Censure Bill Clinton

The Progressive, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Censure Bill Clinton


Progressives and Democrats have plenty of reason to be disgusted with Bill Clinton, but we don't believe he should resign or be impeached.

His offenses do not rise to the level of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors." Our founders did not have lying about sex in mind when they wrote Article II, Section 4, of our Constitution, which is entitled: "All civil offices forfeited for certain crimes." It specifies two of those crimes: treason and bribery. Both are of the utmost gravity and relate directly to public, political abuse. Lying under oath about sex or getting others to lie about it does not come close to "Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."

If Ken Starr had used the discretion most prosecutors in America routinely exercise, this whole scandal would have gone away a long time ago. Very few people in America are prosecuted for lying about sex in a civil suit, especially after the suit is dismissed. And while the perjury charges against Clinton are the most serious part of this case, they may not be that easy to prove.

First, there are David Kendall's questions as to whether Clinton literally lied, though he hardly told the whole truth. Then there's the question as to whether the particular lie was even material to the Paula Jones case.

Ken Starr argues that each and every sexual detail in this report is necessary to show that Clinton lied when he testified that he did not touch Monica Lewinsky's breasts or genitals. The case turns on these most intimate details, and on the lawyers' dispute over whether oral sex and masturbation count as "sexual relations."

You couldn't get much further from matters of public policy.

This case is not about usurping power.

It is not about using the Executive Branch to go after political enemies, as Nixon did when he ordered the IRS to audit Democrats, or when he sent the Plumbers to break into the Brookings Institute, or when he ordered the CIA to tell the FBI to back off on the Watergate investigation.

It is not about disregarding the specific policies Congress enacted, as Reagan did when he violated the Boland Amendments and when he traded arms for hostages.

Nothing in the Starr Report comes anywhere near these kinds of public, political abuses.

Instead, we have a case of public humiliation: a report, distributed everywhere, that provides a detailed account of a series of sexual liaisons between the President and Lewinsky. …

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