What Difference a Year Makes

By Alexander, Lamar; Barr, Bob et al. | The American Spectator, April 1999 | Go to article overview

What Difference a Year Makes


Alexander, Lamar, Barr, Bob, Bauer, Gary L., Eastland, Terry, et al., The American Spectator


EXPERTS DRAW LESSONS, FOR OUR POLITICS AND OUT CULTURE, FROM THE IMPEACHMENT AND ACQUITTAL OF WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON.

LAMAR ALEXANDER

In Paris this past December I visited with the president of the French senate. He asked me why President Clinton in such circumstances received such high poll ratings. I said, "I don't know." He said he thought he did. He reminded me that Napoleon's foreign minister Talleyrand once had said, "What becomes excessive becomes irrelevant."

This quote, I believe, captures the short-term lesson of the Clinton scandal. Finding out about Mr. Clinton's conduct was, for most Americans, like waking up one morning and discovering a drive-in movie screen had been erected overnight in your front yard, and on this screen was playing an XXX-rated movie starring the president of the United States! There you are, fixing breakfast, trying to get the kids off to school, and there is this XXXrated movie in your yard. Your first reaction is shock. Your next, outrage. But the movie screen and the movie are still there that evening. They're there the next morning. They won't go away. So what can you do? You do your best to throw a sheet over the screen-or several sheets. That doesn't work. So you go about your business and do your best to ignore it, hoping the outrageous event and all those reporting on it will somehow, someday disappear, but knowing that in the meantime you can't do anything about it. In other words, the whole affair becomes so excessive it becomes irrelevant to your everyday life-which is not the same as saying you approve of it or that you do not have your opinion about it. You know exactly what you think. But it has become more than you can deal with. You don't want to hear one more thing about it. You don't want to talk about it.

Which, if I am right, brings me to the long-term lesson. Sooner or later the American people will render a harsh judgment on Mr. Clinton's lack of respect for our presidency. In the long run, their message to public officials will be this: Respect the office. It is ours, not yours.

BOB BARR

The trial procedures adopted by the Senate in the impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton promise to be one of the greatest constitutional aftershocks of the recently completed impeachment process. In setting rules effectively guaranteeing an acquittal, the Senate fundamentally altered our system of checks and balances, radically strengthening the position of the executive branch, and necessarily weakening the legislative.

In the days preceding the impeachment trial, senators were quick to publicly refer to themselves as "impartial jurors." They were attracted by the juror's role of impartially deciding guilt or innocence without commenting on the case in advance. Plus, it gave them a chance to toss out huge quantities of appropriately senatorial rhetoric, stressing their weighty constitutional responsibility.

As the trial commenced, however, a light went off in the heads of senators such as Fritz Hollings, Max Cleland, and Robert Byrd who, days before, were eagerly referring to themselves as jurors in correspondence and interviews. In a moment of collective epiphany came the terrifying realization that jurors are actually expected to render a verdict based solely on facts and law; which left one vexing problem facing these "impartial" senators: Based on the law and the evidence, the president was... guilty. Uh-oh. What to do now?

Suddenly, like a magic portal in a B science-fiction movie, an exit appeared. The Senate sitting in an impeachment trial is unlike other juries in one important aspect-it gets to make and reinterpret its own rules as it goes along.

The new exit strategy became jury nullification with an added twist. Instead of nullifying the law by refusing to enforce it, this particular "jury" simply nullified itself. As Sen. Arlen Specter observed, it adopted procedures rendering the case for removal "unprovable. …

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

What Difference a Year Makes
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.