Will there be a President Gingrich before the next election? It's a notion as preposterous as the demands by Republicans that Attorney General Janet Reno seek the appointment of an independent counsel or two to investigate President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
And here's why: No independent counsel can obtain a conviction of Clinton or Gore -- no matter how much dirt is dug up and slung around, no independent counsel can so much as indict the president or vice president. No matter how much some folks would like to see it happen, it won't and it can't.
Now this is not to say that Reno shouldn't seek such an appointment -- or two or three or however many may be required to get to the bottom of any serious wrongdoing by the Clinton administration as a result of the 1996 campaign fund-raising debacle. An independent counsel could -- and maybe would -- help to depoliticize some of the current hot rhetoric surrounding criminal and civil probes being conducted by the Justice Department and political probes under way in Congress.
An independent counsel could -- and should -- launch full-scale investigations, obtain appropriate indictments and try to convict those of the president's men (and women) who are guilty. Maybe trust then might begin to seep back into public consciousness and restore respect for institutions that, like the White House, have become as sullied as a run-down outhouse. Who knows, perhaps people would start flocking back to the voting booths, too. But for that to happen, the stink will have to be purged.
Another way to get on with this cleansing and disinfecting would be for Congress to do its job not only by investigating and oversight but by passing campaign-finance reform that would open up the books and let the people see who is giving how much, for what, to whom. For example, the major political parties are exempt from public disclosure, as are the so-called inaugural committees. End the secret bookkeeping. Make the telephone records of campaigns public. List every single dollar collected and show for what every single dollar is spent. Give the Federal Election Commission enough money to hire investigators and lawyers and accountants and computers to do its job for real. Require sworn waivers by federal contractors that they didn't get their jobs or contracts as a result of political donations. That'd be a hoot, and it might even work!
What provokes my dyspepsia are the howling cat -- calls by Republicans -- and yes, Democrats, though less loudly-that 1) an independent counsel is needed to probe campaign-financing abuses, and 2) reforms are needed in the campaign-finance laws.
My suggestion for campaign-finance reform is to require openness and get on with it. The same principle should be applied to any independent counsel. …