Remarks on the Clinton Impeachment, Jan 1999

What, the Clinton scandal is my top political issue? Unfortunately, I'm afraid that's what's going on. From a Christian standpoint, Bill is hardly the kind of guy you would want to marry your daughter, but we have to address the question of law here. The U.S. Constitution does not define a Christian country. If that's your goal, one of the worst features of the Constitution is freedom of religion! I don't see much of that in the Bible. While the framers (and amenders) of the Constitution doubtless imagined coexistence of Baptists, Lutherans, and maybe Catholics, the current range of religious groups protected by it goes far afield of Christianity.

Some Christians consider separation of church and state to be a big problem; they are always pushing for prayer in the schools. We all know that as long as there are tests there will be prayer in schools, but growing up in a Catholic town I was never for prayer in public school. I figured that we'd all be repeating Catholic liturgy.

When Watergate was going on, I watched virtually every minute of the televised hearings, bought the White House Transcripts book, and read the newspaper commentaries. When the Iran/Contra affair took place, I read extensively about it, including the Tower Report, although I didn't watch all the hearings. Although I have an interest in and some knowledge of constitutional issues relating to the presidency, I haven't read the Starr Report. I have heard that virtually everything has been leaked before; and I don't think it would enlighten me much to read this.

My opinion is that the alleged crimes do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense in our non-Christian country under our current constitution. I note that in the October 29, 1998 Boston Globe an article from Reuters indicates that over 400 US historians said that the effort to impeach was not based on historical precedent and could cripple the office of the presidency. The alleged offenses were not considered to be “high crimes and misdemeanors” by this group.

I personally feel it is very critical to have three branches of government. When Nixon attempted to fight Congress, it was the Supreme Court that stopped him. In the Soviet Union, the government lasted as long as it did largely because of the balance of three forces: the Army, the Communist Party, and the KGB. Nixon already weakened the presidency with his crimes; a further weakening raises the spectre that frivolous impeachment inquiries could be threatened against any president not playing ball with Congress.

The correct way to deal with people like Clinton is to vote him out of office in the normal way. It is true that he can't run in 2000 anyway, but the fact is that many of the behaviors he is being castigated for now were discussed (and obliquely admitted to) prior even to the 1992 election. If the electorate was (properly) concerned about this behavior, we might have had better choices for candidates early on! He may still resign at some point, but I wouldn't recommend impeaching him for these crimes. Incidentally, I was always on record as preferring Al Gore at the top of the ticket. His 1992 book “Earth in the Balance” is worth reading despite being a little bit over the top on environmental issues.

I have to agree with Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA, and not my congressman) who said that the House Republicans seem to be executing a murder/suicide pact. They are trying to get Clinton any way they can, but probably killing themselves. I expect we may be back to one-party government come 2001.

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