by Rod D. Martin
December 16, 1998
With a courage none would have believed just after last month’s elections, the House Judiciary Committee voted this weekend four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. Their consultants told them this would be suicide. The polls told them they were risking everything. The Democrats offered them censure, an unconstitutional, horrible precedent-setting, but nevertheless politically-popular way out. They assessed their lives, decided who they were, and cast their votes. They are heroes.
By contrast, with his political efforts failing, his personal threats against individual “swing” members such as Arkansas’s Jay Dickey backfiring, and an almost certain impeachment vote by the whole House looming on the morrow, Bill Clinton showed tonight a craven cowardice unlike any in the history of the Republic.
He again “wags the dog.” He again bombs Iraq. He again takes the lives of innocent civilians, carefully calculating that the political price will be small since, by using cruise missiles, no American lives will be lost. And he does it while straight-facedly telling us the reason is Saddam’s “lies,” his years of “intentional obstruction.”
The irony overwhelms.
Does this seem too harsh a judgment? Then let us look at the year that has been 1998, and see how regularly trod has been this ground.
1. January. The Monica Lewinsky story breaks. Within two weeks, Clinton has America on full alert for war in Iraq. The Lewinsky crisis, initially said by even the liberal media (including Cokie and Sam) to require his resignation “before the State of the Union”, recedes.
2. June. Linda Tripp is slated to testify before the grand jury. On the morning of her testimony, Clinton fires cruise missiles at two Iraqi radar stations, resulting in almost no coverage of Tripp.
3. August. Clinton makes his “apology” speech, which backfires. Three days later, US forces bomb Afghanistan and Sudan, again averting an almost certain swift impeachment. Cokie Roberts calls this “wagging the dog” on national television, but it accomplishes Clinton’s purpose nevertheless. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admits on live national television, thirty minutes after the bombing, that the attack was neither in response to any imminent threat, nor targeted at any particular person, much less a “conference of terrorists” as Clinton later (implausibly) claimed. Two of the four camps bombed in Afghanistan are later shown to have no connection to alleged target Osama Bin Laden, while the Sudanese target proves to have been a civilian aspirin factory with no production of any substance remotely useful for chemical weapons.
Some say we should give Clinton the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps in January they might have had a point; but the truth is clear enough today. Every time Clinton gets in a fix, he uses our armed forces to commit murder to cover his crimes. This is nothing less, and a great deal more, than David’s dealings with Uriah the Hittite. It is time we say so.
Some also say that, regardless of the motivation, Clinton’s actions against Iraq, whatever they are, are justified, and that we need to slow down the impeachment process to allow him to act “in the interests of the American people.” Yet whatever truth there is to the evils of Saddam — and there is much truth indeed — this precisely misses the point. The fact that Clinton, shown plainly on national television to be a serial-felon, is in office while so much danger exists in the world is the most compelling reason why he must be removed with all haste. His willingness to misuse our armed forces in this way is itself impeachable, and the fact that we cannot trust him with power, or with anything else, requires that we replace him immediately.
For some crazy reason, modern Americans have a hard time grasping this last point. They should look to the history of one of their closest allies for the reason why. Today, Bill Clinton uses the military to manufacture a crisis, stopping the House from impeaching him, at least for a time. It has only been a scant six decades since another popular elected leader, of equal willingness to take lives for political ends and of equal willingness to tell lies both in speeches and under oath, found his political needs so great that he had the Reichstag burned. It took a world war to restore liberty to Germany. What will it take to restore “equal justice under law” to America if the felon is allowed to remain?
America must decide what it’s made of. The Republican members of the Judiciary Committee decided this weekend, and took their political lives in their hands. It will take wisdom to see through Clinton, and honor to both see and actually care. Do we have either? In the next few days we shall see.