which the President can give no possible answer thatwill not offer fresh evidence of perjury. That way lies conviction.


Second isthe Head-in-the-Sand strategy. It's a popular one. Even the astute pollsterPat Caddell, who's been quicker than most Democrats to admit the Presidentlied, says: "I'm not sure that this is impeachable..." A Republicanmemo correctly points out that in the three trials where the question has comeup the Senate has ruled perjury a high crime and misdemeanor. But let'scut the baloney and get one thing straight: Whether you think it's a goodthing or a bad thing, these are impeachable offenses. We know that becausethe President has been impeached.


Clintonhimself is following the Head-in-the-Sand defense. "The articles of impeachmentthat have been exhibited to the Senate," ran a passage in the White Housedefense that could have been written by Antonin Scalia, "fall far shortof what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they placed in the hands of Congressthe power to impeach and remove a President from office." Oh, yes! BillClinton, Originalist. Then, taking press questions on the eve of the Republicanpresentation, he scolded a reporter, saying, "What you should be askingyourself is, Why did nearly 900 constitutional experts say that they stronglyfelt that this matter was not the subject of impeachment?" This, the Presidentought to know, is yesterday's question. It's like telling Isaac Newtonhe should ask himself why 900 of the king's scientists don't believein the theory of gravity. We ask the questions here, and the President'seffrontery in telling the press what they should be looking into in the firstplace is an indication he has more in common with the Ceausescu family thanhis keen enthusiasm for the charms of youth.


Advocatesof the Head-in-the-Sand strategy think that buoyant public approval ratingsgive the President a large margin of error. Not necessarily. Republicans aresuffering at the polls because they have done one truly horrible thing. Theyhave taken two corrupting Democratic innovations?sexual harassment lawand the independent counsel?and poured that poisonous mix into the streamof presidential politics, with lamentable and destabilizing results. But that'sdone; it's hard to see how convicting Clinton by such methods will makethem any less popular than failing to convict him. And how durable is Clinton'ssupport, anyway? Last week, an interesting Harris poll posed the approve/disapprovequestion in a novel way, asking citizens, "Are you proud Clinton is president?"Thirty-six percent said proud, 43 percent ashamed, 18 percent neither.


Our pollof the week, though, is one in which CBS tried to gauge the popularity of DennisHastert. It found that four percent viewed him favorably and three percent unfavorably,while the remaining 90-some-odd percent? I don't know, they thinkhe's in the running for the Heisman or something.
Nursultan of Swing Acountry in which only seven percent of the people know who the speaker of theHouse is a country on the way to nazarbaevismo. I'm referring, ofcourse, to the great Nursultan Nazarbaev, president of the heavily nuclear-armedex-Soviet "republic" of Kazakhstan. Nursultan was recently "reelected,"amid accusations of fraud, with 82 percent of the vote. The election was seenas a referendum on his first 10 years in power, which have been marked by anattempt to create some sort of regional heredity dynasty, the linchpin of whichis his daughter's marriage to the son of the elected president of Kyrgyzstan,Askar Akayev, last summer. When questioned about the recent unbelievable electionresults, Nazarbaev said, "Do you remember the times when turnout was 99.9percent and the votes came in at 99.9 percent in favor? Well you could say thatwe have allowed democracy to progress by 20 percent." Culture Club DanQuayle went on Chris Matthews' Hardball last week to weave his futureelectoral fortunes into the impeachment proceeding: "The 60s generation,"he said, "our generation, the me generation, the generation of greed, do-your-own-thing,you know, we've paid a price for that. That culture, as we look back onit, was not good for America." I like that attempt to recast the collapseof civic virtue as caused by a "generation of greed" (i.e., by Clinton)rather than a "decade of greed" (i.e., by Reagan). A good trope.
But what'sthis about "as we look back on it"? That culture is our culture?rightnow, as we speak, ahorita. I don't need to go into another rantabout Larry Flynt's Clinton-condoned peeping-tommery, other than to saythat it proves what a barren exercise the hunt for hypocrisy is. Where hypocrisyis the only sin, nihilism is the only ethic. But we certainly can take out of Bob Barr's career some understanding of how even the most rural wingnutshave been swept up in the sexual revolution. Barr may be conservative, sure,but he's conservative in a sexual-revolutionary regime. He has used prettymuch every implement in the post-Woodstock tool kit: adultery, divorce, abortion.Similarly striking was the rhetoric of J.C. Watts during a speech last weekin which he rightly called on the President to denounce his ally Flynt. Wattsadmitted (not for the first time) that he'd fathered a child at 19, andsaid of his preacher uncle, who adopted the child, "He was the gentleman,when I made a bad choice in my life in 1976, who stepped in because we did notwant my child to be adopted out of our family."

Sorry, whatwas that about a "bad choice"? Isn't that what Kate Michelman'ssupposed to say? Some "culture war"! I know I've said otherwise,but it begins to look as if this country isn't divided into pro-60s andanti-60s people after all. It's divided into happy 60s people and 60s peoplewho are maddern hell.


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