While the rest of Congress may have visions of golden turkeys and sugar plums heading into the holiday recess, Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia will be considering how best to serve President Clinton his career on a platter.
He plans to spend his holiday break leading an "educational effort" to persuade Congress and the country that the president should be impeached. And he's talked more than a dozen fellow conservative legislators into doing the same.
But despite moving a step closer to getting a congressional investigation by successfully filing an inquiry of impeachment, analysts say the former Georgia prosecutor's campaign to oust Mr. Clinton has little chance of succeeding. In fact, it may be harmful to the Republican Party image. Don Quixote politics? Tilting at a president with 55 percent approval ratings, who has been relatively unscathed by two independent counsels and dozens of congressional investigations, appears rather Quixotic. "When Republicans lob impeachment grenades, they convey a guerrilla warfare mentality not suited to a majority party," editorializes Laura Ingraham, a Republican political analyst. "It probably won't go much further but it is succeeding in making Republicans look disjointed," she writes. Other opinion writers have described the effort as "political vandalism." Undeterred, Representative Barr and 17 House co-sponsors of the inquiry describe their effort as a legitimate and necessary use of the political process. The standard for impeachment, Barr argues, is broader and would succeed where criminal investigations, focusing on violations of the letter of the law, have failed. "Part of the problem I and others face is so many people think of impeachment as a strict criminal standard. But it is far more general," he says. The offenses stem from the myriad controversies that have plagued Clinton since his arrival in Washington five years ago. Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate, and the president's use of the White House in conjunction with campaign fund-raising top Barr's list of improprieties. In the aggregate, he says, these activities amount to impeachable conduct. …