The Impeachment of President Clinton: An Ugly Mix of Three Powerful Forces

By Popp, Karen A. | Law and Contemporary Problems, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

The Impeachment of President Clinton: An Ugly Mix of Three Powerful Forces


Popp, Karen A., Law and Contemporary Problems


KAREN A. POPP [*]

I

INTRODUCTION

President Clinton should not have been impeached by the House of Representatives and, once impeached, was properly acquitted by the Senate. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I agree with much of what Professor Susan Low Bloch has written in her article, A Report Card on the Impeachment: Judging the Institutions That Judged President Clinton. [1] As Professor Bloch indicates, it is essential for us to assess how Congress arrived at the point of impeaching President Clinton, how the impeachment process itself worked, and what we can learn from it. [2] Indeed, much has already been written and said on these topics, and these issues will no doubt continue to be debated and analyzed for years to come.

So, how do I rate the impeachment process of President Clinton? I would give it a failing grade. Although the Senate reached the right result by acquitting the President, the fact that the Senate voted as it did is cold comfort. The impeachment process should have never gone that far. In effect, the second parachute finally opened, just before the impeachment process hit the ground. One nevertheless wonders, "Why did the first parachute fail?"

As the events were unfolding, it appeared that the 1998-99 impeachment debacle resulted in large part from an ugly mix of three extremely powerful forces: an independent counsel who abused his virtually unlimited power; extreme congressional partisanship that was motivated by the desire to gain control of the government; and media outlets that continuously sought to profit from the sensationalism of it all and consistently flouted standards of professional journalism along the way. These three forces appear all the more responsible for the impeachment now, with the benefit of hindsight. Each of these forces, standing alone, was powerful in its own right. Together, they were insurmountable.

Before delving into an analysis of the combined effect of these forces, I must acknowledge that other factors--including the President--played key roles in the events that led to the impeachment. There can be no doubt that President Clinton's reckless and careless personal conduct with Monica Lewinsky contributed to the events of 1998 and 1999. Indeed, there could not have been a "Lewinsky matter" without that conduct. The President's conduct was wrong and regrettable, and he has acknowledged this. [3]

The general public also played a role, at least in the beginning. Many people were mesmerized by the events that began to unfold in January 1998 and hence contributed to the media frenzy as cheering spectators. However, as 1998 wore on, the majority of Americans had grown tired of the exhaustive coverage of the Lewinsky matter. [4] Most people, although angry about the President's behavior, did not believe that he should be removed from office. [5] Unfortunately, the public's opinion did nothing to deflect the House Republicans from their chosen path--impeachment.

The impeachment itself, which did not occur until eleven months after the story was first reported, however, would not have occurred at all but for the three forces indicated above--the independent counsel, the House Republicans, and the media. Those three forces are the focus of the remainder of my comments. It also is appropriate, for context, to describe briefly the constitutional backdrop against which the players waged the Clinton impeachment debate.

II

THE CONSTITUTIONAL STANDARD

One may well ask whether the Constitution itself played some role in the wrongful impeachment of President Clinton. Does the Constitution set the standard for impeachment of a President too low? Although it may be too soon to know for sure, I would submit that the Constitution sets a sufficiently high bar for the impeachment of a President, but that bar was disregarded in the impeachment of President Clinton.

The Framers established the standard for impeachable offenses in language that is now quite familiar. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Impeachment of President Clinton: An Ugly Mix of Three Powerful Forces
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.