An Impeachment Column Written Under Duress

As memory serves-and it sure doesn’t serve like it used to-there have been very few mentions of the word “impeachment” in this corner of the Op-Ed page. I bring this to your attention because the national president of the Op-Ed writers union, Phillip Space, has threatened to revoke my membership unless I show greater solidarity with my brothers and sisters laboring in the salt mines of constitutional procedure.

“While half your comrades have contracted expanded lung disease due to long months of blowing hard and the other half have come down with Holland Tunnel syndrome-which, as you know, they developed after too many trips to mainland America to get the pulse of the heartland-you have consistently shirked your duty,” Mr. Space wrote. “You owe it to your colleagues to find your thumb and suck on it from now until judgment day (or censure-deal day, whichever comes first).”

As you might imagine, I am ashamed to have let down my colleagues, whose pain and suffering I did not appreciate. It seemed to me that several of them were having the time of their lives, given that they had a license to write about sex and lies rather than government and policy. Little did I know the horrors they were hiding behind their knowing smirks and ironic asides.

So now I, too, must suffer so that you, dear reader, might know what this one insignificant observer thinks about our long national soap opera. It occurs to me that some of those Op-Ed sufferers who shared my opposition to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton were something less than honest in their assessment of the motives of those who respectfully disagreed. To wit:

The impeachers of Bill Clinton were out to avenge Richard Nixon. This one was trotted out at least a dozen times-and it took a half-dozen repetitions before I realized that it was not, in fact, a parody of an argument. No, they really meant it. They really wanted us to believe that the hard-core impeachers, many of whom, it seems fair to say, were trolling campus watering holes during Watergate, have been waiting a quarter-century to collect a Democratic scalp. Odd, though, that more-senior Republicans didn’t try to investigate Jimmy Carter when they had the chance, and when old man Nixon was still alive and able to appreciate vengeance carried out in his name.

As it happens, of course, Representative Peter King, Republican of Long Island, is one of Nixon’s greatest admirers in Congress. Pictures of Nixon adorn the walls of Mr. King’s offices. And yet … Peter King voted against all four articles of impeachment, and had worked behind the scenes in a vain effort to get a vote on a censure motion.

Revenge for Richard Nixon? I didn’t know there was anything to avenge-perhaps those who see the avenger’s hand know more than the rest of us about Watergate. After all, as the story is commonly told, Nixon’s fate was sealed not by Democrats, but by Republicans, among them Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott, who concluded that Nixon had, in fact, committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Surely even the most rabid of the rabid-dog impeachers know this.

The impeachers are all creatures of the Christian right and therefore resent the diverse, multicultural America that the Clintons are alleged to represent. A variation on this theme has it that the conservative Christian crowd is out to get the President because he is married to a successful,

independent woman-and

the conservative Christian crowd, being reactionary misogynists, can’t abide successful, independent women. This, too, sounds like satire, but it is offered as the epitome of rational thinking. If the impeachment movement were a plot hatched and executed by conservative, white Christian males, how to explain the eloquence of Representative J.C. Watts, the black Republican of Oklahoma who so passionately presented a case for impeachment? How to explain the anti-Clinton columns of my friend Nat Hentoff, the Jewish-atheist watchdog of our civil liberties?

As for Hillary Clinton, well, there’s little doubt that she is strong and independent indeed, but then again, Marilyn Quayle always struck me as a bit strong-willed herself and, like Mrs. Clinton, she is considered smarter than her husband. And like Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Quayle is a lawyer-whether that is a measure of success, of course, is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, Marilyn Quayle hasn’t exactly been a burden to Dan Quayle among conservative Christians.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton is nothing less than an attempted coup. As they say in those car-rental commercials, not exactly. If Bill Clinton were driven out of office and replaced with the repellent House majority whip Tom DeLay, yes, that would be a coup. But if Bill Clinton were to give way to Al Gore, and Al Gore then chose a fellow Democrat for his Vice President, Democrats still would control the White House.

So there. Having thus appeased my comrades in the Op-Ed writers union, I will return to regular programming next week.