WASHINGTON -- As the Republic passes on into the refinement of Bush II, patriots everywhere are asking: Is there any good sense in the suggestion of Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that the Boy ex-President could be impeached for his roguish departure from office? Unlikely as it appeared just a few weeks ago, the Clintons have now united all Americans not by their benignity but by their shabbiness. I read New York Times editorials on the Clintons and glow in admiration for the editorialists. Do they experience an unexpected new respect for me? I blush.
Returning to Specter's suggestion that impeachment might now be a condign possibility, I researched the question of impeachment pursuant to publishing my classic, "The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton" a full 15 months before the Boy President was memorialized in 1998 by the United States House of Representatives. According to my research and following consultation with legal experts on both sides of the Atlantic, there existed cogent reasons for impeaching our big lovable lug of a president by 1997. His fingerprints were all over dozens of presidential abuses of power.
By 1998, when Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and his accomplices began nudging the corpus delicti, the case for impeachment and conviction had markedly strengthened. To general abuse of power, they could add the President's perjury and his coaching of one of his cuties to lie under oath. And do you remember how he coached Miss Lewinsky?
Were not his recommendations remarkably similar to the recommendations he made to Gennifer Flowers years before on that tape that she released during the 1992 presidential campaign? She had taped a telephone conversation with candidate Clinton during which he coached her to lie to the press. His tactics had not changed by the time he made his late-night call to Miss Lewinsky in 1997. Had we journalists taken a proper measure of the rogue, then we would not be contemplating another round of Clinton scandal all these many years later.
So what about impeachment now? The 42nd president has abused the presidential pardon, granting it to money launderers, drug dealers, tax evaders and so on. He and his lovely wife Bruno have made off with government property, as if it were their rightful inheritance. Those of us who have served as this famous twosome's official biographers and polygraphists can tell you that this is about the same pattern of mischief that they followed back in Arkansas. There were even intimations of such felonious tendencies back in their student-government careers in high school and college. Is the time right to take up Specter's impeachment route?
The senator is not the most sober of statesmen. This is not to say that he is a drinker. He might be steadier if he were. He is, like many of his colleagues, a dreamer of esoteric dreams, the better to wow his more easily impressionable constituents. When in 1999 he had the opportunity to convict the impeached president for crimes clearly committed, Senator Specter reached into an obscure attic of Scottish law to vote "not proven." It is a good thing he did not reach into Islamic law. The Boy President might have had a hand cut off.
Some senators now speak of impeachment as a way to limit the Boy ex-President's cost to the public. With a smaller pension and less money for expenses, doubtless Clinton would have fewer opportunities to embarrass his country. Yet such an approach bespeaks meanness, even partisanship. We are beyond partisanship now, and whatever one thinks of him, as president he worked very hard. His pension is deserved. Moreover, a full Secret Service detail can keep an eye on him and possibly prevent further disgrace of the office once held by Harding and Carter.
There remains, however, a reason for impeachment that actually is high-minded, even humanitarian. Once impeached Clinton can never again victimize gullible voters. My fear is that he is going to continue to roam the country, shaking down trusting Democrats and corporate swells. He will be the political equivalent of another acquitted malefactor, who still has some support in the country, O.J. Simpson. Only Clinton is more dangerous. Simpson is unlikely to ever again star in the NFL. He has not even been mentioned as a prospective announcer for the XFL. Clinton, however, could at any time cast his eye on an open Democratic congressional seat and bingo.
We know that there are still innocent Democrats who find the Huckster from Hope irresistible. I am not suggesting that as Boy Congressman, say from a seat in Manhattan's Upper East Side, he would become a national power. That is impossible. He has bemanured his name with too many Americans, Democrats and Republicans. What alarms me is the further harm he could cause those who remain susceptible. He drives a certain kind of voter to madness.
Think of Susan McDougal or the many columnists who ruined their reputations defending him and smearing his accusers. From a safe seat in Manhattan he would continue his highjinks, and powered by the old indignation his loyal dupes would be out there exhorting against his opponents' "witch hunts," their "vast conspiracies," their "partisanship," and "politics of personal destruction."
No, perhaps the only way to put the Clinton scandals behind us and to save the victimized Clintonites from further anguish is to do today what should have been done yesterday: impeach and convict. Clinton's rich benefactors abroad will take care of him.