The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton

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The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton

Bob Barr

Stroud & Hall Publishers, 2004

Bob Barr is a former U. S. Attorney and prosecutor who from 1995 to 2003 represented Georgia's 7th District in the U. S. House of Representatives. He was a senior member of the Judiciary Committee at the time of the Clinton impeachment, and served as one of the "House impeachment managers" for the trial in the Senate.

His book The Meaning of Is is an important addition to the book by David Schippers, Sellout: The Inside Story of President Clinton's Impeachment. Schippers saw the impeachment from much the same vantage-point as Barr, since Schippers was the Chief Investigative Counsel for the Republican majority of the House Judiciary Committee.

The significance of both books is made clear when Barr reminds us that the Clinton legacy is almost certain to be defined, at least in the short run, by today's dominant coterie of professional and academic historians, four hundred of whom signed a statement opposing the impeachment. Barr says "the individuals who will write much of the history of the Clinton administration are completely devoid of objectivity." He says "these are the self-styled 'intellectual giants' who occupy posh distinguished chairs in academic ivory towers around the country." One such historian Barr cites is Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who called Kenneth Starr "America's No. 1 pornographer" because Starr, as the appointed independent counsel, detailed the Lewinsky affair in his report to Congress. Barr sees his own book as helping to "keep the record straight" about the Clinton years.

It isn't altogether clear that Barr is correct in thinking the Clinton legacy will be recounted in a heavily favorable way. An interesting thing has happened to the memory of John F. Kennedy during the more than four decades since his assassination: to be sure, much of the popular media continue the "Camelot" myth; but a great deal has come to light from insiders about Kennedy's behavior, both as to his adultery and his relations with mob figures. There, the "court historians" have not permanently defined the JFK image. One suspects that much the same will happen with William Jefferson Clinton.

Schippers and Barr were of like mind in having wanted the impeachment inquiry to go far beyond the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky episodes. Barr in particular emphasizes that there were stronger grounds for impeachment in the damage Barr sees Clinton as having done to national security, in the misuse of the presidency, and in the undermining of civil liberties. Barr's book goes into considerable detail about each, and this provides much of its substance.

"National security," he says, "remains the foremost reason Bill Clinton should have been impeached and removed." "Not only did Bill Clinton take campaign contributions from agents of foreign governments, but he also gave at least one of them a top job at the Department of Commerce. The now-infamous name of this particular individual is John Huang. Huang got his job because he raised massive amounts of cash - more than one million dollars - for Bill Clinton. As was later discovered, much of this money was illegally laundered foreign cash." Red China conducted espionage that sought nuclear parity with the United States, obtained the illegal transfer of missile technology and the easing of export restrictions on technology, and (according to the bipartisan commission headed by congressman Chris Cox, as stated by Barr), "obtained computer models, guidance system designs, and virtually every cutting-edge technology needed to construct world-class nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles." National security was further compromised by the administration's active opposition to security checks on White House personnel, as detailed by FBI agent Gary Aldrich, who served inside the White House at the end of the George H. …